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§ 125. Valentinus.

I. The sources are: 1) Fragments Of Valentinus; Ptolomey’s Epistola ad Floram; and exegetical fragments of Heracleon. 2) The patristic accounts and refutations of Irenaeus (I. 1–21 and throughout his whole work); Hippolytus (VI. 29–37); Tertullian (Adv. Valentinianos); Epiphanius, (Haer. XXXI; in Oehler’s ed. I. 305–386). The last two depend chiefly upon Irenaeus. See on the sources Lipsius and Heinrici (p. 5–148).

II. Ren. Massuet: Dissert. de Haereticis, Art. I. De Valentino, in his ed. of Irenaeus, and in Stieren’s ed. Tom. II. p. 54–134. Very learned and thorough.

George Heinrici: Die Valentinianische Gnosis und die heilige Schrift. Berlin, 1871 (192 pages).

Comp. Neander (whose account is very good, but lacks the additional information furnished by Hippolytus); Rossel, Theol. Schriften (Berlin, (1847), p. 280 sqq.; Baur, K. Gesch. I. 195–204; and Jacobi, in Herzog2, vol. V. 225–229.

Valentinus or Valentine857857    Οὐαλεντίνος or Βαλεντῖνος .57 is the author of the most profound and luxuriant, as well as the most influential and best known of the Gnostic systems. Irenaeus directed his work chiefly against it, and we have made it the basis of our general description of Gnosticism.858858    "No other system," says Baur (I. 203), "affords us such a clear insight into the peculiar character of the Gnosis, the inner connection of its view of the world, and the deeper intellectual character of the whole."58 He founded a large school, and spread his doctrines in the West. He claimed to have derived them from Theodas or Theudas, a pupil of St. Paul.859859    Clemens Alex. Strom. I. VII. p. 898 (ed. Potter). Nothing certain is known of Theudas.59 He also pretended to have received revelations from the Logos in a vision. Hippolytus calls him a Platonist and Pythagorean rather than a Christian. He was probably of Egyptian Jewish descent and Alexandrian education.860860    Epiph. Haer. XXXI. 2. The Jewish extraction may be inferred from some of his terms, as "Achamoth."60 Tertullian reports, perhaps from his own conjecture, that he broke with the orthodox church from disappointed ambition, not being made a bishop.861861    De Praesc. Haer. c. 30, and Adv. Valent. c. 4. Tertullian and the orthodox polemics generally are apt to trace all heresies to impure personal motives.61 Valentine came to Rome as a public teacher during the pontificate of Hyginus (137–142), and remained there till the pontificate of Anicetus (154).862862    Iren. III. 4, 3. Comp. Euseb. H. E. IV. 10, 11 (quoting from Irenaeus). All authorities agree that he taught at Rome before the middle of the second century.62 He was then already celebrated; for Justin Martyr, in his lost "Syntagma against all Heresies," which he mentions in his "First Apology" (140), combated the Valentinians among other heretics before a.d. 140. At that time Rome had become the centre of the church and the gathering place of all sects. Every teacher who wished to exercise a general influence on Christendom naturally looked to the metropolis. Valentine was one of the first Gnostics who taught in Rome, about the same time with Cerdo and Marcion; but though he made a considerable impression by his genius and eloquence, the orthodoxy of the church and the episcopal authority were too firmly settled to allow of any great success for his vagaries. He was excommunicated, and went to Cyprus, where he died about a.d. 160.

His system is an ingenious theogonic and cosmogonic epos. It describes in three acts the creation, the fall, and the redemption; first in heaven, then on earth. Great events repeat themselves in different stages of being. He derived his material from his own fertile imagination, from Oriental and Greek speculations, and from Christian ideas. He made much use of the Prologue of John’s Gospel and the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians; but by a wild exegesis he put his own pantheistic and mythological fancies into the apostolic words, such as Logos, Only Begotten, Truth, Life, Pleroma, Ecclesia.

Valentine starts from the eternal primal Being, which he significantly calls Bythos or Abyss.863863    βυθός, also προπάτωρ, προαρχή, αὐτοπάτωρ.63 It is the fathomless depth in which the thinking mind is lost, the ultimate boundary beyond which it cannot pass. The Bythos is unbegotten, infinite, invisible, incomprehensible, nameless, the absolute agnoston; yet capable of evolution and development, the universal Father of all beings. He continues for immeasurable ages in silent contemplation of his own boundless grandeur, glory, and beauty. This "Silence" or "Solitude" (ἡ σιγή) is his Spouse or σύζυγος. It is the silent self-contemplation, the slumbering consciousness of the Infinite. He also calls it "Thought" (ἔννοια), and "Grace" (χαρίς).864864    · Iren. I. 1, § 1; Tert. Adv. Val. c. 7.64 The pre-mundane Bythos includes, therefore, at least according to some members of the school, the female as well as the male principle; for from the male principle alone nothing could spring. According to Hippolytus, Valentine derived this sexual duality from the essential nature of love, and said: "God is all love; but love is not love except there is some object of affection."865865    Philos. VI. 24. There seems, however, to have been a difference of opinion among the Valentinians on the companionship of the Bythos, for in ch. 25 we read: "The Father alone, without copulation, has produced an offspring ... he alone possesses the power of self-generation."65 He grappled here with a pre-mundane mystery, which the Orthodox theology endeavors to solve by the doctrine of the immanent eternal trinity in the divine essence: God is love, therefore God is triune: a loving subject, a beloved object, and a union of the two. "Ubi amor, ibi trinitas."

After this eternal silence, God enters upon a process of evolution or emanation, i.e. a succession of generations of antithetic and yet supplementary ideas or principles. From the Abyss emanate thirty aeons in fifteen pairs,866866    σύζυγοι. The same number of aeons as in Hesiod’s theogony.66 according to the law of sexual polarity, in three generations, the first called the ogdoad, the second the decad, the third the dodecad. The Aeons are the unfolded powers and attributes of the divinity. They correspond to the dynameis in the system of Basilides. God begets first the masculine, productive Mind or Reason (ὁ νοῦς),867867    Also called ὁ πατήρ (as immediately proceeding from the προπάτωρ), the Father, also ὁ μονογενής, the Only Begotten (comp. John 1:18), and the ἀρχή as the Beginning of all things (Comp. ἐν ἀρχῇ, John 1:1).67 with the feminine, receptive Truth (ἡ ἀλήθεια); these two produce the Word (ὁ λόγος) and the Life (ἡ ζωή), and these again the (ideal) Man (ὁ ἄνθρωπος) and the (ideal) Church (ἡ ἐκκλησία). The influence of the fourth Gospel is unmistakable here, though of course the terminology of John is used in a sense different from that of its author. The first two syzygies constitute the sacred Tetraktys, the root of all things.868868    The ἱερὰ τετρακτύς of the Pythagoreans. Tert. (c. 7): " prima quadriga Valentinianae factionis, matrix et origo cunctorum."68 The Nous and the Aletheia produce ten aeons (five pairs); the Logos and the Zoë, twelve aeons (six pairs). At last the Nous or Monogenes and the Aletheia bring forth the heavenly Christ (ὁ ἄνω Χριστός) and the (female) Holy Spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα ἅγιον), and therewith complete the number thirty. These aeons constitute together the Pleroma, the plenitude of divine powers, an expression which St. Paul applied to the historical Christ (Col. 2:9). They all partake in substance of the life of the Abyss; but their form is conditioned by the Horos (ὅρος), the limiting power of God. This genius of limitation stands between the Pleroma and the Hysterema outside, and is the organizing power of the universe, and secures harmony.869869    "Es ist eine tiefe Idee des Vatentinianischen Systems," says Neander (II. 722), dass, wie alles Dasein in der Selbstbeschränkung des Bythos seinen Grund hat, so das Dasein alter geschaffenen Wesen auf Beschränkung beruht."69 If any being dares to transcend its fixed boundaries and to penetrate beyond revelation into the hidden being of God, it is in danger of sinking into nothing. Two actions are ascribed to the Horos, a negative by which he limits every being and sunders from it foreign elements, and the positive by which he forms and establishes it.870870    The ἐνεργεία μεριστικὴ καὶ διοριστική and the ἐνεργεία ἑδραστικὴ καὶ στηριστική.70 The former action is emphatically called Horos, the latter is called Stauros (cross, post), because he stands firm and immovable, the guardian of the Aeons, so that nothing can come from the Hysterema into the neighborhood of the aeons in the Pleroma.

The process of the fall and redemption takes place first in the ideal world of the Pleroma, and is then repeated in the lower world. In this process the lower Wisdom or Sophia, also called Achamoth or Chakmuth plays an important part.871871    Usually identified with Chocmah, but by Lipsius and Jacobi with Chakmuth, the world-mother, which has a place in the system of Bardesanes. The idea of Sophia as the mediatrix of creation is no doubt borrowed from the Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon.71 She is the mundane soul, a female aeon, the weakest and most remote member of the series of aeons (in number the twenty-eighth), and forms, so to speak, the bridge which spans the abyss between God and the real world. Feeling her loneliness and estrangement from the great Father, she wishes to unite herself immediately, without regard to the intervening links, with him who is the originating principle of the universe, and alone has the power of self-generation. She jumps, as it were by a single bound, into the depth of the eternal Father, and brings forth of herself alone an abortion (ἔκτρωμα), a formless and inchoate substance, 872872    οὐσία ἄμορφος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος .Philos. VI. 28 (30 ed. Duncker and Schneidewin, I. 274). The Thohuvabohu of Genesis.72 of which Moses speaks when he says: "The earth was without form and void." By this sinful passion she introduces confusion and disturbance into the Pleroma.873873    "Ignorance having arisen within the Pleroma in consequence of Sophia, and shapelessness (ἀμορφία) in consequence of the offspring of Sophia, confusion arose in the pleroma (θόρυβυς ἐγένετο ἐν πληρώματι)."Philos. VI. 26 (31 in Duncker and Schneidewin).73 She wanders about outside of it, and suffers with fear, anxiety, and despair on account of her abortion. This is the fall; an act both free and necessary.

But Sophia yearns after redemption; the aeons sympathize with her sufferings and aspirations; the eternal Father himself commands the projection of the last pair of aeons, Christ and the Holy Spirit, "for the restoration of Form, the destruction of the abortion, and for the consolation and cessation of the groans of Sophia." They comfort and cheer the Sophia, and separate the abortion from the Pleroma. At last, the thirty aeons together project in honor of the Father the aeon Soter or Jesus, "the great High Priest," "the Joint Fruit of the Pleroma," and "send him forth beyond the Pleroma as a Spouse for Sophia, who was outside, and as a rectifier of those sufferings which she underwent in searching after Christ." After many sufferings, Sophia is purged of all passions and brought back as the bride of Jesus, together with all pneumatic natures, into the ideal world. The demiurge, the fiery and jealous God of the Jews, as "the friend of the bridegroom,"874874    ὁ φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου, John 3. 29.74 with the psychical Christians on the border of the Pleroma, remotely shares the joy of the festival, while matter sinks back into nothing.

In Valentine’s Christology, we must distinguish properly three redeeming beings: (1) The ἄνω Χριστός or heavenly Christ, who, after the fall of Sophia, emanates from the aeon μονογενής, and stands in conjunction with the female principle, the πνεῦμα ἅγιον. He makes the first announcement to the aeons of the plan of redemption, whereupon they strike up anthems of praise and thanksgiving in responsive choirs. (2) The σωτήρ or Ἰησοῦς, produced by all the aeons together, the star of the Pleroma. He forms with the redeemed Sophia the last and highest syzygy. (3) The κάτω Χριστός, the psychical or Jewish Messiah, who is sent by the Demiurge, passes through the body of Mary as water through a pipe, and is at last crucified by the Jews, but, as he has merely an apparent body, does not really suffer. With him Soter, the proper redeemer, united himself in the baptism in the Jordan, to announce his divine gnosis on earth for a year, and lead the pneumatic persons to perfection.


Dr. Baur, the great critical historian of ancient Gnosticism and the master spirit of modern Gnosticism, ingeniously reproduces the Valentinian system in Hegelian terminology. I quote the chief part, as a fair specimen of his historic treatment, from his Kirchengeschichte, vol. I. 201 sqq. (comp. his Gnosis, p. 124 sqq.):

"Der Geist, oder Gott als der Geist an sich, geht aus sich heraus, in dieser Sebstoffenbarung Gottes entsteht die Welt, die in ihrem Unterschied von Gott auch wieder an sich mit Gott eins ist. Wie man aber auch dieses immanente Verhältniss von Gott und Welt betrachten mag, als Selbstoffenbarung Gottes oder als Weltentwicklung, es ist an sich ein rein geistiger, im Wesen des Geistes begründeter Process. Der Geist stellt in den Aeonen, die er aus sich hervorgehen lässt, sein eigenes Wesen aus sich heraus und sich gegenüber; da aber das Wesen des Geistes an sich das Denken und Wissen ist, so kann der Process seiner Selbstoffenbarung nur darin bestehen, dass er sich dessen bewusst ist, was er an sich ist. Die Aeonen des Pleroma sind die höchsten Begriffe des geistigen Seins und Lebens, die allgemeinen Denkformen, in welchen der Geist das, was er an sich ist, in bestimmter concreter Weise für das Bewusstsein ist. Mit dem Wissen des Geistes von sich, dem Selbstbewusstsein des sich von sich unterscheidenden Geistes, ist aber auch schon nicht blos ein Princip der Differenzirung, sondern, da Gott und Welt an sich Eins sind, auch ein Princip der Materialisirung des Geistes gesetzt. Je grösser der Abstand der das Bewusstsein des Geistes vermittelnden Begriffe von dem absolutes Princip ist, um so mehr ver dunkelt sich das geistige Bewusstsein, der Geiste, entäussert sich seiner selbst, er ist sich selbst nicht mehr klar und durchsichtig, das Pneumatische sinkt zum Prychischen herab, das Psychische verdichtet sich zum Materiellen, und mit dem Materiellen verbindet sich in seinem Extrem auch der Begriff des Dämonischen und Diabolischen. Da aber auch das psychische an sich pneumatischer Natur ist, und Keime des geistigen Lebens überall zurückgeblieben sind, so muss das Pneumatische die materielle Verdunklung des geistigen Bewusstseins auf der Stufe des psychischen Lebens wieder durchbrechen und die Decke abwerfen, die in der Welt des Demurg auf dem Bewusstsein des Geistes liegt. Die ganze Weltentwicklung ist die Continuität desselben geisigen Processes, es muss daher auch einen Wendepunkt geben, in welchem der Geist aus seiner Selbstentäuserung zu sich selbst zurückkehrt und wieder zum klaren Bewusstsein dessen, was er an sich ist, kommt. Dies ist der gnostische Begriff der christlichen Offenbarung. Die Wissenden im Sinne der Gnostiker, die Pneumatischen, die als solche auch das wahrhaft christliche Bewusstsein in, sich haben, sind ein neues Moment des allgemeinen geistigen Lebens, die höchste Stufe der Selbstoffenbarung Gottes und der Weltentwicklung. Diese Periode des Weltverlaufs beginnt mit der Erscheinung Christi und endet zuletzt damit, dass durch Christus und die Sophia alles Geistige in das Pleroma wieder aufgenommen wird. Da Christus, wie auf jeder Stufe der Weltentwicklung, so auch schon in den höchsten Regionen der Aeonenwelt, in welcher alles seinem Ausgangspunkt hat, and von Anfang an auf dieses Reultant des Ganzen angelegt ist, als das wiederherstellende, in der Einheit mit dem Absolutn erhaltende Princip thätig ist, so hat er in der Waltanschauung der Gnostiker durchaus die Bedeutung eines absolutn Weltprincips."

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