So little is known of Cerinthus that there is nothing to place him in other than a reference to him in the Epistula apostolorum (Letter of the Apostles, which some believe originated in Egypt) and a statement by Hippolytus that Cerinthus was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians. The Epistula apostolorum speaks of Cerinthus as a false apostle, and Irenaeus wrote of a confrontation between Cerinthus and the John in a public bath at Ephesus, but there is little else preserved of his life.

Irenaeus stated that Cerinthus taught that the creation came about through a power far removed from God and that Jesus was born of and Mary. According to Irenaeus, Cerinthus taught that after Jesus’ baptism, descended in the form of a dove and remained with Jesus until just before the Crucifixion. This of Cerinthian DOCETISM cannot be proved or refuted, since no Cerinthian documents or are known to exist.

  • Duensing, H. Epistula apostolorum. In New Testament Apocrypha, ed. E. Hennecke and W. Schneelmelcher, Vol. 1, pp. 189-227, trans. R. M. Wilson. Philadelphia, 1963.
  • Griggs, C. W. Early Egyptian Christianity, p. 47. Leiden, 1989.