Valentinian Gnosticism

VALENTINIANS: The followers of Valentinus, an Egyptian, who, disappointed of a bishopric, abandoned his faith, and left his country for Rome, where he taught his doctrines about AD 142, whence they were diffused through Europe, Asia, and Africa.  His heresy was a branch of Gnosticism.  He taught that the great pleroma of the Deity comprised thirty aeons, half male and half female, who emanated from the great original of all things, called Buthos.  According to Vitringa, the first principle was Buthos (depth), united with his own self-consciousness, called Sige (silence), and Ennoia (thought); from these came Nous (intelligence), or Monogenes, and Aletheia (truth); these gave birth to Logos (the Word), and Zoe (life); and these last produced Anthropos (man), and Ecclesia (the church).  These were the principal sons, and they constituted the pleromaLogos and Zoe produced five other pairs; and Anthropos and Ecclesia produced six pairs more, which together formed the thirty aeons.  To these were added Horos (bounder), to guard the borders of the pleroma: and from Sophia (wisdom), the youngest of the aeons, came Christ, the Holy Ghost, which compelled all of them to unite and form Jesus: here Enthymesis (thought) produced a daughter Achamoth, who, being exiled from the pleroma, by the assistance of Jesus produced the Demiurgos, the Lord and Creator of all things.  There were, besides, three kinds of substance: the spiritual (or pneumatic), the material (hylic), and the animal (psychical).  The Demiurgos was the animal substance, who produced mankind; into which Enthymesis put a spirit, to preserve the animal substance from the corruption which it would derive from the animal: but the animal portion required a Saviour; whence the Saviour, or Christ, came through the womb of the Virgin; and upon Him, at His baptism, the Saviour of the pleroma descended in the form of a dove, and united with the psychic Messiah.  The Christ suffered in his animal part, not in His spiritual. 

Another part of the system of Valentinus was that these three substances existed together in the first man Adam, but were afterwards disunited; Cain, possessing the material, Abel the animal, and Seth the spiritual.  The material men will go into condemnation, whether they do good or evil; the animal will be preserved if they do good, but will perish if they do evil; the spiritual, however, whatever they may do, cannot perish, for they are immortal.  At the end of the world, the material and animal men who are condemned will be consumed by the fire that is to consume all matter; but the spiritual men shall ascend with the Enthymesis into the pleroma, when it will be re-united to the Saviour, and they shall then marry the angels who are with the Saviour; but the animal men, who shall have performed good works, shall have their rest with the Demiurgos, who will return to the abode of his mother.  Such is the absurdity and extravagance which Valentinus propagated, and which his followers adopted, some wholly, others but in part.  The sect obtained great celebrity.  It spread widely, and, according to Tertullian, was very numerous among the Gnostics.  The works of Valentinus are lost: we have only fragments.  Irenaeus has endeavoured to expound his scheme.  The most noted disciples and successors who altered the system of Valentinus were Secundus, Ptolemy, Marcus, Colobarsus, Heraclion, Theotimus, and Alexander.

From: Farrar, John, 1878, “An Ecclesiastical Dictionary, Explanatory of the History, Antiquities, Heresies, Sects, and Religious Denominations of the Christian Church”, entry “Valentinians” p. 551-552, pub. Wesleyan Conference Office, London.

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