Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: 1.08.03 Iranaeus - Against Heresies - Book 1 Ch 7-12

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: 1.08.03 Iranaeus - Against Heresies - Book 1 Ch 7-12

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SUBJECT: 1.08.03 Iranaeus - Against Heresies - Book 1 Ch 7-12

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Irenaeus Against Heresies. (Cont.)

Book I. (Cont.)

Chap. VII. — The Mother Achamoth, When All Her Seed Are Perfected, Shall Pass into the Pleroma, Accompanied by Those Men Who Are Spiritual; the Demiurge, with Animal Men, Shall Pass into the Intermediate Habitation; but All Material Men Shall Go into Corruption. Their Blasphemous Opinions Against the True Incarnation of Christ by the Virgin Mary. Their Views as to the Prophecies. Stupid Ignorance of the Demiurge.

1. When all the seed shall have come to perfection, they state that then their mother Achamoth shall pass from the intermediate place, and enter in within the Pleroma, and shall receive as her spouse the Saviour, who sprang from all the Aeons, that thus a conjunction may be formed between the Saviour and Sophia, that is, Achamoth. These, then, are the bridegroom and bride, while the nuptial chamber is the full extent of the Pleroma. The spiritual seed, again, being divested of their animal souls,64 and becoming intelligent spirits, shall in an irresistible and invisible manner enter in within the Pleroma, and be bestowed as brides on those angels who wait upon the Saviour. The Demiurge himself will pass into the place of his mother Sophia;65 that is, the intermediate habitation. In this intermediate place, also, shall the souls of the righteous repose; but nothing of an animal nature shall find admittance to the Pleroma. When these things have taken place as described, then shall that fire which lies hidden in the world blaze forth and bum; and while destroying all matter, shall also be extinguished along with it, and have no further existence. They affirm that the Demiurge was acquainted with none of these things before the advent of the Saviour.

2. There are also some who maintain that he also produced Christ as his own proper son, but of an animal nature, and that mention was66 made of him by the prophets. This Christ passed through Mary67 just as water flows through a tube; and there descended upon him in the form of a dove it the time of his baptism, that Saviour who belonged to the Pleroma, and was formed by the combined efforts of all its inhabit ants. In him there existed also that spiritual seed which proceeded from Achamoth. They hold, accordingly, that our Lord, while preserving the type of the first-begotten and primary tetrad, was compounded of these four substances, — of that which is spiritual, in so far as He was from Achamoth; of that which is animal, as being from the Demiurge by a special dispensation, inasmuch as He was formed [corporeally] with unspeakable skill; and of the Saviour, as respects that dove which descended upon Him. He also continued free from all suffering, since indeed it was not possible that He should suffer who was at once incomprehensible and invisible. And for this reason the Spirit of Christ, who had been placed within Him, was taken away when He was brought before Pilate. They maintain, further, that not even the seed which He had received from the mother [Achamoth] was subject to suffering; for it, too, was impassible, as being spiritual, and invisible even to the Demiurge himself. It follows, then, according to them, that the animal Christ, and that which had been formed mysteriously by a special dispensation, underwent suffering, that the mother might exhibit through him a type of the Christ above, namely, of him who extended himself through Stauros,68 and imparted to Achamoth shape, so far as substance was concerned. For they declare that all these transactions were counterparts of what took place above.

3. They maintain, moreover, that those souls which possess the seed of Achamoth are superior to the rest, and are more dearly loved by the Demiurge than others, while he knows not the true cause thereof, but imagines that they are what they are through his favour towards them. Wherefore, also, they say he distributed them to prophets, priests, and kings; and they declare that many things were spoken69 by this seed through the prophets, inasmuch as it was endowed with a transcendently lofty nature. The 326 mother also, they say, spake much about things above, and that both through him and through the souls which were formed by him. Then, again, they divide the prophecies [into different classes], maintaining that one portion was uttered by the mother, a second by her seed, and a third by the Demiurge. In like manner, they hold that Jesus uttered some things under the influence of the Saviour, others under that of the mother, and others still under that of the Demiurge, as we shall show further on in our work.

4. The Demiurge, while ignorant of those things which were higher than himself, was indeed excited by the announcements made [through the prophets], but treated them with contempt, attributing them sometimes to one cause and sometimes to another; either to the prophetic spirit (which itself possesses the power of self-excitement), or to [mere unassisted] man, or that it was simply a crafty device of the lower [and baser order of men].70 He remained thus ignorant until the appearing of the Lord. But they relate that when the Saviour came, the Demiurge learned all things from Him, and gladly with all, his power joined himself to Him. They maintain that he is the centurion mentioned in the Gospel, who addressed the Saviour in these words: “For I also am one having soldiers and servants under my authority; and whatsoever I command they do.” (Mat_8:9; Luk_7:8) They further hold that he will continue administering the affairs of the world as long as that is fitting and needful, and specially that he may exercise a care over the Church; while at the same time he is influenced by the knowledge of the reward prepared for him, namely, that he may attain to the habitation of his mother.

5. They conceive, then, of three kinds of men, spiritual, material, and animal, represented by Cain, Abel, and Seth. These three natures are no longer found in one person,71 but constitute various kinds [of men]. The material goes, as a matter of course, into corruption. The animal, if it make choice of the better part, finds repose in the intermediate place; but if the worse, it too shall pass into destruction. But they assert that the spiritual principles which have been sown by Achamoth, being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls (because when given forth by her they were yet but weak), at last attaining to perfection, shall be given as brides to the angels of the Saviour, while their animal souls of necessity rest for ever with the Demiurge in the intermediate place. And again subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and others by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the [spiritual] seed; the evil by nature are those who are never able to receive that seed.

Chap. VIII. — How the Valentinians Pervert the Scriptures to Support Their Own Pious Opinions.

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;72 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. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions. We have already stated how far they proceed in this way with respect to the interior of the Pleroma.

2. Then, again, as to those things outside of their Pleroma, the following are some specimens of what they attempt to accommodate out of the Scriptures to their opinions. They affirm that 327 the Lord came in the last times of the world to endure suffering, for this end, that He might indicate the passion which occurred to the last of the Aeons, and might by His own end announce the cessation of that disturbance which had risen among the Aeons. They maintain, further, that that girl of twelve years old, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, (Luk_8:41) to whom the Lord approached and raised her from the dead, was a type of Achamoth, to whom their Christ, by extending himself, imparted shape, and whom he led anew to the perception of that light which had forsaken her. And that the Saviour appeared to her when she lay outside of the Pleroma as a kind of abortion, they affirm Paul to have declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians [in these words], “And last of all, He appeared to me also, as to one born out of due time.” (1Co_15:8) Again, the coming of the Saviour with His attendants to Achamoth is declared in like manner by him in the same Epistle, when he says, “A woman ought to have a veil upon her head, because of the angels.”73 Now, that Achamoth, when the Saviour came to her, drew a veil over herself through modesty, Moses rendered manifest when he put a veil upon his face. Then, also, they say that the passions which she endured were indicated by the Lord upon the cross. Thus, when He said, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mat_27:46) He simply showed that Sophia was deserted by the light, and was restrained by Horos from making any advance forward. Her anguish, again, was indicated when He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;” (Mat_26:38) her fear by the words, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me;” (Mat_26:39) and her perplexity, too, when He said, “And what I shall say, I know not.”74

3. And they teach that He pointed out the three kinds of men as follows: the material, when He said to him that asked Him, “Shall I follow Thee?” (Luk_9:57, Luk_9:58) “The Son of man hath not where to lay His head;” — the animal, when He said to him that declared, “I will follow Thee, but suffer me first to bid them farewell that are in my house,” “No man, putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven” (Luk_9:61, Luk_9:62) (for this man they declare to be of the intermediate class, even as they do that other who, though he professed to have wrought a large amount of righteousness, yet refused to follow Him, and was so overcome by [the love of] riches, as never to reach perfection) — this one it pleases them to place in the animal class; — the spiritual, again, when He said, “Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God,” (Luk_9:60) and when He said to Zaccheus the publican, “Make haste, and come down, for to-day I must abide in thine house” (Luk_19:5) — for these they declared to have belonged to the spiritual class. Also the parable of the leaven which the woman is described as having hid in three measures of meal, they declare to make manifest the three classes. For, according to their teaching, the woman represented Sophia; the three measures of meal, the three kinds of men — spiritual, animal, and material; while the leaven denoted the Saviour Himself. Paul, too, very plainly set forth the material, animal, and spiritual, saying in one place, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy;” (1Co_15:48) and in another place, “But the animal man receiveth not the things of the Spirit;” (1Co_2:14) and again: “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” (1Co_2:15) And this, “The animal man receiveth not the things of the Spirit,” they affirm to have been spoken concerning the Demiurge, who, as being animal, knew neither his mother who was spiritual, nor her seed, nor the Aeons in the Pleroma. And that the Saviour received first-fruits of those whom He was to save, Paul declared when he said, “And if the first-fruits be holy, the lump is also holy,” (Rom_11:16) teaching that the expression “first-fruits” denoted that which is spiritual, but that “the lump” meant us, that is, the animal Church, the lump of which they say He assumed, and blended it with Himself, inasmuch as He is “the leaven.”

4. Moreover, that Achamoth wandered beyond the Pleroma, and received form from Christ, and was sought after by the Saviour, they declare that He indicated when He said, that He had come after that sheep which was gone astray. (Luk_15:4, Luk_15:8) For they explain the wandering sheep to mean their mother, by whom they represent the Church as having been sown. The wandering itself denotes her stay outside of the Pleroma in a state of varied passion, from which they maintain that matter derived its origin. The woman, again, who sweeps the house and finds the piece of money, they declare to denote the Sophia above, who, having lost her enthymesis, afterwards recovered it, on all things 328 being purified by the advent of the Saviour. Wherefore this substance also, according to them, was reinstated in Pleroma. They say, too, that Simeon, “who took Christ into his arms, and gave thanks to God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word,” (Luk_2:28) was a type of the Demiurge, who, on the arrival of the Saviour, learned his own change of place, and gave thanks to Bythus. They also assert that by Anna, who is spoken of in the gospel (Luk_2:36) as a prophetess, and who, after living seven years with her husband, passed all the rest of her life in widowhood until she saw the Saviour, and recognised Him, and spoke of Him to all, was most plainly indicated Achamoth, who, having for a little while looked upon the Saviour with His associates, and dwelling all the rest of the time in the intermediate place, waited for Him till He should come again, and restore her to her proper consort. Her name, too, was indicated by the Saviour, when He said, “Yet wisdom is justified by her children.” (Luk_7:35) This, too, was done by Paul in these words,” But we speak wisdom among them that are perfect.” (1Co_2:6) They declare also that Paul has referred to the conjunctions within the Pleroma, showing them forth by means of one; for, when writing of the conjugal union in this life, he expressed himself thus: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Eph_5:32)

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. And he expresses himself thus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God.” (Joh_1:1, Joh_1:2) Having first of all distinguished these three — God, the Beginning, and the Word — he again unites them, that he may exhibit the production of each of them, that is, of the Son and of the Word, and may at the same time show their union with one another, and with the Father. For “the beginning” is in the Father, and of the Father, while “the Word” is in the beginning, and of the beginning. Very properly, then, did he say, “In the beginning was the Word,” for He was in the Son; “and the Word was with God,” for He was the beginning; “and the Word was God,” of course, for that which is begotten of God is God. “The same was in the beginning with God” — this clause discloses the order of production. “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made;” (Joh_1:3) for the Word was the author of form and beginning to all the Aeons that came into existence after Him. But “what was made in Him,” says John, “is life.”75 Here again he indicated conjunction; for all things, he said, were made by Him, but in Him was life. This, then, which is in Him, is more closely connected with Him than those things which were simply made by Him, for it exists along with Him, and is developed by Him. When, again, he adds, “And the life was the light of men,” while thus mentioning Anthropos, he indicated also Ecclesia by that one expression, in order that, by using only one name, he might disclose their fellowship with one another, in virtue of their conjunction. For Anthropos and Ecclesia spring from Logos and Zoe. Moreover, he styled life (Zoe) the light of men, because they are enlightened by her, that is, formed and made manifest. This also Paul declares in these words: “For whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (Eph_5:13) Since, therefore, Zoe manifested and begat both Anthropos and Ecclesia, she is termed their light. Thus, then, did John by these words reveal both other things and the second Tetrad, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia. And still further, he also indicated the first Tetrad. For, in discoursing of the Saviour and declaring that all things beyond the Pleroma received form from Him, he says that He is the fruit of the entire Pleroma. For he styles Him a “light which shineth in darkness, and which was not comprehended” (Joh_1:5) by it, inasmuch as, when He imparted form to all those things which had their origin from passion, He was not known by it.76 He also styles Him Son, and Aletheia, and Zoe, and the “Word made flesh, whose glory,” he says, “we beheld; and His glory was as that of the Only-begotten (given to Him by the Father), full of grace and truth.” (Comp. Joh_1:14) (But what John really does 329 say is this: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”77) Thus, then, does he [according to them] distinctly set forth the first Tetrad, when he speaks of the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia. In this way, too, does John tell of the first Ogdoad, and that which is the mother of all the Aeons. For he mentions the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia, and Logos, and Zoe, and Anthropos, and Ecclesia. Such are the views of Ptolemaeus.78

Chap. IX. — Refutation of the Impious Interpretations of These Heretics.

1. You see, my friend, the method which these men employ to deceive themselves, while they abuse the Scriptures by endeavouring to support their own system out of them. For this reason, I have brought forward their modes of expressing themselves, that thus thou mightest understand the deceitfulness of their procedure, and the wickedness of their error. For, in the first place, if it had been John’s intention to set forth that Ogdoad above, he would surely have preserved the order of its production, and would doubtless have placed the primary Tetrad first as being, according to them, most venerable and would then have annexed the second, that, by the sequence of the names, the order of the Ogdoad might be exhibited, and not after so long an interval, as if forgetful for the moment and then again calling the matter to mind, he, last of all, made mention of the primary Tetrad. In the next place, if he had meant to indicate their conjunctions, he certainly would not have omitted the name of Ecclesia; while, with respect to the other conjunctions, he either would have been satisfied with the mention of the male [Aeons] (since the others [like Ecclesia] might be understood), so as to preserve a uniformity throughout; or if he enumerated the conjunctions of the rest, he would also have announced the spouse of Anthropos, and would not have left us to find out her name by divination.

2. The fallacy, then, of this exposition is manifest. For when John, proclaiming one God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten, by whom all things were made, declares that this was the Son of God, this the Only-begotten, this the Former of all things, this the true Light who enlighteneth every man this the Creator of the world, this He that came to His own, this He that became flesh and dwelt among us, — these men, by a plausible kind of exposition, perverting these statements, maintain that there was another Monogenes, according to production, whom they also style Arche. They also maintain that there was another Saviour, and another Logos, the son of Monogenes, and another Christ produced for the re-establishment of the Pleroma. Thus it is that, wresting from the truth every one of the expressions which have been cited, and taking a bad advantage of the names, they have transferred them to their own system; so that, according to them, in all these terms John makes no mention of the Lord Jesus Christ. For if he has named the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia, and Logos, and Zoe, and Anthropos, and Ecclesia, according to their hypothesis, he has, by thus speaking, referred to the primary Ogdoad, in which there was as yet no Jesus, and no Christ, the teacher of John. But that the apostle did not speak concerning their conjunctions, but concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he also acknowledges as the Word of God, he himself has made evident. For, summing up his statements respecting the Word previously mentioned by him, he further declares, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” But, according to their hypothesis, the Word did not become flesh at all, inasmuch as He never went outside of the Pleroma, but that Saviour [became flesh] who was formed by a special dispensation [out of all the Aeons], and was of later date than the Word.

3. Learn then, ye foolish men, that Jesus who suffered for us, and who dwelt among us, is Himself the Word of God. For if any other of the Aeons had become flesh for our salvation, it would have been probable that the apostle spoke of another. But if the Word of the Father who descended is the same also that ascended, He, namely, the Only-begotten Son of the only God, who, according to the good pleasure of the Father, became flesh for the sake of men, the apostle certainly does not speak regarding any other, or concerning any Ogdoad, but respecting our Lord Jesus Christ. For, according to them, the Word did not originally become flesh. For they maintain that the Saviour assumed an animal body, formed in accordance with a special dispensation by an unspeakable providence, so as to become visible and palpable. But flesh is that which was of old formed for Adam by God out of the dust, and it is this that John has declared the Word of God became. Thus is their primary and first-begotten Ogdoad brought to nought. For, since Logos, and Monogenes, and Zoe, and Phos, and Sorer, and Christus, and the Son of God, and He who became incarnate for us, have been proved to be one and the same, the Ogdoad which they have built up at once falls to pieces. And when this is destroyed, 330 their whole system sinks into ruin, — a system which they falsely dream into existence, and thus inflict injury on the Scriptures, while they build up their own hypothesis.

4. Then, again, collecting a set of expressions and names scattered here and there [in Scripture], they twist them, as we have already said, from a natural to a non-natural sense. In so doing, they act like those who bring forward any kind of hypothesis they fancy, and then endeavour to support79 them out of the poems of Homer, so that the ignorant imagine that Homer actually composed the verses bearing upon that hypothesis, which has, in fact, been but newly constructed; and many others are led so far by the regularly-formed sequence of the verses, as to doubt whether Homer may not have composed them. Of this kind80 is the following passage, where one, describing Hercules as having been sent by Eurystheus to the dog in the infernal regions, does so by means of these Homeric verses, — for there can be no objection to our citing these by way of illustration, since the same sort of attempt appears in both: —

“Thus saying, there sent forth from his house deeply groaning.” — Od., x. 76.

“The hero Hercules conversant with mighty deeds.” — Od., xxi. 26.

“Eurystheus, the son of Sthenelus, descended from Perseus.” — Il., xix. 123.

“That he might bring from Erebus the dog of gloomy Pluto.” — Il., viii. 368.

“And he advanced like a mountain-bred lion confident of strength.” — Od., vi. 130.

“Rapidly through the city, while all his friends followed.” — Il., xxiv. 327.

“Both maidens, and youths, and much-enduring old men.” — Od., xi. 38.

“Mourning for him bitterly as one going forward to death.” — Il., xxiv. 328.

“But Mercury and the blue-eyed Minerva conducted him.” — Od., xi. 626.

“For she knew the mind of her brother, how it laboured with grief.” — Il., ii. 409.

Now, what simple-minded man, I ask, would not be led away by such verses as these to think that Homer actually framed them so with reference to the subject indicated? But he who is acquainted with the Homeric writings will recognise the verses indeed, but not the subject to which they are applied, as knowing that some of them were spoken of Ulysses, others of Hercules himself, others still of Priam, and others again of Menelaus and Agamemnon. But if he takes them and restores each of them to its proper position, he at once destroys the narrative in question. In like manner he also who retains unchangeable81 in his heart the rule of the truth which he received by means of baptism, will doubtless recognise the names, the expressions, and the parables taken from the Scriptures, but will by no means acknowledge the blasphemous use which these men make of them. For, though he will acknowledge the gems, he will certainly not receive the fox instead of the likeness of the king. But when he has restored every one of the expressions quoted to its proper position, and has fitted it to the body of the truth, he will lay bare, and prove to be without any foundation, the figment of these heretics.

5. But since what may prove a finishing-stroke82 to this exhibition is wanting, so that any one, on following out their farce to the end, may then at once append an argument which shall overthrow it, we have judged it well to point out, first of all, in what respects the very fathers of this fable differ among themselves, as if they were inspired by different spirits of error. For this very fact forms an a priori proof that the truth proclaimed by the Church is immoveable,83 and that the theories of these men are but a tissue of falsehoods.

Chap. X. — Unity of the Faith of the Church Throughout the Whole World.

1. The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations84 of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” (Eph_1:10) and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven” and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” (Phi_2:10, Phi_2:11) to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,” (Eph_6:12) and 331 the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.

2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions85 of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

3. It does not follow because men are endowed with greater and less degrees of intelligence, that they should therefore change the subject-matter [of the faith] itself, and should conceive of some other God besides Him who is the Framer, Maker, and Preserver of this universe, (as if He were not sufficient86 for them), or of another Christ, or another Only-begotten. But the fact referred to simply implies this, that one may [more accurately than another] bring out the meaning of those things which have been spoken in parables, and accommodate them to the general scheme of the faith; and explain [with special clearness] the operation and dispensation of God connected with human salvation; and show that God manifested longsuffering in regard to the apostasy of the angels who transgressed, as also with respect to the disobedience of men; and set forth why it is that one and the same God has made some things temporal and some eternal, some heavenly and others earthly; and understand for what reason God, though invisible, manifested Himself to the prophets not under one form, but differently to different individuals; and show why it was that more covenants than one were given to mankind; and teach what was the special character of each of these covenants; and search out for what reason “God (Rom_11:32) hath concluded every man87 in unbelief, that He may have mercy upon all;” and gratefully88 describe on what account the Word of God became flesh and suffered; and relate why the advent of the Son of God took place in these last times, that is, in the end, rather than in the beginning [of the world]; and unfold what is contained in the Scriptures concerning the end [itself], and things to come; and not be silent as to how it is that God has made the Gentiles, whose salvation was despaired of, fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers with the saints; and discourse how it is that “this mortal body shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption;” (1Co_15:54) and proclaim in what sense [God] says, “‘That is a people who was not a people; and she is beloved who was not beloved;” (Hos_2:23; Rom_9:25) and in what sense He says that “more are the children of her that was desolate, than of her who possessed a husband.” (Isa_54:1; Gal_4:27) For in reference to these points, and others of a like nature, the apostle exclaims: “Oh! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom_11:33) But [the superior skill spoken of] is not found in this, that any one should, beyond the Creator and Framer [of the world], conceive of the Enthymesis of an erring Aeon, their mother and his, and should thus proceed to such a pitch of blasphemy; nor does it consist in this, that he should again falsely imagine, as being above this [fancied being], a Pleroma at one time supposed to contain thirty, and at another time an innumerable tribe of Aeons, as these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church 332 possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.

Chap. XI. — The Opinions of Valentinus, with Those of His Disciples and Others.

1. Let us now look at the inconsistent opinions of those heretics (for there are some two or three of them), how they do not agree in treating the same points, but alike, in things and names, set forth opinions mutually discordant. The first89 of them, 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, as we have before mentioned. But from Anthropos and Ecclesia proceeded twelve, one of which separating from the rest, and falling from its original condition, produced the rest90 of the universe. He also supposed two beings of the name of Horos, the one of whom has his place between Bythus and the rest of the Pleroma, and divides the created Aeons from the uncreated Father, while the other separates their mother from the Pleroma. Christ also was not produced from the Aeons within the Pleroma, but was brought forth by the mother who had been excluded from it, in virtue of her remembrance of better things, but not without a kind of shadow. He, indeed, as being masculine, having severed the shadow from himself, returned to the Pleroma; but his mother being left with the shadow, and deprived of her spiritual substance, brought forth another son, namely, the Demiurge, whom he also styles the supreme ruler of all those things which are subject to him. He also asserts that, along with the Demiurge, there was produced a left-hand power, in which particular he agrees with those falsely called Gnostics, of whom to we have yet to speak. Sometimes, again, he maintains that Jesus was produced from him who was separated from their mother, and united to the rest, that is, from Theletus, sometimes as springing from him who returned into the Pleroma, that is, from Christ; and at other times still as derived from Anthropos and Ecclesia. And he declares that the Holy Spirit was produced by Aletheia91 for the inspection and fructification of the Aeons, by entering invisibly into them, and that, in this way, the Aeons brought forth the plants of truth.

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,92 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.

4. Iu, Iu! Pheu, Pheu! — for well may we utter these tragic exclamations at such a pitch of audacity in the coining of names as he has displayed without a blush, in devising a nomenclature for his system of falsehood. For when he declares: There is a certain Proarche before all things, surpassing all thought, whom I call Monoten; and again, with this Monotes there co-exists a power which I also call Henores, — it is most manifest that he confesses the things which have been said to be his own invention, and that he himself has given names to his scheme of things, which had never been previously suggested by any other. It is manifest also, that he himself is the one who has had sufficient audacity to coin these names; so that, unless he had appeared in the world, the truth would still have been destitute of a name. But, in that case, nothing hinders any other, in dealing with the same subject, to affix names after such a fashion as the following: There93 is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all thought, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along 333 with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus.94 For if it is fitting that that language which is used respecting the universe be transformed to the primary Tetrad, and if any one may assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all?

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. They maintain that these powers were anterior to Bythus and Sige, that they may appear more perfect than the perfect, and more knowing than the very Gnostics. To these persons one may justly exclaim: “O ye trifling sophists!” since, even respecting Bythus himself, there are among them many and discordant opinions. For some declare him to be without a consort, and neither male nor female, and, in fact, nothing at all; while others affirm him to be masculo-feminine, assigning to him the nature of a hermaphrodite; others, again, allot Sige to him as a spouse, that thus may be formed the first conjunction.

Chap. XII. — The Doctrines of the Followers of Ptolemy and Colorbasus.

1. But the followers of Ptolemy say95 that he [Bythos] has two consorts, which they also name Diatheses (affections), viz., Ennoae and Thelesis. For, as they affirm, he first conceived the thought of producing something, and then willed to that effect. Wherefore, again, these two affections, or powers, Ennoea and Thelesis, having intercourse, as it were, between themselves, the production of Monogenes and Aletheia took place according to conjunction. These two came forth as types and images of the two affections of the Father, — visible representations of those that were invisible, — Nous (i.e., Monogenes) of Thelesis, and Aletheia of Ennoea, and accordingly the image resulting from Thelesis was masculine,96 while that from Ennoea was feminine. Thus Thelesis (will) became, as it were, a faculty of Ennoea (thought). For Ennoea continually yearned after offspring; but she could not of herself bring forth that which she desired. But when the power of Thelesis (the faculty of will) came upon her, then she brought forth that on which she had brooded.

2. These fancied beings97 (like the Jove of Homer, who is represented98 as passing an anxious sleepless night in devising plans for honouring Achilles and destroying numbers of the Greeks) will not appear to you, my dear friend, to be possessed of greater knowledge than He who is the God of the universe. He, as soon as He thinks, also performs what He has willed; and as soon as He wills, also thinks that which He has willed; then thinking when He wills, and then willing when He thinks, since He is all thought, [all will, all mind, all light,]99 all eye, all ear, the one entire fountain of all good things.

3. Those of them, however, who are deemed more skilful than the persons who have just been mentioned, say that the first Ogdoad was not produced gradually, so that one Aeon was sent forth by another, but that all100 the Aeons were brought into existence at once by Propator and his Ennoea. He (Colorbasus) affirms this as confidently as if he had assisted at their birth. Accordingly, he and his followers maintain that Anthropos and Ecclesia were not produced,101 as others hold, from Logos and Zoe; but, on the contrary, Logos and Zoe from Anthropos and Ecclesia. But they express this in another form, as follows: When the Propator conceived the thought of producing something, he received the name of Father. But because what he did produce was true, it was named Aletheia. Again, when he wished to reveal himself, this was termed Anthropos. Finally, when he produced those whom he had previously thought of, these were named Ecclesia. Anthropos, by speaking, formed Logos: this is the first-born son. But Zoe followed upon Logos; and thus the first Ogdoad was completed.

4. They have much contention also among themselves respecting the Saviour. For some 334 maintain that he was formed out of all; wherefore also he was called Eudocetos, because the whole Pleroma was well pleased through him to glorify the Father. But others assert that he was produced from those ten Aeons alone who sprung from Logos and Zoe, and that on this account he was called Logos and Zoe, thus preserving the ancestral names.102 Others, again, affirm that he had his being from those twelve Aeons who were the offspring of Anthropos and Ecclesia; and on this account he acknowledges himself the Son of man, as being a descendant of Anthropos. Others still, assert that he was produced by Christ and the Holy Spirit, who were brought forth for the security of the Pleroma; and that on this account he was called Christ, thus preserving the appellation of the Father, by whom he was produced. And there are yet others among them who declare that the Propator of the whole, Proarche, and Proanennoetos is called Anthropos; and that this is the great and abstruse mystery, namely, that the Power which is above all others, and contains all in his embrace, is termed Anthropos; hence does the Saviour style himself the “Son of man.”


64 Their spiritual substance was received from Achamoth; their animal souls were created by the Demiurge. These are now separated; the spirit enters the Pleroma, while the soul remains in heaven.

65 Viz., Achamoth.

66 A Syriac fragment here reads, “He spake by the prophets through him.”

67 “Thus,” says Harvey, we may trace back to the Gnostic period the Apollinarian error, closely allied to the Docetic, that the body of Christ was not derived from the blessed Virgin, but that it was of heavenly substance, and was only brought forth into the world through her instrumentality.

68 By thus extending himself through Stauros, who bounded the Pleroma, the Christ above became the type of the Christ below, who was extended upon the cross.

69 Billius, following the old Latin version, reads, “They interpret many things, spoken by the prophets, of this seed.”

70 Such appears to be the meaning of this sentence, but the original is very obscure. The writer seems to refer to the spiritual, the animal, and the material classes of men, and to imply that the Demiurge supposed some prophecies to be due to one of these classes, and some to the others.

71 As was the case at first, in Adam.

72 Literally, “reading from things unwritten.”

73 1Co_11:10. Irenaeus here reads κάλυμμα, veil, instead of ἐξουσίαν, power, as in the received text. [An interesting fact, as it betokens an old gloss, which may have slipped into the text of some ancient mss.]

74 Joh_12:27. The Valentinians seem, for their own purposes, to have added οὐκ οἶδα to this text.

75 Joh_1:3-4. The punctuation here followed is different from that commonly adopted, but is found in many of the Fathers, and in some of the most ancient mss.

76 ὑπο αὐτῆς, occurring twice, is rendered both times in the old Latin version, “ab eis.” The reference is to σκοτία, darkness, i.e., all those not belonging to the spiritual seed.

77 This is parenthetically inserted by the author, to show the misquotation of Scripture by these heretics.

78 These words are wanting in the Greek, but are inserted in the old Latin version.

79 It is difficult to give an exact rendering of μελετᾶν in this passage; the old Lat. version translates it by meditari, which Massuet proposes to render “skilfully to fit.”

80 Tertullian refers (Praescrip. Haer.) to those Homeric centos of which a specimen follows. We have given each line as it stands in the original: the text followed by Irenaeus differs slightly from the received text.

81 Literally, “immoveable in himself,” the word ἀκλινῆ being used with an apparent reference to the original meaning of κανόνα, a builder’s rule.

82 The meaning of the word ἀπολύτρωσις here is not easily determined; but it is probably a scenic term equivalent to ἀπόλυσις, and may be rendered as above.

83 [The Creed, in the sublime simplicity of its fundamental articles, is established; that is, by the impossiblility of framing anything to take their place.]

84 “Of God” is added from the old Latin.

85 Probably referring to the Churches in Palestine.

86 The text here is ἀρκουμένους τούτους, which is manifestly corrupt. Various emendations have been proposed: we prefer reading ἀρκούμενος τούτοις, and have translated accordingly.

87 Irenaeus here reads πάντα instead of πάντας, as in Text. Rec. of New Testament.

88 εὐχαριστεῖν — this word has been deemed corrupt, as it certainly appears out of keeping with the other verbs; but it may be rendered as above.

89 That is, the first of the two or three here referred to, not the first of the Gnostic teachers, as some have imagined. [The Gnosticism of one age may be essentially the same in spirit as the Agnosticism of another.]

90 Viz., all outside of the Pleroma.

91 Corrected from Ecclesia in the text.

92 Some have supposed that the name of this teacher was Epiphanes, and that the old Latin mistakenly translates this by clarus; others think that Colorbasus is the teacher in question.

93 The Greek text is wanting till the end of this section.

94 [1Ki_18:27. “It came to pass that Elijah mocked them,” etc. This reductio ad absurdum of our author is singularly applicable to certain forms of what is called “Modern Thought.]

95 We here follow the Greek as preserved by Hippolytus (Philosoph., vi. 38). The text followed by Epiphanius (Haer., xxxiii. 1) does not so well agree with the Latin.

96 The text is here hopelessly corrupt; but the general meaning seems to be that given above.

97 This sentence exists only in the Latin version, and we can give only a free translation.

98 Iliad, ii. 1, etc.

99 These words are found in Epiphanius, but omitted in the old Latin version. The Latin gives “sense” instead of “light.”

100 The text is here very uncertain. Some propose to read six Aeons instead of all.

101 Here again the text is corrupt and obscure. We have followed what seems the most probable emendation.

102 Harvey justly remarks, that “one cause of perplexity in unravelling the Valentinian scheme is the recurrence of similar names at different points of the system, e. g., the Enthymesis of Sophia was called Sophia and Spiritus; and Pater, Arche, Monogenes, Christus, Anthropos, Ecclesia, were all of them terms of a double denomination.”