Site Search:


Sethians and Cainites

John Collins09/27/2013

Video available here:

One of the oldest branches of Gnosticism, argued by some to be the oldest existing, is the sect that named themselves “Sethians.” 

Sethians claimed to be descended from Seth, the third from Adam, and their teaching was widespread throughout the Mediterranean.  This Gnostic group was founded primarily by Jewish mysticism, but was strongly influenced by the philosophy of Plato. 

This group practiced mysticism through several gnostic scrolls that had heavy influence by several pagan gods.  Some of these include the Apocryphon of John, The Thought of Norea, The Trimorphic Protennoia, The Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians, The Gospel of Judas, Zostrianos, Three Steles of Seth, Marsanes, and Allogenes.  But they also produced their own secret writing from their mystic teachings of Kabbalah, and called it the “Apocalypse of Adam,” or the “Revelation of Adam.”

This ancient scroll was also discovered in 1946, around the time William Branham began to re-establish his ministry by adding an angelic visit to his “commission.”  Until 1945, Branham was producing pamphlets such as “I Was Not Disobedient To The Heavenly Vision,” describing commission through a vision, but after 1946, an angelic visit is included in Branham’s story.

In this scroll, a 700-year-old Adam tells his third son, Seth, how he learned a word of knowledge of the eternal God from Eve and that he and Eve were indeed more powerful than their supposed creator. But that knowledge was lost in the fall when the subcreator - the demiurge - separated Adam and Eve.

Listen to my words, my son Seth. When God had created me out of the earth, along with Eve, your mother, I went about with her in a glory which she had seen in the aeon from which we had come forth. She taught me a word of knowledge of the eternal God. And we resembled the great eternal angels, for we were higher than the god who had created us and the powers with him, whom we did not know.

The Apocalypse of Adam

Irenaeus devotes an entire chapter to this Gnostic group known as Sethians, and a second chapter immediately after to a Gnostic group created by their influence, known as the Cainites.  The book ends with the Cainites, describing how damaging their heresy was to the church.  The teaching had taken such a stronghold that Irenaeus said that it would fill another book to try to untangle their teaching that was woven throughout the teachings of the true Bible.  The first book ends with these words:

Wherefore I have laboured to bring forward, and make clearly manifest, the utterly ill-conditioned carcase of this miserable little fox. For there will not now be need of many words to overturn their system of doctrine, when it has been made manifest to all. It is as when, on a beast hiding itself in a wood, and by rushing forth from it is in the habit of destroying multitudes, one who beats round the wood and thoroughly explores it, so as to compel the animal to break cover, does not strive to capture it, seeing that it is truly a ferocious beast; but those present can then watch and avoid its assaults, and can cast darts at it from all sides, and wound it, and finally slay that destructive brute. So, in our case, since we have brought their hidden mysteries, which they keep in silence among themselves, to the light, it will not now be necessary to use many words in destroying their system of opinions. For it is now in thy power, and in the power of all thy associates, to familiarize yourselves with what has been said, to overthrow their wicked and undigested doctrines, and to set forth doctrines agreeable to the truth. Since then the case is so, I shall, according to promise, and as my ability serves, labour to overthrow them, by refuting them all in the following book. Even to give an account of them is a tedious affair, as thou seest. But I shall furnish means for overthrowing them, by meeting all their opinions in the order in which they have been described, that I may not only expose the wild beast to view, but may inflict wounds upon it from every side.

Against Heresies

Under the Gnostic teaching of the Sethians, the early Church was infected by the teaching that God created “spirit bodies,” and that Adam and Eve roamed around the world without form.  By stressing the words written in Genesis, “Let us make man in our own image,” Sethians began to teach that this “image” was “spirit,” because God is a Spirit. 

Many of you that have been influenced by the teaching of William Branham will be familiar with this doctrine, though it comes under several different names and examples.  Branham resurrected the Gnostic teaching, claiming that there was a period of time when Adam and Eve were “sprit gods” roaming the earth.  This claim was reestablished in Branham’s attempt to promote “prophets” to “gods.”

And God in the beginning made His first man. He made him out of spirit. And spirit is the invisible part of man that you don't see. Now, God made man in His Own image.



Oh, I can just see Adam and Eve going down through the garden and the winds blowing, Eve, the little bride, saying, "Oh, Adam, the--the wind is so strong."

He'd say, "Peace." See, man was actually made to be a god. Do you know that? The Bible said... Jesus said, "If they called them who the Word of God came to (which was the prophets), if they were gods, then how can you condemn Me when I say I am the Son of God?"

The prophets were considered gods. Man was give--made a lesser god, and given a domain on the earth. That's the reason that the world today is groaning, waiting for the full manifestations of the sons of God.



But the nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, under this teaching, is changed directly from the very first book in the Bible, the book of Genesis.  Using teaching from Kabbalah, the Sethians introduced the idea that the original sin was “sex,” as well as the idea of a union of the forces of good against a union that formed the forces of evil.  They taught that Christ was the result of the “god of lights” mating with the “mother of the living” while in her spirit-form.

The father and son thus both had intercourse with the woman (whom they also call the mother of the living). When, however, she could not bear nor receive into herself the greatness of the lights, they declare that she was filled to repletion, and became ebullient on the left side; and that thus their only son Christ, as belonging to the right side, and ever tending to what was higher, was immediately caught up with his mother to form an incorruptible AEon.

Against Heresies

But while producing the spirit form of Christ, the Sethians taught that there was another union that produced a physical bloodline of evil.

This doctrine, which Irenaeus names a “system of falsehood,” was tied to astrology and worship of the stars.  Just as the Valentinians worshiped a seven-god Ogdoad, the Sethians included seven persons in this system.

They have also given names to [the several persons] in their system of falsehood, such as the following: he who was the first descendant of the mother is called Ialdabaoth; he, again, descended from him, is named Iao; he, from this one, is called Sabaoth; the fourth is named Adoneus; the fifth, Eloeus; the sixth, Oreus; and the seventh and last of all, Astanphaeus. Moreover, they represent these heavens, potentates, powers, angels, and creators, as sitting in their proper order in heaven, according to their generation, and as invisibly ruling over things celestial and terrestrial. The first of them, namely Ialdabaoth, holds his mother in contempt, inasmuch as he produced sons and grandsons without the permission of any one, yea, even angels, archangels, powers, potentates, and dominions.

Against Heresies

The union that produced evil under this teaching of Jewish Mysticism was between Ialdabaoth (the serpent) and Eve after she took the form of human flesh.  While Christ was believed to be the union of the “light god” and “spirit eve,” Cain was believed to be the result of a sexual union between Eve and the serpent.  To accomplish this, and since Ialdabaoth was a spirit himself, he must lessen himself from his place in the heavens to the form of a flesh-and-blood serpent.

At this point, now presenting himself to the physical form of Eve, Ialdabaoth proclaimed himself to be God.

On this account, Ialdabaoth, becoming uplifted in spirit, boasted himself over all those things that were below him, and exclaimed, "I am father, and God, and above me there is no one." But his mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out against him, "Do not lie, Ialdabaoth: for the father of all, the first Anthropos (man), is above thee; and so is Anthropos the son of Anthropos."

Against Heresies

Interestingly, while Ialdabaoth proclaimed himself to be the creator to Eve, William Branham proclaimed the same to his following:

But in the human race, it's the woman that's pretty, not the man; if he is, there is something wrong, there is crossed-up seed somewhere. Originally it's that way. Why, why was it done? To deceive by. Her designer, Satan, is still working on her, too, in these last days.


After this union and according to the Apocalypse of Adam, Seth was to be the “keeper of the secret” down through the ages.  Seth was to be the only one who knew about the adultery of his mother to Ialdabaoth.

For this reason I myself have called you by the name of that man who is the seed of the great generation or from whom (it comes). After those days, the eternal knowledge of the God of truth withdrew from me and your mother Eve. Since that time, we learned about dead things, like men. Then we recognized the God who had created us. For we were not strangers to his powers. And we served him in fear and slavery. And after these things, we became darkened in our heart(s).

The Apocalypse of Adam

While this teaching alters both the original creation story and the eternal nature of Christ, it also paves the way for followers of the Sethian sect to ignore solid doctrine and scriptural truth.  When Sophia (the spirit of wisdom) fell from the other seven gods, Sophia was behind the evil scheme that produced Cain.

But their mother (Sophia) cunningly devised a scheme to seduce Eve and Adam, by means of the serpent, to transgress the command of Ialdabaoth. Eve listened to this as if it had proceeded from a son of God, and yielded an easy belief.

Against Heresies

Under Branham’s teaching, wisdom and knowledge is also considered to be evil, and the idea is promoted that understanding of scripture comes only to prophets.  As part of religious worship, followers are trained in submission, letting the pastors and the “prophet” be the “key” that unlocks the secret “mysteries” of the Bible.  But just as the Sethians taught that Eve had a secret desire for wisdom, and that the wisdom of Sophia was behind the “adultery” of eve, Branham taught the same.  Only he took things to the present day and age, comparing “knowledge” to “sex,” and claiming that it was the “church” that leads man astray today.  (All churches, of course, except his own).

Satan did it by the woman's lust for knowledge, for sex, which she chose by her own choosing. Now notice, it was Eve that led Adam to the wrong, and it was the woman that took off her clothes before her Adam took off his. See? It's the woman, always. It's always been. It still is the same way.

It's the church that leads the man astray. It's the church, see, that leads the man that wanted to be a son of God. It's the woman, the church. Not the Bible, God, for the Bible is man. Oh, yeah, "the Word was made flesh," and He was a Man. See? The Bible is man; the church is woman. See? It isn't the church... the Bible that leads the man astray. It's the church that leads him astray. It's the church he went naked with, not the Bible. See? No, indeed. The Bible tells him he's naked. Yes, sir.

Now notice how, by sex, desire of sex, she lusted for knowledge, to know what was this, and how, whether this fruit was good or not. And she did it.

65-0829  SATAN'S.EDEN

This sexual union caused the evil forces to rejoice, because they had created a form that was equal to Christ.  The Yin to the Yang.

When Prunicus perceived that the powers were thus baffled by their own creature, she greatly rejoiced, and again cried out, that since the father was incorruptible, he (Ialdabaoth) who formerly called himself the father was a liar; and that, while Anthropos and the first woman (the Spirit) existed previously, this one (Eve) sinned by committing adultery.

Against Heresies

It should be no surprise that Branham also taught the Yin-Yang version of God and Satan:

Did you know Satan was co-equal with God one day? Sure was, all but a creator; he was everything, stood at the right hand of God, in the Heavens, the great leading Cherubim.



"And at that time Michael shall stand, the great prince." Michael was Christ, of course, Who fought the angelic wars in heaven with the devil. Satan and Michael fought together, or fought against each other, rather.


The Cainites took this a step further.  Under their belief system, Judas was the one who held the secret mystery of truth, and they produced the Gnostic scroll known as the Book of Judas, which has recently been pieced together in fragment.

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

Against Heresies

Interestingly, the god they worshipped was believed to be one of the angels, and compounded “works” on top of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  While the Bible teaches that the work Christ did on the cross of Calvary was once-for-all, and that Salvation is given freely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the Cainites believed that you must first have an experience.  Like the Pentecostal movement that influenced several churches into falsely believing that you must have “evidence of the Holy Spirit,” the Cainites taught that you cannot be saved until you have had such an experience.

Moreover, they call this Hystera the creator of heaven and earth. They also hold, like Carpocrates, that men cannot be saved until they have gone through all kinds of experience. An angel, they maintain, attends them in every one of their sinful and abominable actions, and urges them to venture on audacity and incur pollution. Whatever may be the nature(3) of the action, they declare that they do it in the name of the angel, saying, "O thou angel, I use thy work; O thou power, I accomplish thy operation !" And they maintain that this is "perfect knowledge," without shrinking to rush into such actions as it is not lawful even to name.

Against Heresies

Many of you are familiar with William Branham praying to his angel, using the same power of the elemental spirits:

Angel of God, I do not see You. But I know that You are standing near. Please, Thou knowest my heart, and know how I love these people. Stand by me tonight. And may not one go through without faith. And I know that Your Words have been true. I've took You at Your Word, for You said You were sent from God. I believed You. And You've stuck by me. You have confirmed the Word with signs following. Now, again tonight, in this March the fifth, this Memorial night, may You stand now and heal every one. Grant it. May every demon be submissive to the Name of Jesus Christ.


This Kabbalistic teaching of the sexual union between Ialdabaoth and Eve, and the spiritual union between the “god of light” and “spirit eve” frustrated Irenaeus.  The roots of this doctrine run so deeply woven through the Bible that it is very difficult to untangle – even still today.  While seemingly harmless, any single branch of this teaching that is ran out to conclusion ends with false teaching. 

Irenaeus explains that to believe the Sethians and the Cainites was to destroy the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself.  The very fabric of the Bible was being recreated simply by changing the creation story, and it was a Heresy that required a full second book to try and untangle.  It was a heresy so strongly rooted in the early church that Irenaeus deemed it necessary to combat – because it had recent origin.  This doctrine was not a teaching that was established in the Law of Moses, nor in the Gospels or Apostolic Letters.  Kabbalistic men expanded upon words and phrases of the Bible text to produce this “mystery given by Adam to Seth,” and Irenaeus called it a “miserable and baseless fable.”

It was necessary clearly to prove, that, as their very opinions and regulations exhibit them, those who are of the school of Valentinus derive their origin from such mothers, fathers, and ancestors, and also to bring forward their doctrines, with the hope that perchance some of them, exercising repentance and returning to the only Creator, and God the Former of the universe, may obtain salvation, and that others may not henceforth be drown away by their wicked, although plausible, persuasions, imagining that they will obtain from them the knowledge of some greater and more sublime mysteries. But let them rather, learning to good effect from us the wicked tenets of these men, look with contempt upon their doctrines, while at the same time they pity those who, still cleaving to these miserable and baseless fables, have reached such a pitch of arrogance as to reckon themselves superior to all others on account of such knowledge, or, as it should rather be called, ignorance. They have now been fully exposed; and simply to exhibit their sentiments, is to obtain a victory over them.

Against Heresies

In the precursor to the second book, Irenaeus gives us the tools to combat this doctrine of “Serpent’s Seed.”  While he felt it necessary to compile a second book to conquer the beast, Irenaeus tells us that everything we need to know is exposed in his writings.  He has taken every form of false god that created Gnostic influence, and exposed them in his writings.

So, in our case, since we have brought their hidden mysteries, which they keep in silence among themselves, to the light, it will not now be necessary to use many words in destroying their system of opinions. For it is now in thy power, and in the power of all thy associates, to familiarize yourselves with what has been said, to overthrow their wicked and undigested doctrines, and to set forth doctrines agreeable to the truth.

Against Heresies

If you have been programmed with this Kabbalistic teaching of the Sethians and the Cainites, there is only one thing you need to know:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate

Genesis 3:6


There is no sexual innuendo in the Bible.  Moses did not write the books of the Bible with a perverted mind, and did not write the book of Genesis in parables.  The tree was good FOR FOOD. 

This word, “food,” is used in Hebrew to describe a substance that is made for intake: eaten.

Jeremiah 7:33 

people will be food for the birds


Ezekiel 47:12

and their fruit will be for food and their leaves

And the word used when it describes Adam “eating,” was indeed to “eat.”  To consume.  That same word is used all throughout the Bible.

Judges 6:21 

NAS: up from the rock and consumed the meat


Ruth 2:14

her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied


2 Samuel 12:21

you arose and ate food.


1 Kings 13:22

but have returned and eaten bread

Today’s language lends itself to seeing “sex” in many words, simply because of the shock value of sex in our world of “proper etiquette.”  But the ancient world and especially the Bible is written plainly without hiding what we consider to be “dirty words” or “R-rated behavior.”  The Law of Moses calles black “black,” and white “white.” 

There is only one verse you must know about this subject to combat the Gnosticism:

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

Acts 17:26