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Valentinus, the Gnostic, And the Valentinians

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The birthplace and descent of this most famous of Gnostics are not known. Epiphanius states that he had learned that Valentinus was an Egyptian, and had received a Hellenic training at Alexandria (Haer. 31:2). The opinion that he was of Jewish extraction is a bare surmise. He came to Rome in the reign of Antoninus Pius, probably soon after A.D. 140, while Hyginus was bishop, and he remained until after Anicetus succeeded to the bishopric (Irenaeus, 3,:4, 3; comp. Eusebius, I.E. 4:10 sq.). Epiphanius says (Haer. 31:7) that he went from Rome to Cyprus, and there first became an open enemy to the Church-and the head of a heretical sect, with which statement should be compared that of Tertullian, in Praescript. c. 30, that Valentinus and Marcion had in the beginning adhered to the orthodox belief. Italian retains them in full membership with the Roman Church as late as the bishopric of Eleutheros (with which comp. Irenaeus, ut sup.). The further story (Adv. Valent. c. 4) that Valentinus, conscious of his intellectual strength and oratorical power, had hoped to be made bishop of the Church, and had turned against the Church and the truth because a confessor was preferred to him, does not compel the assumption that disappointed ambition determined him to become a heretic.

The Valentinian system is very obscure with respect to many of its details, but its general structure and material contents are quite comprehensible. It constructs a Pleroma of ceons, and in the process sets forth an idealistic view of the entire course of the creation and redemption of the world. The great first cause (βυθός, πρόων, προρχή, προπάτηρ ) produced, the Nous, or Monogenes, who became the principle of all subsequent emanations (ἀρχὴ τῶν πάντων ), and who was equal and similar to the Father. The Nous also manifests the Bythos, who is otherwise incomprehensible, and is in comparison with the latter the revealed God, through whom the generation and formation of the eons are mediated. With the Bythos was associated a feminine principle (σύζυγος ) named Sige (silence), though some hold that the Bythos was both masculine and feminine in himself, or exalted above all syzygies; and with the Nous was associated Truth (ἀλήθεια ).

These formed a productive quaternary which became the origin of all things. Nous and Aletheia produced Logos and Zoe, and Logos became the father of the remainder of the Pleroma. He expressed what existed seminally in the consciousness of Nous, and it thereby received life, and obtained concrete form, in the syzygy Anthropos (primeval man) and Ecclesia. The quaternity thus became an octave (Ogdoas); and this Ogdoas, which constitutes the center of aeonic developments, was reinforced by a group of ten leons emanated, according to Irenaeus, from Logos and Zoe, and another of twelve from Antthropos; and Ecclesia, or, according to Hippolytus, the ten from Noous and Alebtheia and the twelve from Logos and Zoe. The derived eons were necessarily subject to limitations, as they could have no other recognition of the Bythos than that mediated by the Nous, and as they were subject to the law of syzygies; and this necessity caused them to experience a feeling of deficiency and want, which ultimately found expression in Sophia, the last of the female eons. She vehemently desired to unite herself with the Bythos, but was prevented by Horos (the principle of limitation and differentiation in the Pleroma), and thereupon she laid aside the thought (ἐνθύμησις ) previously entertained and the passion resulting from her attempt. This ἐνθύμησις σὺν τῷ ἐπιγενομένῳ πάθει became an abortion (ἔκτρωμα ), or formless being (οὐσία ἄμορφος ), produced without the co-operation of the male syzygo.

To guard against a recurrence of the unnatural event, the Father caused a new pair of eons, Christ and the Holy Ghost, to be brought forth by the Nous, who restored harmony to the Pleroma, Christ by teaching the eons that it; must suffice them to know the nature of the syzygies and the idea of the unoriginated, and that the Great Father of all is infinite and incomprehensible save as he is, manifested, by the Nous (they thus obtained a clear understanding of their relation to the Father, and learned that the immoderate desire to be united with the Bythos was threatening to their own separate existence); the Holy Spirit by imparting to them rest and contentment, in giving them similarity of form and disposition, and making each of them to be, at the same time, what all the others were. This constitutes the completion of the Pleroma. The representation of Hippolytus varies somewhat from that given above. The emanation of the abortion from the Sophia brought confusion, i.e. darkening of the intellect (ἄγνοια ) and formlessness (ἀμορφία ), into the Pleroma. To remove this, Christ and the Holy Ghost were produced, While Horos, or Stauros, was brought forth to be the guard and protector of the Pleroma. To celebrate the restored harmony of the Pleroma, each of the eons contributes the most beautiful and precious it contains to produce the perfect beauty, Jesus the Soter. This forms the conclusion of the heavenly drama; but in the expelled abortion the condition for a real world-process has been given. Christ gives to this abortion the form of a lower or external Sophia (μόρφωσις κατ᾿ οὐσίαν as contrasted with the μόρφωσις κατὰ γνῶσιν ), or Achamoth, a Sophia of nature, but not of knowledge. Contact with Christ has given her no permanent ability beyond a confused desire for light; she becomes the prey of sorrow, fear, and despair, all of which are the result of ἄγνοια, a lack of clear, agnostical consciousness. In response to her prayers, the Soter Jesusis sent for her support (Paraclete), and, by him she is delivered from her hurtful affections and endowed with gnostical qualities. She thereupon. receives into herself the light of the angels who accompany the Soter, and brings forth pneumnatical fruit in their image.

A second process of alienation and reconciliation is completed at this poilit, and, as in the, former instance in, such a way that the affections eliminated from the aeonic nature become the basis of a further development, while that aeonic nature itself becomes the guiding principle of the new development. These eliminated affections existed in the first instances as an incorporeal hyle (ὕλη ), but were soon incorporated in two substances, the hylic; and the psychical. Fear became specifically psychical, sorrow hylical, despair demoniacal; and the Achamoth thus becomes the mother, of all living things and the highest cosmical principle, and in her is reflected the Ogdoas of the aeonic world, which is the prototype of the cosmical. Achamoth makes use of the Demiurge, who is the father of the psychical, the former of the hylicala and the king of all, but whose merely psychical nature deprives him of the power to comprehend the thoroughly pneumatical purpose of the cosmical development. The Demiurge forms the entire visible world, and is called Hebdomas, from the seven, heavens. He is the fiery God of Deuteronomy 4:24, because he, as the principle of cosmical life, at the same time represents the might of transitoriness. He constitutes man out of psychical and hylical elements, but he is not aware that the psychical has implanted in it pneumatical germs which the Sophia designs for further development. Such development receives a decisive impulse through the intervention of the Redeemer, whose office it is to spread gnostical light wherever any degree of receptivity exists.

The Demiurge had promised his people, the Jews, a Messiah, and in due time causes him to be born (a psychical Messiah) from Mary, through whom he passes like water through a channel. The Messiah receives pneumatical endowments from the Sophia, but has in himself no hylical elements which are not capable of being saved. His psychical body is, however, so marvelously constructed that it may be seen and touched, and that it may suffer. At this point the Valentinians divided into two schools the one of which included Heracleon and Ptolemy, and is known as the Italiotic, which held to the psychical body and seemed to make the pneumatical endowment dependent on the Messiah's baptism; While the Anatolic school, to which Axionicus and Ardesianes belonged, held to a pneumatical body formed by the descent of the Spirit (i.e. the Sophia) upon Mary and the cooperation of the Demiurge. The passion and crucifixion of our Lord likewise receive a symbolical interpretation, though the heavenly Soter is not usually allowed to participate in them. The saving process consists in the exaltation of the pneumatical element in man, and the end of all things is the separation of the pneumatical and the psychical from the hylical. Achamoth is thereby fully released from her pain, and: she returns with the Soter, who becomes her husband, and with all perfect pheuinatical natures who have been married to the angels of the Soter, into the Pleroma to the eternal marriage feast. The Demiurge, with all righteous psychical natures, is lifted up to the intermediate place near to, but not in the Pleroma, and afterwards the concealed fires break forth and consume matter and themselves.

The influence of Platonic ideas is unmistakable in the structure of this system. Compare, e.g., the κένωμα or ὑστέρημα with Plato's conception of matter as the μὴ ὄν . The κένωμα is conceived of as the negation of existence or being, and thus serves to show the monistic character of the system, though all gnosis involves the dualistic principle of connecting with the process of the absolute, as related to the process of the World, a negation of itself, an element of finiteness, and of effecting the necessary reconciliation only through the development of the world-process. See Irenaeus, particularly bk. 1 and 2; Hippolytus, Adv. Haer. 6,211 sq.; Tertullian, Adv. Valentin.; Clem. Alex. Strom., and other works, passim; Origen, especially in Joannis 23;Epiphaniiis, Haer. 31, 32, 35; Theodoret, Haer. Fab. 1, 7; see also; Buddoels in Appendix to Introd. ad Hist. Philos. Ebi., Massuet, in Irenceus, diss. 1; Rossel Theol. Schriften (Berl. 1847), p. 280 sq.4; Mö ller, Gesch. d. Kosnologie:; Meth. Quar. Rev. 1880, p. 567 sq.; and Herzog, Real-Encyklop s.v (See GNOSTICISM).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Valentinus, the Gnostic, And the Valentinians'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/v/valentinus-the-gnostic-and-the-valentinians.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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