ENCRATITES, en'cra-taits ("the Self-disciplined," "the Continent"): A name given in the Christian heretic-histories to certain sectaries, who abstained from animal food, intoxicating drinks, and sexual intercourse. Strictly speaking there was no sect of Encratites, nor did they have a particular founder, though Eusebius (Hist. eccl., iv. 28) first mentions Tatian as such. Nor can they be lumped together with the Gnostics, which, however, does not mean that Encratites here and there may not have represented Gnostic teachings. Hippolytus (Philosophumena, viii. 20) says expressly that the views of Encratites about God and Christ accorded with those of the Church. Clement of Alexandria states that Julius Cassianus, whom he calls the founder of the heresy of the Docetæ (see DOCETISM) wrote "about continence or about eunuchism" and quotes three passages from this work of Encratitic content (Strom., iii. 13). Encratitic tendencies were no doubt shown also by the Gospel according to the Egyptians (see APOCRYPHA, B, I., 8). Epiphanius devoted an entire section of his history of heresies (xlvii.) to the Encratites; he speaks of their dualism, says that they reckon the Acts of Andrew, John, Thomas, and other apocrypha among their Scriptures, and that they use water instead of wine at the Lord's Supper (like the Aquarii and Hydroparastatæ, qq.v.). Encratism is not confined to Christianity; Clement (Strom., i. 15) compares them with the Indian gymnosophists, and Hippolytus (Philosophumena, viii. 20) with the Cynics. The Nazirite's vow and the usages of the Essenes may also be brought into comparison, although no genetic connection can be shown.
Bibliography: A. Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte des Urchristentums, Leipsic, 1884; Neander, Christian Church, i. 456-458, 505; Schaff, Christian Church, ii. 495; DCB, ii.118-120; and the literature under TERTULLIAN.