Cerinthus, also called derisively MERINTHUS (i. e., cord), a religious personage who is supposed to have come from Alexandria to Asia Minor, and to have resided at Ephesus simultaneously with St. John, He was a leader among those Gnostic Christian sects which appeared soon after the death of Christ; but, in common with the Ebionites, he considered an observance of the Jewish law essential to salvation, and believed in the notion of the vast chasm between God and the material world. He taught that it was not the Supreme God who revealed himself in the Jewish Scriptures, hut a subordinate angel commissioned by the Supreme, with whom he identified himself. In this way he justified both the strictly divine character of Judaism to the Jew, and its subordination to Christianity to the Christian. Jesus he taught to be a mere man in his birth and existence until the baptism, when the Holy Ghost, which he considered to be the. Christ, united itself with Jesus, and remained in this union until the crucifixion. Then, in time to leave the dying Jesus only a man again, the Christ or Divine withdrew. He attached no importance in the redemptive plan to the death of Jesus, but made salvation to depend on legal obedience.

Cains, an anti-Montanistic writer, attempts to fasten upon Cerinthus the grossest and most sensual millennianism, and even accuses him of having interpolated the Apocalypse to make it suit his chiliastic doctrines. It is true that Cerinthus taught the coming of a millennium on the earth, when Christ was to make Jerusalem the centre of his empire. This time he supposed would come after the earth had stood 6,000 years, and would be a perpetual sabbath of 1,000 years, a view which was common among the Jews of that age. His disciples were called Cerinthians, and also Merinthians. A Historia Cerinthi was published by Paulas (Jena, 1799).