info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
The infiltration of this sect into two of the seven congregations that Jesus addressed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 has caused many to wonder what they were teaching that he found so offensive. This is important, since the description of these congregations seems to be mirrored among modern Christianity.
A 2nd-century Christian elder, Irenaeus, identified the Nicolaitans in his treatise, ‘Against Heresies.’ And there he wrote that they are an ‘offshoot of the knowledge which is falsely so-called,’ explaining that they ‘lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.’
This description seems to be almost identical to that of which Paul warned Timothy at 1 Timothy 6:20, 21, when he wrote:
‘O Timothy, guard this hope and turn away from all the unclean and opposing empty talk that is falsely called knowledge, through which some that once showed promise in the faith were turned aside.’
So this corrupting influence appears to have still had an effect on some Christian congregations into the middle of the 2nd century. For it looks like Iranaeus was talking about the same evil influence of which Paul was warning Timothy in the middle of the First Century.
What is this falsely called knowledge that was (and still is) a corrupting influence on Christians? Apparently it is acceptance of a philosophy that people may be Christians and still do whatever they wish. However, others have looked at the name Nicolaitans and suggested that its Greek meaning (nicao) to conquer (laos) the people, refers to the earliest form of a priestly order or clergy.
For more information, see the Wikipedia article, Nicolaism.