Who was Valentinus (sometimes spelled Valentinius)? What do most who profess Christ think he was? And perhaps most importantly, what did he and his followers teach? And was he one of the earliest teachers of the trinity? And did he write Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth?
This article will attempt to address those questions.
Who was Valentinus?
Valentinus was a second century church leader who had some affiliation with what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions:
Valentinus, the best known and most influential of the Gnostic heretics, was born according to Epiphanius (Haer., XXXI) on the coast of Egypt. He was trained in Hellenistic science in Alexandria. Like many other heretical teachers he went to Rome the better, perhaps to disseminate his views. He arrived there during the pontificate of Hyginus and remained until the pontificate of Anicetus. During a sojourn of perhaps fifteen years, though he had in the beginning allied himself with the orthodox community in Rome, he was guilty of attempting to establish his heretical system. His errors led to his excommunication, after which he repaired to Cyprus where he resumed his activities as a teacher and where he died probably about 160 or 161. Valentinus professed to have derived his ideas from Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of St. Paul, but his system is obviously an attempt to amalgamate Greek and Oriental speculations of the most fantastic kind with Christian ideas. He was especially indebted to Plato (Healy P. J. Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett. Valentinus and Valentinians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Irenaeus, though himself a heretic (though considered as a saint by Roman Catholics), in the late 2nd Century claimed that the Valentinians came from Simon Magus:
Thou hast indeed enjoined upon me, my very dear friend, that I should bring to light the Valentinian doctrines, concealed, as their votaries imagine; that I should exhibit their diversity, and compose a treatise in refutation of them. therefore have undertaken -- showing that they spring from Simon, the father of all heretics -- to exhibit both their doctrines and successions, and to set forth arguments against them all (Book III, Preface, Verse 1).
What do most who profess Christ think he was?
As mentioned above, the Roman Catholics and others consider that Valentinus was a Gnostic heretic.
Irenaeus wrote that both John and Polycarp strongly renounced the Gnostic heretics:
Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too…Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus.
But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles... John, the disciple of the Lord…exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan" (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).
Polycarp came to Rome around 155 A.D. We in the Churches of God consider that Polycarp was the predominant leader of the true Church at this time. Notice that Polycarp condemned Valentinus at that time and that there is no indication that any of the Roman Catholic leaders did this prior to Polycarp's visit. It should probably also be noted here that Polycarp objected to Roman Bishop Anicetus at this time for changing the date of Passover based upon tradition.
What Irenaeus failed to mention is that even after this, Valentius was still in somewhat good graces with the Roman Catholic Church until decades later. Note what Tertullian wrote:
Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago,—in the reign of Antoninus for the most part,—and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled (Tertullian. The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 30. Translated by Peter Holmes. Electronic Version Copyright © 2006 by Kevin Knight. All rights reserved).
Eleutherus did not become bishop of Rome until 174, thus Valentinus' final departure from the Roman church did not occur before that date.
Eastern Orthodox, those in the Churches of God, and most Protestants also teach that Valentinus was a gnostic heretic. And all condemned gnosticism. Here is a quote from the late John Ogwyn (bolding his):
Gnosticism (the term is derived from the Greek word for knowledge) was a highly intellectual way of life. It represented a blending of Babylonian mystery religion, Greek philosophical speculation and an overlay of biblical terminology. Among the Gnostics, biblical accounts were not taken literally but were treated as allegories used to teach deeper "truths." "The Mosaic account of the creation… was treated with profound derision by the Gnostics" (Gibbon, p. 13). Gnosticism stressed pagan dualism with its emphasis on the immortality of the soul and the inherent evil of matter. It also introduced much vain speculation on the nature of God and the spirit realm. Several New Testament books—including the Gospel of John, Colossians and 1 John—were written to refute the Gnostic heresies that Simon Magus and many others began to spread (Ogywn J. God's Church Through the Ages. Living Church of God, Charlotte (NC), ©2003).
And Valentinus was one of the many others who spread gnosticism after Simon Magus apparently originated it.
What Did He and His Followers Teach?
This section fairly long, but consists of ancient sources (mainly Irenaeus) about what Valentinus and/or his followers taught.
Before getting to those quotes, what Irenaeus essentially seems to say is that Valentinus and his followers believed in merging Greek pagan philosophy with Christianity, taught about a certain pre-existent Aeon, believed in the Ogdoad, preferred the term Saviour to Lord, believed in tradition over the Bible, believed in having a higher knowledge, endorsed a non-immersion form of baptism, taught the world was created from pre-existent matter by the angels, taught that Jesus really was not made flesh, taught that Jesus was a defect, taught that man was not fashioned from the earth, and developed a triune version of the Godhead similar to what Plato had developed earlier.
For example, the following is a bit long, but shows essentially an entering of Greek philosophy into what was supposed to be the Christian religion:
1. They maintain, then, that in the invisible and ineffable heights above there exists a certain perfect, pre-existent Aeon, whom they call Proarche, Propator, and Bythus, and describe as being invisible and incomprehensible. Eternal and unbegotten, he remained throughout innumerable cycles of ages in profound serenity and quiescence. There existed along with him Ennoea, whom they also call Charis and Sige. At last this Bythus determined to send forth from himself the beginning of all things, and deposited this production (which he had resolved to bring forth) in his contemporary Sige, even as seed is deposited in the womb. She then, having received this seed, and becoming pregnant, gave birth to Nous, who was both similar and equal to him who had produced him, and was alone capable of comprehending his father's greatness. This Nous they call also Monogenes, and Father, and the Beginning of all Things. Along with him was also produced Aletheia; and these four constituted the first and first-begotten Pythagorean Tetrad, which they also denominate the root of all things. For there are first Bythus and Sige, and then Nous and Aletheia. And Monogenes, perceiving for what purpose he had been produced, also himself sent forth Logos and Zoe, being the father of all those who were to come after him, and the beginning and fashioning of the entire Pleroma. By the conjunction of Logos and Zoo were brought forth Anthropos and Ecclesia; and thus was formed the first-begotten Ogdoad, the root and substance of all things, called among them by four names, viz., Bythus, and Nous, and Logos, and Anthropos. For each of these is masculo-feminine, as follows: Propator was united by a conjunction with his Ennoea; then Monogenes, that is Nous, with Aletheia; Logos with Zoe, and Anthropos with Ecclesia.
2. These Aeons having been produced for the glory of the Father, and wishing, by their own efforts, to effect this object, sent forth emanations by means of conjunction. Logos and Zoe, after producing Anthropos and Ecclesia, sent forth other ten Aeons, whose names are the following: Bythius and Mixis, Ageratos and Henosis, Autophyes and Hedone, Acinetos and Syncrasis, Monogenes and Macaria. These are the ten Aeons whom they declare to have been produced by Logos and Zoe. They then add that Anthropos himself, along with Ecclesia, produced twelve Aeons, to whom they give the following names: Paracletus and Pistis, Patricos and Elpis, Metricos and Agape, Ainos and Synesis, Ecclesiasticus and Macariotes, Theletos and Sophia.
3. Such are the thirty Aeons in the erroneous system of these men; and they are described as being wrapped up, so to speak, in silence, and known to none [except these professing teachers]. Moreover, they declare that this invisible and spiritual Pleroma of theirs is tripartite, being divided into an Ogdoad, a Decad, and a Duodecad. And for this reason they affirm it was that the "Saviour" -- for they do not please to call Him "Lord" -- did no work in public during the space of thirty years, thus setting forth the mystery of these Aeons.
(Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book 1, Chapter 1, Verses 1-3).
There are several important concepts above. The first is that this is clearly not biblical. The second involves the Ogdoad, that is, the eighth--this eighth quickly develops into an eighth day of the week belief, which is now the day we call Sunday (Sunday is considered to be both the first and eighth day of the week by Roman heretics such as Justin Martyr).
The third concept is that of the Logos. Since the Bible refers to Jesus as (in the Greek) as the Logos (John 1:1), this was of interest to the educated, almost all of whom were educated in Greek philosophy. This ultimately resulted in a blending of "Christianity" and Greek philosophy--which most "Christian" faiths have today.
The Valentinians had some strange ideas regarding Aeons and the number twelve:
3. They further maintain that the passion which took place in the case of the twelfth Aeon is pointed at by the apostasy of Judas, who was the twelfth apostle, and also by the fact that Christ suffered in the twelfth month. For their opinion is, that He continued to preach for one year only after His baptism. The same thing is also most clearly indicated by the case of the woman who suffered from an issue of blood. For after she had been thus afflicted during twelve years, she was healed by the advent of the Saviour, when she had touched the border of His garment; and on this account the Saviour said, "Who touched me?" -- teaching his disciples the mystery which had occurred among the Aeons, and the healing of that Aeon who had been involved in suffering. For she who had been afflicted twelve years represented that power whose essence, as they narrate, was stretching itself forth, and flowing into immensity; and unless she had touched the garment of the Son, that is, Aletheia of the first Tetrad (Book 1, Chapter 3, Verse 3).
The Valentinians relied on tradition instead of the Bible:
1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions (Book 1, Chapter 8, Verse 1).
A major problem today among most who profess Christ is that they rely on non-biblical sources for much of their doctrine (two articles of possible interest may be The Bible and Tradition and Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?
They thought this about John's teachings:
5. Further, they teach that John, the disciple of the Lord, indicated the first Ogdoad, expressing themselves in these words: John, the disciple of the Lord, wishing to set forth the origin of all things, so as to explain how the Father produced the whole, lays down a certain principle -- that, namely, which was first-begotten by God, which Being he has termed both the only-begotten Son and God, in whom the Father, after a seminal manner, brought forth all things. By him the Word was produced, and in him the whole substance of the Aeons, to which the Word himself afterwards imparted form. Since, therefore, he treats of the first origin of things, he rightly proceeds in his teaching from the beginning, that is, from God and the Word (Book 1, Chapter 8, Verse 5).
Recall that Ogdoad means the eighth. Neither the eighth nor the Aeons are part of the Gospel of John as the Valentinians are teaching. It should be noted that the only entity that John suggests is the eighth is a beast in Revelation,
And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition (Revelation 17:11).
The Valentinians may have came up with the term 'Gnostic':
1...Valentinus, who adapted the principles of the heresy called "Gnostic" to the peculiar character of his own school, taught as follows: He maintained that there is a certain Dyad (twofold being), who is inexpressible by any name, of whom one part should be called Arrhetus (unspeakable), and the other Sige (silence). But of this Dyad a second was produced, one part of whom he names Pater, and the other Aletheia. From this Tetrad, again, arose Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia. These constitute the primary Ogdoad. He next states that from Logos and Zoe ten powers were produced (Book 1, Chapter 11, Verse 1).
Another heretic called Secundus seems to be an offshoot of Valentinus:
2. Secundus again affirms that the primary Ogdoad consists of a right hand and a left hand Tetrad, and teaches that the one of these is called light, and the other darkness. But he maintains that the power which separated from the rest, and fell away, did not proceed directly from the thirty Aeons, but from their fruits.
3. There is another, who is a renowned teacher among them, and who, struggling to reach something more sublime, and to attain to a kind of higher knowledge, has explained the primary Tetrad as follows: There is [he says] a certain Proarche who existed before all things, surpassing all thought, speech, and nomenclature, whom I call Monotes (unity). Together with this Monotes there exists a power, which again I term Henotes (oneness). This Henotes and Monotes, being one, produced, yet not so as to bring forth [apart from themselves, as an emanation] the beginning of all things, an intelligent, unbegotten, and invisible being, which beginning language terms "Monad." With this Monad there co-exists a power of the same essence, which again I term Hen (One). These powers then -- Monotes, and Henotes, and Monas, and Hen -- produced the remaining company of the Aeons...
5. Others still, however, have called their primary and first-begotten Ogdoad by the following names: first, Proarche; then Anennoetos; thirdly, Arrhetos; and fourthly, Aoratos. Then, from the first, Proarche, there was produced, in the first and fifth place, Arche; from Anennoetos, in the second and sixth place, Acataleptos; from Arrhetos, in the third and seventh place, Anonomastos; and from Aoratos, in the fourth and eighth place, Agennetos. This is the Pleroma of the first Ogdoad (Book 1, Chapter 11, Verses 2,3,5).
They had heretical views regarding baptism:
4. But there are some of them who assert that it is superfluous to bring persons to the water, but mixing oil and water together, they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated, with the use of some such expressions as we have already mentioned. And this they maintain to be the redemption. They, too, are accustomed to anoint with balsam. Others, however, reject all these practices, and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power ought not to be performed by visible and corruptible creatures, nor should that of those [beings] who are inconceivable, and incorporeal, and beyond the reach of sense, [be performed] by such as are the objects of sense, and possessed of a body. These hold that the knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself perfect redemption. For since both defect and passion flowed from ignorance, the whole substance of what was thus formed is destroyed by knowledge; and therefore knowledge is the redemption of the inner man. This, however, is not of a corporeal nature, for the body is corruptible; nor is it animal, since the animal soul is the fruit of a defect, and is, as it were, the abode of the spirit. The redemption must therefore be of a spiritual nature; for they affirm that the inner and spiritual man is redeemed by means of knowledge, and that they, having acquired the knowledge of all things, stand thenceforth in need of nothing else (Book 1, Chapter 21, Verse 4).
Irenaeus also summarizes:
1. In the first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing "knowledge falsely so called," I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless. I also set forth the tenets of their predecessors, proving that they not only differed among themselves, but had long previously swerved from the truth itself. I further explained, with all diligence, the doctrine as well as practice of Marcus the magician, since he, too, belongs to these persons; and I carefully noticed the passages which they garble from the Scriptures, with the view of adapting them to their own fictions. Moreover, I minutely narrated the manner in which, by means of numbers, and by the twenty-four letters of the alphabet, they boldly endeavour to establish [what they regard as] truth. I have also related how they think and teach that creation at large was formed after the image of their invisible Pleroma, and what they hold respecting the Demiurge, declaring at the same time the doctrine of Simon Magus of Samaria, their progenitor, and of all those who succeeded him. I mentioned, too, the multitude of those Gnostics who are sprung from him, and noticed the points of difference between them, their several doctrines, and the order of their succession, while I set forth all those heresies which have been originated by them. I showed, moreover, that all these heretics, taking their rise from Simon, have introduced impious and irreligious doctrines into this life; and I explained the nature of their "redemption," and their method of initiating those who are rendered "perfect," along with their invocations and their mysteries (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book II, Preface, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Essentially, he teaches that the Valentinians adopted paganism and philosophy to form their own beliefs:
1. Much more like the truth, and more pleasing, is the account which Antiphanes, one of the ancient comic poets, gives in his Theogony as to the origin of all things. For he speaks Chaos as being produced from Night and Silence; relates that then Love sprang from Chaos and Night; from this again, Light; and that from this, in his opinion, were derived all the rest of the first generation of the gods. After these he next introduces a second generation of gods, and the creation of the world; then he narrates the formation of mankind by the second order of the gods. These men (the heretics), adopting this fable as their own, have ranged their opinions round it, as if by a sort of natural process, changing only the names of the things referred to, and setting forth the very same beginning of the generation of all things, and their production. In place of Night and Silence they substitute Bythus and Sige; instead of Chaos, they put Nous; and for Love (by whom, says the comic poet, all other things were set in order) they have brought forward the Word; while for the primary and greatest gods they have formed the Aeons; and in place of the secondary gods, they tell us of that creation by their mother which is outside of the Pleroma, calling it the second Ogdoad. They proclaim to us, like the writer referred to, that from this (Ogdoad) came the creation of the world and the formation of man, maintaining that they alone are acquainted with these ineffable and unknown mysteries. Those things which are everywhere acted in the theatres by comedians with the clearest voices they transfer to their own system, teaching them undoubtedly through means of the same arguments, and merely changing the names.
2. And not only are they convicted of bringing forward, as if their own [original ideas], those things which are to be found among the comic poets, but they also bring together the things which have been said by all those who were ignorant of God, and who are termed philosophers; and sewing together, as it were, a motley garment out of a heap of miserable rags, they have, by their subtle manner of expression, furnished themselves with a cloak which is really not their own. They do, it is true, introduce a new kind of doctrine, inasmuch as by a new sort of art it has been substituted [for the old]. Yet it is in reality both old and useless, since these very opinions have been sewed together out of ancient dogmas redolent of ignorance and irreligion. For instance, Thales of Miletus affirmed that water was the generative and initial principle of all things. Now it is just the same thing whether we say water or Bythus. The poet Homer, again, held the opinion that Oceanus, along with mother Tethys, was the origin of the gods: this idea these men have transferred to Bythus and Sige. Anaximander laid it down that infinitude is the first principle of all things, having seminally in itself the generation of them all, and from this he declares the immense worlds [which exist] were formed: this, too, they have dressed up anew, and referred to Bythus and their Aeons. Anaxagoras, again, who has also been surnamed "Atheist," gave it as his opinion that animals were formed from seeds falling down from heaven upon earth. This thought, too, these men have transferred to "the seed" of their Mother, which they maintain to be themselves; thus acknowledging at once, in the judgment of such as are possessed of sense, that they themselves are the offspring of the irreligious Anaxagoras.
3. Again, adopting the [ideas of] shade and vacuity from Democritus and Epicurus, they have fitted these to their own views, following upon those [teachers] who had already talked a great deal about a vacuum and atoms, the one of which they called that which is, and the other that which is not. In like manner, these men call those things which are within the Pleroma real existences, just as those philosophers did the atoms; while they maintain that those which are without the Pleroma have no true existence, even as those did respecting the vacuum. They have thus banished themselves in this world (since they are here outside of the Pleroma) into a place which has no existence. Again, when they maintain that these things [below] are images of those which have a true existence [above], they again most manifestly rehearse the doctrine of Democritus and Plato. For Democritus was the first who maintained that numerous and diverse figures were stamped, as it were, with the forms [of things above], and descended from universal space into this world. But Plato, for his part, speaks of matter, and exemplar, and God. These men, following those distinctions, have styled what he calls ideas, and exemplar, the images of those things which are above; while, through a mere change of name, they boast themselves as being discoverers and contrivers of this kind of imaginary fiction.
4. This opinion, too, that they hold the Creator formed the world out of previously existing matter, both Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and Plato expressed before them; as, forsooth, we learn they also do under the inspiration of their Mother. Then again, as to the opinion that everything of necessity passes away to those things out of which they maintain it was also formed, and that God is the slave of this necessity, so that He cannot impart immortality to what is mortal, or bestow incorruption on what is corruptible, but every one passes into a substance similar in nature to itself, both those who are named Stoics from the portico (stoa), and indeed all that are ignorant of God, poets and historians alike, make the same affirmation. Those [heretics] who hold the same [system of] infidelity have ascribed, no doubt, their own proper region to spiritual beings -- that, namely, which is within the Pleroma, but to animal beings the intermediate space, while to corporeal they assign that which is material. And they assert that God Himself can do no otherwise, but that every one of the [different kinds of substance] mentioned passes away to those things which are of the same nature. [with itself].
5. Moreover, as to their saying that the Saviour was formed out of all the Aeons, by every one of them depositing, so to speak, in Him his own special flower, they bring forward nothing new that may not be found in the Pandora of Hesiod. For what he says respecting her, these men insinuate concerning the Saviour, bringing Him before us as Pandoros (All-gifted), as if each of the Aeons had bestowed on Him what He possessed in the greatest perfection. Again, their opinion as to the indifference of [eating of] meats and other actions, and as to their thinking that, from the nobility of their nature, they can in no degree at all contract pollution, whatever they eat or perform, they have derived it from the Cynics, since they do in fact belong to the same society as do these [philosophers]. They also strive to transfer to [the treatment of matters of] faith that hairsplitting and subtle mode of handling questions which is, in fact, a copying of Aristotle.
6. Again, as to the desire they exhibit to refer this whole universe to numbers, they have learned it from the Pythagoreans. For these were the first who set forth numbers as the initial principle of all things, and [described] that initial principle of theirs as being both equal and unequal, out of which [two properties] they conceived that both things sensible and immaterial derived their origin. And [they held] that one set of first principles gave rise to the matter [of things], and another to their form. They affirm that from these first principles all things have been made, just as a statue is of its metal and its special form. Now, the heretics have adapted this to the things which are outside of the Pleroma. The [Pythagoreans] maintained that the principle of intellect is proportionate to the energy wherewith mind, as a recipient of the comprehensible, pursues its inquiries, until, worn out, it is resolved at length in the Indivisible and One. They further affirm that Hen -- that is, One -- is the first principle of all things, and the substance of all that has been formed. From this again proceeded the Dyad, the Tetrad, the Pentad, and the manifold generation of the others. These things the heretics repeat, word for word, with a reference to their Pleroma and Bythus. From the same source, too, they strive to bring into vogue those conjunctions which proceed from unity. Marcus boasts of such views as if they were his own, and as if he were seen to have discovered something more novel than others, while he simply sets forth the Tetrad of Pythagoras as the originating principle and mother of all things.
7. But I will merely say, in opposition to these men -- Did all those who have been mentioned, with whom you have been proved to coincide in expression, know, or not know, the truth? (Book II, Chapter 14, Verses 1-7).
Marcus, mentioned above, is believed to have learned from or about Valentinus--more information on him can be found in the article Marcus and the Marcosians: Developers of the Eucharist?
Here is more from Irenaeus on Valentinus:
1. Those, then, who are of the school of Valentinus being overthrown, the whole multitude of heretics are, in fact, also subverted...[all these arguments, I say,] will in like manner apply against those who are of the school of Marcion, and Simon, and Meander, or whatever others there may be who, like them, cut off that creation with which we are connected from the Father. The arguments, again, which I have employed against those who maintain that the Father of all no doubt contains all things, but that the creation to which we belong was not formed by Him, but by a certain other power, or by angels having no knowledge of the Propator, who is surrounded as a centre by the immense extent of the universe, just as a stain is by the [surrounding] cloak; when I showed that it is not a probable supposition that any other being than the Father of all formed that creation to which we belong -- these same arguments will apply against the followers of Saturninus, Basilides, Carpocrates, and the rest of the Gnostics, who express similar opinions...
3...But they are altogether full of deceit of every kind, apostate inspiration, demoniacal working, and the phantasms of idolatry, and are in reality the predecessors of that dragon who, by means of a deception of the same kind, will with his tail cause a third part of the stars to fall from their place, and will cast them down to the earth. It behoves us to flee from them as we would from him; and the greater the display with which they are said to perform [their marvels], the more carefully should we watch them, as having been endowed with a greater spirit of wickedness (Book II, Chapter 31, Verses 1,3).
They held a poor view of scripture:
1. When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world." And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself (Book III, Chapter 2, Verse 1).
Irenaeus claimed that the heretics had no direct connection to the apostles:
3. For, prior to Valentinus, those who follow Valentinus had no existence; nor did those from Marcion exist before Marcion; nor, in short, had any of those malignant-minded people, whom I have above enumerated, any being previous to the initiators and inventors of their perversity. For Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too, Marcion's predecessor, himself arrived in the time of Hyginus, who was the ninth bishop. Coming frequently into the Church, and making public confession, he thus remained, one time teaching in secret, and then again making public confession; but at last, having been denounced for corrupt teaching, he was excommunicated from the assembly of the brethren. Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus, who held the tenth place of the episcopate. But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take rise from Meander, Simon's disciple, as I have shown; and each one of them appeared to be both the father and the high priest of that doctrine into which he has been initiated. But all these (the Marcosians) broke out into their apostasy much later, even during the intermediate period of the Church (Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3).
Irenaeus claimed that the Valentinians also did not believe in a true incarnation:
2...And, according to certain of the Gnostics, this world was made by angels, and not by the Word of God. But according to the followers of Valentinus, the world was not made by Him, but by the Demiurge. For he (Soter) caused such similitudes to be made, after the pattern of things above, as they allege; but the Demiurge accomplished the work of creation. For they say that he, the Lord and Creator of the plan of creation, by whom they hold that this world was made, was produced from the Mother; while the Gospel affirms plainly, that by the Word, which was in the beginning with God, all things were made, which Word, he says, "was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
3. But, according to these men, neither was the Word made flesh, nor Christ, nor the Saviour (Soter), who was produced from [the joint contributions of] all [the Aeons]. For they will have it, that the Word and Christ never came into this world; that the Saviour, too, never became incarnate, nor suffered, but that He descended like a dove upon the dispensational Jesus; and that, as soon as He had declared the unknown Father (Book III, Chapter 11, Verses 2-3).
Irenaeus claimed that Gospel accounts were misused by them:
7...But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God, from those [passages] which he still retains. Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. Those, moreover, who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John, to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very Gospel, as I have shown in the first book. Since, then, our opponents do bear testimony to us, and make use of these [documents], our proof derived from them is firm and true. (Book III, Chapter 11, Verse 7).
Montanus and Valentinus:
9...Others, again (the Montanists), that they may set at nought the gift of the Spirit, which in the latter times has been, by the good pleasure of the Father, poured out upon the human race, do not admit that aspect [of the evangelical dispensation] presented by John's Gospel, in which the Lord promised that He would send the Paraclete; but set aside at once both the Gospel and the prophetic Spirit. Wretched men indeed! who wish to be pseudo-prophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the Church; acting like those (the Encratitae) who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men (the Montanists) can not admit the Apostle Paul either. For, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognises men and women prophesying in the Church. Sinning, therefore, in all these particulars, against the Spirit of God, they fall into the irremissible sin. But those who are from Valentinus, being, on the other hand, altogether reckless, while they put forth their own compositions, boast that they possess more Gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity, as to entitle their comparatively recent writing "the Gospel of Truth," though it agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, so that they have really no Gospel which is not full of blasphemy. For if what they have published is the Gospel of truth, and yet is totally unlike those which have been handed down to us from the apostles, any who please may learn, as is shown from the Scriptures themselves, that that which has been handed down from the apostles can no longer be reckoned the Gospel of truth (Book III, Chapter 11, Verse 9).
Perhaps it should be pointed out that either Montanus and Valentinus was the first to use triune terminology for the Godhead (for details, please see the article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).
Astoundingly, the Valentinians allegedly claimed Christ was a defect:
Those from Valentinus, however, while they employ names of a more honourable kind, and set forth that He who is Creator is both Father, and Lord, and God, do [nevertheless] render their theory or sect more blasphemous, by maintaining that He was not produced from any one of those Aeons within the Pleroma, but from that defect which had been expelled beyond the Pleroma. Ignorance of the Scriptures and of the dispensation of God has brought all these things upon them (Book III, Chapter 12, Verse 12).
Cross or starous?
5...For that He did not say this with reference to the acknowledging of the Stauros (Book III, Chapter 18, Verse 5 ).
Irenaeus often grouped together various heretics:
4. But this [Father] is the Maker of heaven and earth, as is shown from His words; and not he, the false father, who has been invented by Marcion, or by Valentinus, or by Basilides, or by Carpocrates, or by Simon, or by the rest of the "Gnostics," falsely so called (Book IV, Chapter 6, Verse 4 )
This is from Athanasius, who also grouped many heretics together:
3. Yes surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichaeus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manichees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians(2), and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Saviour's Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians (Athanasius. Discourse I Against the Arians, Chapter 1, Verse 3. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 4. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Irenaeus also states this about Valentinus:
3. [This spiritual man] shall also judge all the followers of Valentinus, because they do indeed confess with the tongue one God the Father, and that all things derive their existence from Him, but do at the same time maintain that He who formed all things is the fruit of an apostasy or defect (Book IV, Chapter 33, Verse 3 ).
1. Then again, in opposition to the Valentinians, and the other Gnostics, falsely so called, who maintain that some parts of Scripture were spoken at one time from the Pleroma (a summitate) through means of the seed [derived] from that place, but at another time from the intermediate abode through means of the audacious mother Prunica, but that many are due to the Creator of the world, from whom also the prophets had their mission, we say that it is altogether irrational to bring down the Father of the universe to such straits, as that He should not be possessed of His own proper instruments, by which the things in the Pleroma might be perfectly proclaimed. For of whom was He afraid, so that He should not reveal His will after His own way and independently, freely, and without being involved with that spirit which came into being in a state of degeneracy and ignorance? Was it that He feared that very many would be saved, when more should have listened to the unadulterated truth? Or, on the other hand, was He incapable of preparing for Himself those who should announce the Saviour's advent? (Book IV, Chapter 35, Verse 1).
Claimed Jesus only appeared to be a man.
2. Vain indeed are those who allege that He appeared in mere seeming. For these things were not done in appearance only, but in actual reality. But if He did appear as a man, when He was not a man, neither could the Holy Spirit have rested upon Him -- an occurrence which did actually take place -- as the Spirit is invisible; nor, [in that case], was there any degree of truth in Him, for He was not that which He seemed to be. But I have already remarked that Abraham and the other prophets beheld Him after a prophetical manner, foretelling in vision what should come to pass. If, then, such a being has now appeared in outward semblance different from what he was in reality, there has been a certain prophetical vision made to men; and another advent of His must be looked forward to, in which He shall be such as He has now been seen in a prophetic manner. And I have proved already, that it is the same thing to say that He appeared merely to outward seeming, and [to affirm] that He received nothing from Mary. For He would not have been one truly possessing flesh and blood, by which He redeemed us, unless He had summed up in Himself the ancient formation of Adam. Vain therefore are the disciples of Valentinus who put forth this opinion, in order that they my exclude the flesh from salvation, and cast aside what God has fashioned (Book V, Chapter 1, Verse 2).
Humans made different:
4. All the followers of Valentinus, therefore, lose their case, when they say that man was not fashioned out of this earth, but from a fluid and diffused substance (Book V, Chapter 15, Verse 4).
Hippolytus was called a ditheist, is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. And although also considered as the first "antipope" (he had problems with Bishop Callistus, who he and others considered to be corrupt) is considered to have been a great 3rd century theologian by Roman Catholic scholars.
Anyway, concerning Valentinus, Hippolytus wrote:
The heresy of Valentinus is certainly, then, connected with the Pythagorean and Platonic theory. For Plato, in the Timaeus, altogether derives his impressions from Pythagoras, and therefore Timaeus himself is his Pythagorean stranger. Wherefore, it appears expedient that we should commence by reminding (the reader) of a few points of the Pythagorean and Platonic theory, and that (then we should proceed) to declare the opinions of Valentinus. For even although in the books previously finished by us with so much pains, are contained the opinions advanced by both Pythagoras and Plato, yet at all events I shall not be acting unreasonably, in now also calling to the recollection of the reader. by means of an epitome, the principal heads of the favourite tenets of these (speculators). And this (recapitulation) will facilitate our knowledge of the doctrines of Valentinus, by means of a nearer comparison, and by similarity of composition (of the two systems). For (Pythagoras and Plato) derived these tenets originally from the Egyptians, and introduced their novel opinions among the Greeks. But (Valentinus took his opinions) from these, because, although he has suppressed the truth regarding his obligations to (the Greek philosophers), and in this way has endeavoured to construct a doctrine, (as it were,) peculiarly his own, yet, in point of fact, he has altered the doctrines of those (thinkers) in names only, and numbers, and has adopted a peculiar terminology (of his own). Valentinus has formed his definitions by meas ures, in order that he may establish an Hellenic heresy, diversified no doubt, but unstable, and not connected with Christ. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book VI, Chapter XVI). Translated by J. H. Machmahon. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886 Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight ).
The origin, then, from which Plato derived his theory in the Timaeus, is (the) wisdom of the Egyptians. (Ibid chapter XVII, no break from above).
Of some such nature, as I who have accurately examined their systems (have attempted) to state compendiously, is the opinion of Pythagoras and Plato. And from this (system), not from the Gospels, Valentinus, as we have proved, has collected the (materials of) heresy--I mean his own (heresy)--and may (therefore) justly be reckoned a Pythagorean and Platonist, not a Christian. Valentinus, therefore, and Heracleon, and Ptolemaeus, and the entire school of these (heretics), as disciples of Pythagoras and Plato, (and) following these guides, have laid down as e fundamental principle of their doctrine the arithmetical system. (Ibid Chapter XXIV).
The Father, then, compassionating the tears of Sophia, and accepting the supplication of the Aeons, orders a further projection. For he did not, (Valentinus) says, himself project, but Nous and Aletheia (projected) Christ and the Holy Spirit for the restoration of Form, and the destruction of the abortion, and (for) the consolation and cessation of the groans of Sophia. And thirty Aeons came into existence along with Christ and the Holy Spirit. Some of these (Valentinians) wish that this should be a triacontad of Aeons, whereas others desire that Sige should exist along with the Father, and that the Aeons should be reckoned along with them. (Ibid chapter XXVI)
And whatever other such statements they advance respecting this (Aeon), these they allege to hold good of the animalish (one), whom they assert to be creator of the world. Now he is of the appearance of fire. Moses also, he says, expresses himself thus: "The Lord thy God is a burning and consuming fire." For he, likewise, wishes (to think) that it has been so written. There is, however, he says, a twofold power of the fire; for fire is all-consuming, (and) cannot he quenched. According, therefore, to this division, there exists, subject to death, a certain soul which is a sort of mediator, for it is a Hebdomad and Cessation. For underneath the Ogdoad, where Sophia is, but above Matter, which is the Creator, a day has been formed, and the "Joint Fruit of the Pleroma." If the soul has been fashioned in the image of those above, that is, the Ogdoad, it became immortal and repaired to the Ogdoad, which is, he says, heavenly Jerusalem. If, however, it has been fashioned in the image of Matter, that is, the corporeal passions, the soul is of a perishable nature, and is (accordingly) destroyed. ( Ibid chapter XXVII),
Hippolytus claimed that a former follower of Justin became a follower of Valentinus:
Tatian, however, although being himself a disciple of Justinus the Martyr, did not entertain similar opinions with his master. But he attempted (to establish) certain novel (tenets), and affirmed that there existed certain invisible AEons. And he framed a legendary account (of them), similarly to those (spoken of) by Valentinus. And similarly with Marcion, he asserts that marriage is destruction. But he alleges that Adam is not saved on account of his having been the author of disobedience. And so far for the doctrines of Tatian. Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book VIII, Chapter IX). Translated by J. H. Machmahon. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Hippolytus also wrote:
Valentinus, however, and the adherents of this school, though they agree in asserting that the originating principle of the universe is the Father, still they are impelled into the adoption of a contrary opinion respecting Him. For some of them maintain that (the Father) is solitary and generative; whereas others hold the impossibility, (in His as in other cases,) of procreation without a female. They therefore add Sige as the spouse of this Father, and style the Father Himself Bythus. From this Father and His spouse some allege that there have been six projections,--viz., Nous and Aletheia, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia,--and that this constitutes the procreative Ogdoad. And the Valentinians maintain that those are the first projections which have taken place within the limit, and have been again denominated "those within the Pleroma;" and the second are "those without the Pleroma"; and the third, "those without the Limit." Now the generation of these constitutes the Hysterema Acamoth. And he asserts that what has been generated from an AEon, that exists in the Hysterema and has been projected (beyond the Limit), is the Creator. But Valentinus is not disposed to affirm what is thus generated to be primal Deity, but speaks in detractive terms both of Him and the things made by Him. And (he asserts) that Christ came down from within the Pleroma for the salvation of the spirit who had erred. This spirit, (according to the Valentinians,) resides in our inner man; and they say that this inner man obtains salvation on account of this indwelling spirit. Valentinus, however, (to uphold the doctrine,) determines that the flesh is not saved, and styles it "a leathern tunic," and the perishable portion of man. I have (already) declared these tenets in the way of an epitome, inasmuch as in their systems there exists enlarged matter for discussion, and a variety of opinions. In this manner, then, it seems proper also to the school of Valentinus to propound their opinions. (Ibid Book X, Chapter IX)
Tatian, however, similarly with Valentinus and the others, says that there are certain invisible AEons, and that by some one of these the world below has been created, and the things existing in it. And he habituates himself to a very cynical mode of life, and almost in nothing differs from Marcion, as appertaining both to his slanders, and the regulations enacted concerning marriage.
CHAP. XV.--MARCION AND CERDO.
But Marcion, of Pontus, and Cerdon, his preceptor, themselves also lay down that there are three principles of the universe--good, just, and matter. Some disciples, however, of these add a fourth, saying, good, just, evil, and matter. But they all affirm that the good (Being) has made nothing at all, though some denominate the just one likewise evil, whereas others that his only title is that of just. And they allege that (the just Being) made all things out of subjacent matter, for that he made them not well, but irrationally. For it is requisite that the things made should be similar to the maker; wherefore also they thus employ the evangelical parables, saying, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit," and the rest of the passage. Now Marcion alleges that the conceptions badly devised by the (just one) himself constituted the allusion in this passage. And (he says) that Christ is the Son of the good Being, and was sent for the salvation of souls by him whom he styles the inner than. And he asserts that he appeared as a man though not being a man, and as incarnate though not being incarnate. And he maintains that his manifestation was only phantastic, and that he underwent neither generation nor passion except in appearance. And he will not allow that flesh rises again; but in affirming marriage to be destruction, he leads his disciples towards a very cynical life. And by these means he imagines that he annoys the Creator, if he should abstain from the things that are made or appointed by Him.
Thus, essentially, Hippolytus is saying similar things about Valentinus and his teachings as did Irenaeus.
Tertullian, considered to be "the father of Latin theology), in the late 2nd/early 3rd century wrote:
Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those menlived not so long ago,--in the reign of Antoninus for the most part,--and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity,with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled. Marcion, indeed, [went] with the two hundred sesterces which which he had brought into the church, and, when banished at last to a permanent excommunication, they scattered abroad the poisons of their doctrines. Afterwards, it is true, Mar-cion professed repentance, and agreed to the conditions granted to him--that he should receive reconciliation if he restored to the church all the others whom he had been training for perdition: he was prevented, however, by death. It was indeed necessary that there should be heresies; and yet it does not follow from that necessity, that heresies are a good thing. As if it has not been necessary also that there should be evil! It was even necessary that the Lord should be betrayed; but woe to the traitor! So that no man may from this defend heresies. If we must likewise touch the descent of Apelles, he is far from being" one of the old school," like his instructor and moulder, Marcion; he rather forsook the continence of Marcion, by resorting to the company of a woman, and withdrew to Alexandria, out of sight of his most abstemious master. Returning therefrom, after some years, unimproved, except that he was no longer a Marcionite, he clave to another woman, the maiden Philumene (whom we have already mentioned), who herself afterwards became an enormous prostitute. Having been imposed on by her vigorous spirit, he committed to writing the revelations which he had learned of her. Persons are still living who remember them,--their own actual disciples and successors,--who cannot therefore deny the lateness of their date. But, in fact, by their own works they are convicted, even as the Lord said. For since Marcion separated the New Testament from the Old, he is (necessarily) subsequent to that which he separated, inasmuch as it was only in his power to separate what was (previously) united. Having then been united previous to its separation, the fact of its subsequent separation proves the subsequence also of the man who effected the separation. In like manner Valentinus, by his different expositions and acknowledged emendations, makes these changes on the express ground of previous faultiness, and therefore demonstrates the difference of the documents. These corrupters of the truth we mention as being more notorious and more public than others. There is, however, a certain man named Nigidius, and Hermogenes, and several others, who still pursue the course of perverting the ways of the Lord. Let them show me by what authority they come! If it be some other God they preach, how comes it that they employ the things and he writings and the names of that God against whom they preach? If it be the same God, why treat Him in some other way? Let them prove themselves to be new apostles! Let them maintain that Christ has come down a second time, taught in person a second time, has been twice crucified, twice dead, twice raised! For thus has the apostle described (the order of events in the life of Christ); for thus, too, is He accustomed to make His apostles--to give them, (that is), power besides of working the same miracles which He worked Himself. I would therefore have their mighty deeds also brought forward; except that I allow their mightiest deed to be that by which they perversely vie with the apostles. For whilst they used to raise men to life from the dead, these consign men to death from their living state (Tertullian.The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 30. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Besides all this, I add a review of the doctrines themselves, which, existing as they did in the days of the apostles, were both exposed and denounced by the said apostles. For by this method they will be more easily reprobated, when they are detected to have been even then in existence, or at any rate to have been seedlings of the (tares) which then were. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, sets his mark on certain who denied and doubted the resurrection. This opinion was the especial property of the Sadducees. A part of it, however, is maintained by Marcion and Apelles and Valentinus, and all other impugners of the resurrection. Writing also to the Galatians, he inveighs against such men as observed and defend circumcision and the (Mosaic) law. Thus runs Hebion's heresy. Such also as "forbid to marry" he reproaches in his instructions to Timothy. Now, this is the teaching of Marcion and his follower Apelles. (The apostle) directs a similar blow against those who said that "the resurrection was past already." Such an opinion did the Valentinians assert of themselves. When again he mentions "endless genealogies," one also recognises Valentinus, in whose system a certain AEon, whosoever he be, of a new name, and that not one only, generates of his own grace Sense and Truth; and these in like manner produce of themselves Word and Life, while these again afterwards beget Man and the Church. From these primary eight ten other AEons after them spring, and then the twelve others arise with their wonderful names, to complete the mere story of the thirty AEons. The same apostle, when disapproving of those who are "in bondage to elements," points us to some dogma of Hermogenes, who introduces matter as having no beginning, and then compares it with God, who has no beginning. By thus making the mother of the elements a goddess, he has it in his power "to be in bondage" to a being which he puts on a par with God. John, however, in the Apocalypse is charged to chastise those "who eat things sacrificed to idols," and "who commit fornication." There are even now another sort of Nicolaitans. (ibid, chapter 33).
One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition. For although Valentinus seems to use the entire volume, he has none the less laid violent hands on the truth only with a more cunning mind and skill than Marcion. Marcion expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the Scriptures as suited his own subject-matter. Valentinus, however, abstained from such excision, because he did not invent Scriptures to square with his own subject-matter, but adapted his matter to the Scriptures; and yet he took away more, and added more, by removing the proper meaning of every particular word, and adding fantastic arrangements of things which have no real existence. (ibid, chapter 38)
Interestingly, notice the following in Tertullian's writings:
These are "the doctrines" of men and "of demons" produced for itching ears of the spirit of this world's wisdom: this the Lord called "foolishness," and "chose the foolish things of the world" to confound even philosophy itself. For (philosophy) it is which is the material of the world's wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and the dispensation of God. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy. From this source came the AEons, and I known not what infinite forms, and the trinity of man in the system of Valentinus, who was of Plato's school. From the same source came Marcion's better god, with all his tranquility; he came of the Stoics (Tertullian. The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 7. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
The Valentinians, who are no doubt a very large body of heretics--comprising as they do so many apostates from the truth, who have a propensity for fables, and no discipline to deter them (therefrom) care for nothing so much as to obscure what they preach, if indeed they (can be said to) preach who obscure their doctrine. The officiousness with which they guard their doctrine is an officiousness which betrays their guilt. Their disgrace is proclaimed in the very earnestness with which they maintain their religious system. Now, in the case of those Eleusinian mysteries, which are the very heresy of Athenian superstition, it is their secrecy that is their disgrace...
In like manner, the heretics who are now the object of our remarks, the Valentinians, have formed Eleusinian dissipations of their own, consecrated by a profound silence, having nothing of the heavenly in them but their mystery. By the help of the sacred names and titles and arguments of true religion, they have fabricated the vainest and foulest figment for men's pliant liking, out of the affluent suggestions of Holy Scripture, since from its many springs many errors may well emanate. If you propose to them inquiries sincere and honest, they answer you with stern look and contracted brow, and say, "The subject is profound." If you try them with subtle questions, with the ambiguities of their double tongue, they affirm a community of faith (with yourself). If you intimate to them that you understand their opinions, they insist on knowing nothing themselves. If you come to a close engagement with them they destroy your own fond hope of a victory over them by a self-immolation. Not even to their own disciples do they commit a secret before they have made sure of them. They have the knack of persuading men before instructing them; although truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by first persuading. (Tertullian. Against the Valentinians, Chapter 1. Translated by Alexander Roberts. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those menlived not so long ago,--in the reign of Antoninus for the most part,--and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity,with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled. Marcion, indeed, [went] with the two hundred sesterces which which he had brought into the church, and, when banished at last to a permanent excommunication, they scattered abroad the poisons of their doctrines. Afterwards, it is true, Mar-cion professed repentance, and agreed to the conditions granted to him--that he should receive reconciliation if he restored to the church all the others whom he had been training for perdition: he was prevented, however, by death (Tertullian. The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 30. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
One interesting point that Tertullian raises is that he claims that Valentinus wanted to be made bishop:
We know, I say, most fully their actual origin, and we are quite aware why we call them Valentinians, although they affect to disavow their name. They have departed, it is true, from their founder, yet is their origin by no means destroyed; and even if it chance to be changed, the very change bears testimony to the fact. Valentinus had expected to become a bishop, because he was an able man both in genius and eloquence. Being indignant, however, that another obtained the dignity by reason of a claim which confessorship had given him, he broke with the church of the true faith. Just like those (restless) spirits which, when roused by ambition, are usually inflamed with the desire of revenge, he applied himself with all his might to exterminate the truth; and finding the clue of a certain old opinion, he marked out a path for himself with the subtlety of a serpent (Tertullian. Against the Valentinians, Chapter 4. Translated by Alexander Roberts. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Presuming that Valentinus came to Rome near the time prior to Hyginus's death, it is probable that he wanted to be considered the leader in Rome to replace Hyginus. However, the actual leader of the Roman Church, prior to Anicetus, was Pius I. Valentinus is believed to have moved to Cyprus c.140 after whatever appointment/recognition was received by Pius (although it is possible that he left when it was clear that Anicetus would become bishop). It should be noted that there is no contemporaneous proof that Pius actually held the title "Bishop of Rome", but it is possible that he did (according to Roman Catholic scholars, there was no definitive proof that any held the title "Bishop of Rome" until the middle of the second century--please see the article What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?).
However, it may be that the reason that Anicetus was the first Roman leader to clearly hold the title "Bishop" of Rome was that others in the area of Rome decided that one with the title "bishop" was necessary to show that someone had higher authority than the various heretical leaders that were in the area of Rome at that time (such as Valentinus and Marcion, for two examples).
However, as shown above, it actually took the status of Polycarp of Smyrna (who was not a Roman) to have the status to denounce the gnostic heretics as even according to Irenaeus' accounts, the gnostic heretics flourished under Pius I and Anicetus.
Valentinus and the Trinity
The Valentinians also taught various things about the Godhead per Irenaeus and Clement:
4. The Father afterwards produces, in his own image, by means of Monogenes, the above-mentioned Horos, without conjunction, masculo-feminine. For they maintain that sometimes the Father acts in conjunction with Sige, but that at other times he shows himself independent both of male and female...
5. After this substance had been placed outside of the Pleroma of the Aeons, and its mother restored to her proper conjunction, they tell us that Monogenes, acting in accordance with the prudent forethought of the Father, gave origin to another conjugal pair, namely Christ and the Holy Spirit (lest any of the Aeons should fall into a calamity similar to that of Sophia), for the purpose of fortifying and strengthening the Pleroma, and who at the same time completed the number of the Aeons. Christ then instructed them as to the nature of their conjunction, and taught them that those who possessed a comprehension of the Unbegotten were sufficient for themselves. He also announced among them what related to the knowledge of the Father -- namely, that he cannot be understood or comprehended, nor so much as seen or heard, except in so far as he is known by Monogenes only (Irenaeus. Adverus Heresies. Book 1, Chapter 2, Verses 4-5).
They blaspheme against the will of God and the mystery of creation in speaking evil of birth. This is the ground upon which Docetism is held by Cassian and by Marcion also, and on which even Valentine indeed teaches that Christ's body was "psychic." (Clement’s Stromata, Book III, in English, Chapter XVII, Verse 102. The Library of Christian Classics: Volume II, Alexandrian Christianity: Selected Translations of Clement and Origine with Introduction and Notes by John Ernest Leonard Oulton, D.D., Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Dublin; Chancellor of St. Patrick’s and Henry Chadwick, B.D., Fellow and Dean of Queens’ College Cambridge, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1954. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book3-english.html viewed 04/03/12)
Notice that Valentinus and others denied that Jesus came in the flesh. According to scripture, that is a doctrine of antichrist (2 John 7). See also Some Doctrines of Antichrist.
Some followers of Valentinus further came up with their own bizarre trinitarian views as well:
1. Others, again, portentously declare that there exists, in the power of Bythus, a certain primary light, blessed, incorruptible, and infinite: this is the Father of all, and is styled the first man. They also maintain that his Ennoea, going forth from him, produced a son, and that this is the son of man -- the second man. Below these, again, is the Holy Spirit, and under this superior spirit the elements were separated from each other, viz., water, darkness, the abyss, chaos, above which they declare the Spirit was borne, calling him the first woman. Afterwards, they maintain, the first man, with his son, delighting over the beauty of the Spirit -- that is, of the woman -- and shedding light upon her, begat by her an incorruptible light, the third male, whom they call Christ -- the son of the first and second man, and of the Holy Spirit, the first woman.
15. Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernaean hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus (Book 1, Chapter 30, Verses 1,15).
Trinitarian support is also suggested in the following statements:
16...The Valentinians, again, maintain that the dispensational Jesus was the same who passed through Mary, upon whom that Saviour from the more exalted [region] descended, who was also termed Pan, because He possessed the names (vocabula) of all those who had produced Him; but that [this latter] shared with Him, the dispensational one, His power and His name; so that by His means death was abolished, but the Father was made known by that Saviour who had descended from above, whom they do also allege to be Himself the receptacle of Christ and of the entire Pleroma; confessing, indeed, in tongue one Christ Jesus, but being divided in [actual] opinion: for, as I have already observed, it is the practice of these men to say that there was one Christ, who was produced by Monogenes, for the confirmation of the Pleroma; but that another, the Saviour, was sent [forth] for the glorification of the Father; and yet another, the dispensational one, and whom they represent as having suffered, who also bore [in himself] Christ, that Saviour who returned into the Pleroma (Book III, Chapter 16, Verse 1).
Furthermore, notice what it is recorded that a one-time Catholic bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century,
Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'. For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9. Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95 ).
Valentinus may have wrote this trinitarian-type statement in the heretical 'Gospel of Truth',
The Father uncovers his bosom, which is the Holy Spirit, revealing his secret. His secret is his Son! (Valentinus? Gospel of Truth. Verse 17. English translation by Patterson Brown).
Hence the heretic Valentinus is the earliest known professing Christian writer to make clear trinitarian claims (though he, himself, did not come up with the term trinity--Tertullian is credited with coming up with that term several decades after Valentinus' death). An article of possible interest may be Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).
The Gospel of Truth
While Irenaeus referred to a writing by the Valentinians as "the Gospel of Truth", scholars are divided as to whether the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth is the one from Valentinus or some other source. Having read it over, I can state that the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth is not that similar doctrinally to the charges that were lodged against Valentinus and his followers (though it does agree in a few points). One or more scholars have suggested that perhaps many of the oddest Valentinians teachings were left out of the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth in order to that the Valentinians would seem a bit more "orthodox".
Anyway, the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth, like other the other non-biblical "gospel" accounts I have read, reads nothing like the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Also, since it was apparently not written until at least the second century (possibly by Valentinus, but the authorship is unclear), it is not an account of what occurred during Jesus' ministry by any who were there (and on these two points, it differs from the canonical gospels as well).
Here are a few passages from the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth, starting with the beginning:
The gospel of truth is joy to those who have received from the Father of truth the gift of knowing him by the power of the Logos, who has come from the Pleroma and who is in the thought and the mind of the Father; he it is who is called "the Savior," since that is the name of the work which he must do for the redemption of those who have not known the Father...
This ignorance of the Father brought about terror and fear...
That is the gospel of him whom they seek, which he has revealed to the perfect through the mercies of the Father as the hidden mystery, Jesus the Christ. Through him he enlightened those who were in darkness because of forgetfulness. He enlightened them and gave them a path. And that path is the truth which he taught them...
While his wisdom mediates on the logos, and since his teaching expresses it, his knowledge has been revealed. His honor is a crown upon it. Since his joy agrees with it, his glory exalted it. It has revealed his image. It has obtained his rest. His love took bodily form around it. His trust embraced it. Thus the logos of the Father goes forth into the All, being the fruit of his heart and expression of his will...
His tongue is the Holy Spirit, who joins him to truth attaching him to the mouth of the Father by his tongue at the time he shall receive the Holy Spirit. This is the manifestation of the Father and his revelation to his Aeons. He revealed his hidden self and explained it...
He revealed himself as a Pleroma, i.e., the finding of the light of truth which has shined towards him, because he is unchangeable. For this reason, they who have been troubled speak about Christ in their midst so that they may receive a return and he may anoint them with the ointment. The ointment is the pity of the Father, who will have mercy on them. But those whom he has anointed are those who are perfect...
The cold aromas, then, are from the division. For this reason, God came and destroyed the division and he brought the hot Pleroma of love, so that the cold may not return, but the unity of the Perfect Thought prevail.
This is the word of the Gospel of the finding of the Pleroma for those who wait for the salvation which comes from above. When their hope, for which they are waiting, is waiting - they whose likeness is the light in which there is no shadow, then at that time the Pleroma is about to come...
And the name of the Father is the Son...
Each one will speak concerning the place from which he has come forth, and to the region from which he received his essential being, he will hasten to return once again. And he want from that place - the place where he was - because he tasted of that place, as he was nourished and grew. And his own place of rest is his Pleroma. All the emanations from the Father, therefore, are Pleromas, and all his emanations have their roots in the one who caused them all to grow from himself...
It is they who manifest themselves truly since they are in that true and eternal life and speak of the perfect light filled with the seed of the Father, and which is in his heart and in the Pleroma, while his Spirit rejoices in it and glorifies him in whom it was, because the Father is good. And his children are perfect and worthy of his name, because he is the Father. Children of this kind are those whom he loves (From Robert M. Grant, Gnosticism. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1961, as quoted in Willis Barnstone, The Other Bible. Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984, http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/got.html 11/12/06).
The first statement is consistent with the fact that it was noted that the Valentinians preferred to call Jesus savior instead of Lord. Various gnostic concepts are mentioned. Most of the statements in it mainly suggest a particular philosophy as the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth certainly does not read like the canonical gospels do.
Those who accept the Bible as written, do not accept Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth or similar writings as a proper basis for doctrine. And since Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth discusses non-biblical concepts, most scholars who profess Christ have condemned it as heretical.
Valentinus was a second century heretic who attempted to blend much pagan gnosticism with what he perceived to be the Christian faith. However, by preferring tradition over scripture and denying the truth about Jesus, Valentinus was certainly not a true Christian. It is possible that he wrote the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth but this is not certain.
Valentinus and his followers clearly believed in merging Greek pagan philosophy with Christianity, taught about various Aeons, believed in the gnostic Ogdoad concepts, believed in tradition over the Bible, believed in having a higher knowledge, endorsed a non-immersion form of baptism, taught the world was created from pre-existent matter by the angels, taught that Jesus really was not made flesh, taught that Jesus was a defect, taught that man was not fashioned from the earth, and developed a triune version of the Godhead similar to what Plato had developed earlier.
The Gnostic Valentinus was denounced by Polycarp of Asia Minor as a heretic. Part of the reason for this is that unlike Valentinus, Polycarp did rely on scripture, did have a true tie to the apostles, and did not blend Greek pagan practices into his religion, such as trinitarianism.
In spite of Valentinus' obvious flaws, apparently there was enough interest in his teachings that he thought that he had a legitimate chance to become the bishop of Rome. And while this did not happen, others finally adopted the acceptance of a version of his triune God (please see the article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?) and even the one who became Bishop of Rome instead of him (Anicetus) accepted tradition ahead of the Bible.
Those who are truly Christian follow the teachings of the Bible over Traditions. Valentinus was an apostate heretic and not a true Christian.
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Thiel B. Valentinus: The Trinitarian Heretic. www.cogwriter.com/valentinus.htm (c) 2006/2007/2008/2012 0403