ABELITES (called also Abelonii or Abelonitæ):
A North-African Christian sect, probably of gnostic antecedents, limited to a few small communities in the neighborhood of Hippo in the time of Augustine, late in the fourth or early in the fifth century. Doubtless the name refers to the son of Adam, who was supposed to have died childless. The recorded tenets of the sect were the following: (1) They contracted matrimony, yet abstained from connubial intercourse. (2) They regarded the procreation of children as unlawful, but sought to perpetuate their society by adopting for each husband and wife a male and a female child, who should inherit their property and adopt their continent form of married life. In case one of the children died, another was adopted in its stead. As they possessed considerable means, they found little difficulty in securing the needful children. The remnant of the party was destroyed under the emperor Arcadius in 407. In addition to the notice by Augustine ("De Hæresibus Liber," p. 87), they are mentioned in the anonymous work, "Prædestinatus," i. 87. Some have supposed that their founder was a certain Abel of the immediately preceding time; but there are no facts to support this theory. Others have connected the Abelites with the Essenes or Therapeutæ.