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The Book of Nepos is a lost 3rd century Christian text written by an Egyptian bishop Nepos,[1] which advocated for a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible against allegorical readings. This included especially a literal reading of the Book of Revelation, a minority position at the time.

Extant portionsEdit

The Book of Nepos no longer exists, and is known only indirectly through Eusebius, who quoted a work by Dionysius of Alexandria criticizing Nepos.[2][3]

Theology and receptionEdit

Nepos was a strict literalist (believing the entire Bible is true in a literal sense), and his text, also known as the Refutation of the Allegorisers or Refutation of the Allegorists was aimed at refuting the arguments of those who held that certain sections of the Bible were mere allegory.[4] In particular, the text is aimed at discrediting the position, held by a minority of Christians at the time, that the book of Revelation should be interpreted allegorically rather than literally.

Amongst the teachings in the text is the belief that Jesus would come to earth and physically reign as monarch for 1000 years during an age of righteous delight. This belief was regarded as fairly orthodox in the early church (e.g. it was held by Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr), however, the later church came to view Revelation as more allegorical. Indeed, Dionysius of Alexandria felt moved to write a text (On the Promises) against it, although he regarded Nepos highly and attempted to criticize the doctrine without insulting Nepos personally.

The Book of Nepos was so popular within the villages around Alexandria that Dionysius went there in person to refute it.[5] In deference to Nepos and the prior orthodoxy of strict literalism, he did so politely, entering a respectful dialogue with those from the village and contesting each of the arguments they took from the Book of Nepos in turn.


  1. ^ Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, Chapter XXIV 1.
  2. ^ Thomas A. Robinson; Thomas Arthur Robinson (1 December 2016). Who Were the First Christians?: Dismantling the Urban Thesis. Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-19-062054-7.
  3. ^ Nepos of Arsinoë, New Catholic Encyclopedia, (2003).
  4. ^ Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, Chapter XXIV 1-2.
  5. ^ Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, Chapter XXIV 3.