Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: 1.08.09 Iranaeus - Against Heresies - Book 2 Ch 15-20

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: 1.08.09 Iranaeus - Against Heresies - Book 2 Ch 15-20

TOPIC: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 1.08.09 Iranaeus - Against Heresies - Book 2 Ch 15-20

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Irenaeus Against Heresies. (Cont.)

Book II. (Cont.)

Chap. XV. — No Account Can Be Given of These Productions.

1. But let us return to the fore-mentioned question as to the production [of the Aeons]. And, in the first place, let them tell us the reason of the production of the Aeons being of such a kind that they do not come in contact with any of those things which belong to creation. For they maintain that those things [above] were not made on account of creation, but creation on account of them; and that the former are not images of the latter, but the latter of the former. As, therefore, they render a reason for the images, by saying that the month has thirty days on account of the thirty Aeons, and the day twelve hours, and the year twelve months, on account of the twelve Aeons which are within the Pleroma, with other such nonsense of the same kind, let them now tell us also the reason for that production of the Aeons, why it was of such a nature, for what reason the first and first-begotten Ogdoad was sent forth, and not a Pentad, or a Triad, or a Septenad, or any one of those which are defined by a different number? Moreover, how did it come to pass, that from Logos and Zoe were sent forth ten Aeons, and neither more nor less; while again from Anthropos and Ecclesia proceeded twelve, although these might have been either more or less numerous?

2. And then, again, with reference to the entire Pleroma, what reason is there that it should be divided into these three — an Ogdoad, a Decad, and a Duodecad — and not into some other number different from these? Moreover, with respect to the division itself, why has it been made into three parts, and not into four, or five, or six, or into some other number among those which have no connection with such numbers68 as belong to creation? For they describe those [Aeons above] as being more ancient than these [created things below], and it behoves them to possess their principle [of being] in themselves, one which existed before creation, and not after the pattern of creation, all exactly agreeing as to the point.69

3. The account which we give of creation is one harmonious with that regular order [of things prevailing in the world], for this scheme of ours is adapted to the70 things which have [actually] been made; but it is a matter of necessity that they, being unable to assign any reason belonging to the things themselves, with regard to those beings that existed before [creation], and were perfected by themselves, should fall into the greatest perplexity. For, as to the points on which they interrogate us as knowing nothing of creation, they themselves, when questioned in turn respecting the Pleroma, either make mention of mere human feelings, or have recourse to that sort of speech which bears only upon that harmony observable in creation, improperly giving us replies concerning things which are secondary, and not concerning those which, as they maintain, are primary. For we do not question them concerning that harmony which belongs to creation, nor concerning human feelings; but because they must acknowledge, as to their octiform, deciform, and duodeciform Pleroma (the image of which they declare creation to be), that their Father formed it of that figure vainly and thoughtlessly, and must ascribe to Him deformity, if He made anything without a reason. Or, again, if they declare that the Pleroma was so produced in accordance with the foresight of the Father, for the sake of creation, as if He had thus symmetrically arranged its very essence, then it follows that the Pleroma can no longer be regarded as having been formed on its own account, but for the sake of that [creation] which was to be its image as possessing its likeness (just as the clay model is not moulded for its own sake, but for the sake of the statue in brass, or gold, or silver about to be formed), then creation will have greater honour than the Pleroma, if, for its sake, those things [above] were produced.

Chap. XVI. — The Creator of the World Either Produced of Himself the Images of Things to Be Made, Or the Pleroma Was Formed After the Image of Some Previous System; and so on Ad Infinitum.

1. But if they will not yield assent to any one of these conclusions, since in that case they would be proved by us as incapable of rendering any reason for such a production of their Pleroma, they will of necessity be shut up to this — that they confess that, above the Pleroma, there was some other system more spiritual and more powerful, after the image of which their Pleroma was 380 formed. For if the Demiurge did not of himself construct that figure of creation which exists, but made it after the form of those things which are above, then from whom did their Bythus — who, to be sure, brought it about that the Pleroma should be possessed of a configuration of this kind — receive the figure of those things which existed before Himself? For it must needs be, either that the intention [of creating] dwelt in that god who made the world, so that of his own power, and from himself, he obtained the model of its formation; or, if any departure is made from this being, then there will arise a necessity for constantly asking whence there came to that one who is above him the configuration of those things which have been made; what, too, was the number of the productions; and what the substance of the model itself? If, however, it was in the power of Bythus to impart of himself such a configuration to the Pleroma, then why may it not have been in the power of the Demiurge to form of himself such a world as exists? And then, again, if creation be an image of those things [above], why should we not affirm that those are, in turn, images of others above them, and those above these again, of others, and thus go on supposing innumerable images of images?

2. This difficulty presented itself to Basilides after he had utterly missed the truth, and was conceiving that, by an infinite succession of those beings that were formed from one another, he might escape such perplexity. When he had proclaimed that three hundred and sixty-five heavens were formed through succession and similitude by one another, and that a manifest proof [of the existence] of these was found in the number of the days of the year, as I stated before; and that above these there was a power which they also style Unnameable, and its dispensation — he did not even in this way escape such perplexity. For, when asked whence came the image of its configuration to that heaven which is above all, and from which he wishes the rest to be regarded as having been formed by means of succession, he will say, from that dispensation which belongs to the Unnameable. He must then say, either that the Unspeakable formed it of himself, or he will find it necessary to acknowledge that there is some other power above this being, from whom his unnameable One derived such vast numbers of configurations as do, according to him, exist.

3. How much safer and more accurate a course is it, then, to confess at once that which is true: that this God, the Creator, who formed the world, is the only God, and that there is no other God besides Him — He Himself receiving from Himself the model and figure of those things which have been made — than that, after wearying ourselves with such an impious and circuitous description, we should be compelled, at some point or another, to fix the mind on some One, and to confess that from Him proceeded the configuration of things created.

4. As to the accusation brought against us by the followers of Valentinus, when they declare that we continue in that Hebdomad which is below, as if we could not lift our minds on high, nor understand those things which are above, because we do not accept their monstrous assertions: this very charge do the followers of Basilides bring in turn against them, inasmuch as they (the Valentinians) keep circling about those things which are below, [going] as far as the first and second Ogdoad, and because they unskilfully imagine that, immediately after the thirty Aeons, they have discovered Him who is above all things Father, not following out in thought their investigations to that Pleroma which is above the three hundred and sixty-five heavens, which71 is above forty-five Ogdoads. And any one, again, might bring against them the same charge, by imagining four thousand three hundred and eighty heavens, or Aeons, since the days of the year contain that number of hours. If, again, some one adds also the nights, thus doubling the hours which have been mentioned, imagining that [in this way] he has discovered a great multitude of Ogdoads, and a kind of innumerable company72 of Aeons, and thus, in opposition to Him who is above all things Father, conceiving himself more perfect than all [others], he will bring the same charge against all, inasmuch as they are not capable of rising to the conception of such a multitude of heavens or Aeons as he has announced, but are either so deficient as to remain among those things which are below, or continue in the intermediate space.

Chap. XVII. — Inquiry into the Production of the Aeons: Whatever Its Supposed Nature, it Is in Every Respect Inconsistent; and on the Hypothesis of the Heretics, Even Nous and the Father Himself Would Be Stained with Ignorance.

1. That system, then, which has respect to their Pleroma, and especially that part of it which refers to the primary Ogdoad being thus burdened with so great contradictions and perplexities, let me now go on to examine the remainder of their scheme. [In doing so] on account of their madness, I shall be making inquiry respecting things which have no real existence; yet it is necessary to do this, since the treatment of this subject has been entrusted to me, and since I desire all men 381 to come to the knowledge of the truth, as well as because thou thyself hast asked to receive from me full and complete means for overturning [the views of] these men.

2. I ask, then, in what manner were the rest of the Aeons produced? Was it so as to be united with Him who produced them, even as the solar rays are with the sun; or was it actually73 and separately, so that each of them possessed an independent existence and his own special form, just as has a man from another man, and one herd of cattle from another? Or was it after the manner of germination, as branches from a tree? And were they of the same substance with those who produced them, or did they derive their substance from some other [kind of] substance? Also, were they produced at the same time, so as to be contemporaries; or after a certain order, so that some of them were older, and others younger? And, again, are they uncompounded and uniform, and altogether equal and similar among themselves, as spirit and light are produced; or are they compounded and different, unlike [to each other] in their members?

3. If each of them was produced, after the manner of men, actually and according to its own generation, then either those thus generated by the Father will be of the same substance with Him, and similar to their Author; or if74 they appear dissimilar, then it must of necessity be acknowledged that they are [formed of some different substance. Now, if the beings generated by the Father be similar to their Author, then those who have been produced must remain for ever impossible, even as is He who produced them; but if, on the other hand, they are of a different substance, which is capable of passion, then whence came this dissimilar substance to find a place within the incorruptible Pleroma? Further, too, according to this principle, each one of them must be understood as being completely separated from every other, even as men are not mixed with nor united the one to the other, but each having a distinct shape of his own, and a definite sphere of action, while each one of them, too, is formed of a particular size, — qualities characteristic of a body, and not of a spirit. Let them therefore no longer speak of the Pleroma as being spiritual, or of themselves as “spiritual,” if indeed their Aeons sit feasting with the Father, just as if they were men, and He Himself is of such a configuration as those reveal Him to be who were produced by Him.

4. If, again, the Aeons were derived from Logos, Logos from Nous, and Nous from Bythus, just as lights are kindled from a light — as, for example, torches are from a torch — then they may no doubt differ in generation and size from one another; but since they are of the same substance with the Author of their production, they must either all remain for ever impossible, or their Father Himself must participate in passion. For the torch which has been kindled subsequently cannot be possessed of a different kind of light from that which preceded it. Wherefore also their lights, when blended in one, return to the original identity, since that one light is then formed which has existed even from the beginning. But we cannot speak, with respect to light itself, of some part being more recent in its origin, and another being more ancient (for the whole is but one light); nor can we so speak even in regard to those torches which have received the light (for these are all contemporary as respects their material substance, for the substance of torches is one and the same), but simply as to [the time of] its being kindled, since one was lighted a little while ago, and another has just now been kindled.

5. The defect, therefore, of that passion which has regard to ignorance, will either attach alike to their whole Pleroma, since [all its members] are of the same substance; and the Propator will share in this defect of ignorance — that is, will be ignorant of Himself; or, on the other hand, all those lights which are within the Pleroma will alike remain for ever impassible. Whence, then, comes the passion of the youngest Aeon, if the light of the Father is that from which all other lights have been formed, and which is by nature impassible? And how can one Aeon be spoken of as either younger or older among themselves, since there is but one light in the entire Pleroma? And if any one calls them stars, they will all nevertheless appear to participate in the same nature. For if “one star differs from another star in glory,” (1Co_15:41) but not in qualities, nor substance, nor in the fact of being passible or impassible; so all these, since they are alike derived from the light of the Father, must either be naturally impossible and immutable, or they must all, in common with the light of the Father, be passible, and are capable of the varying phases of corruption.

6. The same conclusion will follow, although they affirm that the production of Aeons sprang from Logos, as branches from a tree, since Logos has his generation from their Father. For all [the Aeons] are formed of the same substance with the Father, differing from one another only in size, and not in nature, and filling up the greatness of the Father, even as the fingers 382 complete the hand. If therefore He exists in passion and ignorance, so must also those Aeons who have been generated by Him. But if it is impious to ascribe ignorance and passion to the Father of all, how can they describe an Aeon produced by Him as being passible; and while they ascribe the same impiety to the very wisdom (Sophia) of God, how can they still call themselves religious men?

7. If, again, they declare that their Aeons were sent forth just as rays are from the sun, then, since all are of the same substance and sprung from the same source, all must either be capable of passion along with Him who produced them, or all will remain impassible for ever. For they can no longer maintain that, of beings so produced, some are impassible and others passible. If, then, they declare all impassible, they do themselves destroy their own argument. For how could the youngest Aeon have suffered passion if all were impassible? If, on the other hand, they declare that all partook of this passion, as indeed some of them venture to maintain, then, inasmuch as it originated with Logos,75 but flowed onwards to Sophia, they will thus be convicted of tracing back the passion to Logos, who is the76 Nous of this Propator, and so acknowledging the Nous of the Propator and the Father Himself to have experienced passion. For the Father of all is not to be regarded as a kind of compound Being, who can be separated from his Nous (mind), as I have already shown; but Nous is the Father, and the Father Nous. It necessarily follows, therefore, both that he who springs from Him as Logos, or rather that Nous himself, since he is Logos, must be perfect and impassible, and that those productions which proceed from him, seeing that they are of the same substance with himself, should be perfect and impassible, and should ever remain similar to him who produced them.

8. It cannot therefore longer be held, as these men teach, that Logos, as occupying the third place in generation, was ignorant of the Father. Such a thing might indeed perhaps be deemed probable in the case of the generation of human beings, inasmuch as these frequently know nothing of their parents; but it is altogether impossible in the case of the Logos of the Father. For if, existing in the Father, he knows Him in whom he exists — that is, is not ignorant of himself — then those productions which issue from him being his powers (faculties), and always present with him, will not be ignorant of him who emitted them, any more than rays [may be supposed to be] of the sun. It is impossible, therefore, that the Sophia (wisdom) of God, she who is within the Pleroma, inasmuch as she has been produced in such a manner, should have fallen under the influence of passion, and conceived such ignorance. But it is possible that that Sophia (wisdom) who pertains to [the scheme] of Valentinus, inasmuch as she is a production of the devil, should fall into every kind of passion, and exhibit the profoundest ignorance. For when they themselves bear testimony concerning their mother, to the effect that she was the offspring of an erring Aeon, we need no longer search for a reason why the sons of such a mother should be ever swimming in the depths of ignorance.

9. I am not aware that, besides these productions [which have been mentioned], they are able to speak of any other; indeed, they have not been known to me (although I have had very frequent discussions with them concerning forms of this kind) as ever setting forth any other peculiar kind of being as produced [in the manner under consideration]. This only they maintain, that each one of these was so produced as to know merely that one who produced him, while he was ignorant of the one who immediately preceded. But they do not in this matter go forward [in their account] with any kind of demonstration as to the manner in which these were produced, or how such a thing could take place among spiritual beings. For, in whatsoever way they may choose to go forward, they will feel themselves bound (while, as regards the truth, they depart77 entirely from right reason) to proceed so far as to maintain that their Word, who springs from the Nous of the Propator, — to maintain, I say, that he was produced in a state of degeneracy. For [they hold] that perfect Nous, previously begotten by the perfect Bythus, was not capable of rendering that production which issued from him perfect, but [could only bring it forth] utterly blind to the knowledge and greatness of the Father. They also maintain that the Saviour exhibited an emblem of this mystery in the case of that man who was blind from his birth, (Joh_9:1, etc.) since the Aeon was in this manner produced by Monogenes blind, that is, in ignorance, thus falsely ascribing ignorance and blindness to the Word of God, who, according to their own theory, holds the second [place of] production from the Propator. Admirable sophists, and explorers of the sublimities of the unknown Father, and rehearsers of those super-celestial mysteries “which the angels desire to look into!” (1Pe_1:12) — that they may learn that from the Nous of that Father who is above all, the Word was produced blind, that is, ignorant of the Father who produced him! 383

10. But, ye miserable sophists, how could the Nous of the Father, or rather the very Father Himself, since He is Nous and perfect in all things, have produced his own Logos as an imperfect and blind Aeon, when He was able also to produce along with him the knowledge of the Father? As ye affirm that Christ was generated78 after the rest, and yet declare that he was produced perfect, much more then should Logos, who is anterior to him in age, be produced by the same Nous, unquestionably perfect, and not blind; nor could he, again, have produced Aeons still blinder than himself, until at last your Sophia, always utterly blinded, gave birth to so vast a body of evils. And your Father is the cause of all this mischief; for ye declare the magnitude and power of your Father to be the causes of ignorance, assimilating Him to Bythus, and assigning this as a name to Him who is the unnameable Father. But if ignorance is an evil, and ye declare all evils to have derived their strength from it, while ye maintain that the greatness and power of the Father is the cause of this ignorance, ye do thus set Him forth as the author of [all] evils. For ye state as the cause of evil this fact, that [no one] could contemplate His greatness. But if it was really impossible for the Father to make Himself known from the beginning to those [beings] that were formed by Him, He must in that case be held free from blame, inasmuch as He could not remove the ignorance of those who came after Him. But if, at a subsequent period, when He so willed it, He could take away that ignorance which had increased with the successive productions as they followed each other, and thus become deeply seated in the Aeons, much more, had He so willed it might He formerly have prevented that ignorance, which as yet was not, from coining into existence.

11. Since therefore, as soon as He so pleased, He did become known not only to the Aeons, but also to these men who lived in these latter times; but, as He did not so please to be known from the beginning, He remained unknown — the cause of ignorance is, according to you, the will of the Father. For if He foreknew that these things would in future happen in such a manner, why then did He not guard against the ignorance of these beings before it had obtained a place among them, rather than afterwards, as if under the influence of repentance, deal with it through the production of Christ? For the knowledge which through Christ He conveyed to all, He might long before have imparted through Logos, who was also the first-begotten of Monogenes. Or if, knowing them beforehand, He willed that these things should happen [as they have done], then the works of ignorance must endure for ever, and never pass away. For the things which have been made in accordance with the will of your Propator must continue along with the will of Him who willed them; or if they pass away, the will of Him also who decreed that they should have a being will pass away along with them. And why did the Aeons find rest and attain perfect knowledge through learning [at last] that the Father is altogether79 incomprehensible? They might surely have possessed this knowledge before they became involved in passion; for the greatness of the Father did not suffer diminution from the beginning, so that these might80 know that He was altogether incomprehensible. For if, on account of His infinite greatness, He remained unknown, He ought also on account of His infinite love to have preserved those impassible who were produced by Him, since nothing hindered, and expediency rather required, that they should have known from the beginning that the Father was altogether incomprehensible.

Chap. XVIII. — Sophia Was Never Really in Ignorance Or Passion; Her Enthymesis Could Not Have Been Separated from Herself, Or Exhibited Special Tendencies of Its Own.

1. How can it be regarded as otherwise than absurd, that they also affirm this Sophia (wisdom) to have been involved in ignorance, and degeneracy, and passion? For these things are alien and contrary to wisdom, nor can they ever be qualities belonging to it. For wherever there is a want of foresight, and an ignorance of the course of utility, there wisdom does not exist. Let them therefore no longer call this suffering Aeon, Sophia, but let them give up either her name or her sufferings. And let them, moreover, not call their entire Pleroma spiritual, if this Aeon had a place within it when she was involved in such a tumult of passion. For even a vigorous soul, not to say a spiritual substance, would not pass through any such experience.

2. And, again, how could her Enthymesis, going forth [from her] along with the passion, have become a separate existence? For Enthymesis (thought) is understood in connection with some person, and can never have an isolated existence by itself. For a bad Enthymesis is destroyed and absorbed by a good one, even as a state of disease is by health. What, then, was the sort of Enthymesis which preceded that of passion? [It was this]: to investigate the [nature of] the Father, and to consider His 384 greatness. But what did she afterwards become persuaded of, and so was restored to health? [This, viz.], that the Father is incomprehensible, and that He is past finding out. It was not, then, a proper feeling that she wished to know the Father, and on this account she became passible; but when she became persuaded that He is unsearchable, she was restored to health. And even Nous himself, who was inquiring into the [nature of] the Father, ceased, according to them, to continue his researches, on learning that the Father is incomprehensible.

3. How then could the Enthymesis separately conceive passions, which themselves also were her affections? For affection is necessarily connected with an individual: it cannot come into being or exist apart by itself. This opinion [of theirs], however, is not only untenable, but also opposed to that which was spoken by our Lord: “Seek, and ye shall find.” (Mat_7:7) For the Lord renders His disciples perfect by their seeking after and finding the Father; but that Christ of theirs, who is above, has rendered them perfect, by the fact that He has commanded the Aeons not to seek after the Father, persuading them that, though they should labour hard, they would not find Him. And they81 declare that they themselves are perfect, by the fact that they maintain they have found their Bythus; while the Aeons [have been made perfect] through means of this, that He is unsearchable who was inquired after by them.

4. Since, therefore, the Enthymesis herself could not exist separately, apart from the Aeon, [it is obvious that] they bring forward still greater falsehood concerning her passion, when they further proceed to divide and separate it from her, while they declare that it was the substance of matter. As if God were not light, and as if no Word existed who could convict them, and overthrow their wickedness. For it is certainly true, that whatsoever the Aeon thought, that she also suffered; and what she suffered, that she also thought. And her Enthymesis was, according to them, nothing else than the passion of one thinking how she might comprehend the incomprehensible. And thus Enthymesis (thought) was the passion; for she was thinking of things impossible. How then could affection and passion be separated and set apart from the Enthymesis, so as to become the substance of so vast a material creation, when Enthymesis herself was the passion, and the passion Enthymesis? Neither, therefore, can Enthymesis apart from the Aeon, nor the affections apart from Enthymesis, separately possess substance; and thus once more their system breaks down and is destroyed.

5. But how did it come to pass that the Aeon was both dissolved [into her component parts], and became subject to passion? She was undoubtedly of the same substance as the Pleroma; but the entire Pleroma was of the Father. Now, any substance, when brought in contact with what is of a similar nature, will not be dissolved into nothing, nor will be in danger of perishing, but will rather continue and increase, such as fire in fire, spirit in spirit, and water in water; but those which are of a contrary nature to each other do, [when they meet,] suffer and are changed and destroyed. And, in like manner, if there had been a production of light, it would not suffer passion, or recur any danger in light like itself, but would rather glow with the greater brightness, and increase, as the day does from [the increasing brilliance of] the sun; for they maintain that Bythus [himself] was the image of their father82 (Sophia). Whatever animals are alien [in habits] and strange to each other, or are mutually opposed in nature, fall into danger [on meeting together], and are destroyed; whereas, on the other hand, those who are accustomed to each other, and of a harmonious disposition, suffer no peril from being together in the same place, but rather secure both safety and life by such a fact. If, therefore, this Aeon was produced by the Pleroma of the same substance as the whole of it, she could never have undergone change, since she was consorting with beings similar to and familiar with herself, a spiritual essence among those that were spiritual. For fear, terror, passion, dissolution, and such like, may perhaps occur through the struggle of contraries among such beings as we are, who are possessed of bodies; but among spiritual beings, and those that have the light diffused among them, no such calamities can possibly happen. But these men appear to me to have endowed their Aeon with the [same sort of] passion as belongs to that character in the comic poet Menander,83 who was himself deeply in love, but an object of hatred [to his beloved]. For those who have invented such opinions have rather had an idea and mental conception of some unhappy lover among men, than of a spiritual and divine substance.

6. Moreover, to meditate how to search into [the nature of] the perfect Father, and to have a desire to exist within Him, and to have a comprehension of His [greatness], could not entail the stain of ignorance or passion, and that upon a spiritual Aeon; but would rather [give rise to] perfection, and impassibility, and truth. For they do not say that even they, though they be but men, by meditating on Him who was before 385 them, — and while now, as it were, comprehending the perfect, and being placed within the knowledge of Him, — are thus involved in a passion of perplexity, but rather attain to the knowledge and apprehension of truth. For they affirm that the Saviour said, “Seek, and ye shall find,” to His disciples with this view, that they should seek after Him who, by means of imagination, has been conceived of by them as being above the Maker of all — the ineffable Bythus; and they desire themselves to be regarded as “the perfect;” because they have sought and found the perfect One, while they are still on earth. Yet they declare that that Aeon who was within the Pleroma, a wholly spiritual being, by seeking after the Propator, and endeavouring to find a place within His greatness, and desiring to have a comprehension of the truth of the Father, fell down into [the endurance of] passion, and such a passion that, unless she had met with that Power who upholds all things, she would have been dissolved into the general substance [of the Aeons], and thus come to an end of her [personal] existence.

7. Absurd is such presumption, and truly an opinion of men totally destitute of the truth. For, that this Aeon is superior to themselves, and of greater antiquity, they themselves acknowledge, according to their own system, when they affirm that they are the fruit of the Enthymesis of that Aeon who suffered passion, so that this Aeon is the father of their mother, that is, their own grandfather. And to them, the later grandchildren, the search after the Father brings, as they maintain, truth, and perfection, and establishment, and deliverance from unstable matter, and reconciliation to the Father; but on their grandfather this same search entailed ignorance, and passion, and terror, and perplexity, from which [disturbances] they also declare that the substance of matter was formed. To say, therefore, that the search after and investigation of the perfect Father, and the desire for communion and union with Him, were things quite beneficial to them, but to an Aeon, from whom also they derive their origin, these things were the cause of dissolution and destruction, how can such assertions be otherwise viewed than as totally inconsistent, foolish, and irrational? Those, too, who listen to these teachers, truly blind themselves, while they possess blind guides, justly [are left to] fall along with them into the gulf of ignorance which lies below them.

Chap. XIX. — Absurdities of the Heretics as to Their Own Origin: Their Opinions Respecting the Demiurge Shown to Be Equally Untenable and Ridiculous.

1. But what sort of talk also is this concerning their seed — that it was conceived by the mother according to the configuration of those angels who wait upon the Saviour, — shapeless, without form, and imperfect; and that it was deposited in the Demiurge without his knowledge, in order that through his instrumentality it might attain to perfection and form in that soul which he had, [so to speak,] filled with seed? This is to affirm, in the first place, that those angels who wait upon their Saviour are imperfect, and with out figure or form; if indeed that which was conceived according to their appearance was generated any such kind of being [as has been described].

2. Then, in the next place, as to their saying that the Creator was ignorant of that deposit of seed which took place into him, and again, of that impartation of seed which was made by him to man, their words are futile and vain, and are in no way susceptible of proof. For how could he have been ignorant of it, if that seed had possessed any substance and peculiar properties? If, on the other hand, it was without substance and without quality, and so was really nothing, then, as a matter of course, he was ignorant of it. For those things which have a certain motion of their own, and quality, either of heat, or swiftness, or sweetness, or which differ from others in brilliance, do not escape the notice even of men, since they mingle in the sphere of human action: far less can they [be hidden from] God, the Maker of this universe. With reason, however, [is it said, that] their seed was not known to Him, since it is without any quality of general utility, and without the substance requisite for any action, and is, in fact, a pure nonentity. It really seems to me, that, with a view to such opinions, the Lord expressed Himself thus: “For every idle word that men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment.”84 For all teachers of a like character to these, who fill men’s ears with idle talk, shall, when they stand at the throne of judgment, render an account for those things which they have vainly imagined and falsely uttered against the Lord, proceeding, as they have done, to such a height of audacity as to declare of themselves that, on account of the substance of their seed, they are acquainted with the spiritual Pleroma, because that man who dwells within reveals to them the true Father; for the animal nature required85 to be disciplined by means of the senses. But [they hold that] the Demiurge, while receiving into himself the whole of this seed, through its being deposited in him by the Mother, still remained utterly ignorant of all things, and had no understanding of anything connected with the Pleroma. 386

3. And that they are the truly “spiritual,” inasmuch as a certain particle of the Father of the universe has been deposited in their souls, since, according to their assertions, they have souls formed of the same substance as the Demiurge himself, yet that he, although he received from the Mother, once for all, the whole [of the divine] seed, and possessed it in himself, still remained of an animal nature, and had not the slightest understanding of those things which are above, which things they boast that they themselves understand, while they are still on earth; — does not this crown all possible absurdity? For to imagine that the very same seed conveyed knowledge and perfection to the souls of these men, while it only gave rise to ignorance in the God who made them, is an opinion that can be held only by those utterly frantic, and totally destitute of common sense.

4. Further, it is also a most absurd and groundless thing for them to say that the seed was, by being thus deposited, reduced to form and increased, and so was prepared for all the reception of perfect rationality. For there will be in it an admixture of matter — that substance which they hold to have been derived from ignorance and defect; [and this will prove itself] more apt and useful than was the light of their Father, if indeed, when born, according to the contemplation of that [light], it was without form or figure, but derived from this [matter], form, and appearance, and increase, and perfection. For if that light which proceeds from the Pleroma was the cause to a spiritual being that it possessed neither form, nor appearance, nor its own special magnitude, while its descent to this world added all these things to it, and brought it to perfection, then a sojourn here (which they also term darkness) would seem much more efficacious and useful than was the light of their Father. But how can it be regarded as other than ridiculous, to affirm that their mother ran the risk of being almost extinguished in matter, and was almost on the point of being destroyed by it, had she not then with difficulty stretched herself outwards, and leaped, [as it were,] out of herself, receiving assistance from the Father; but that her seed increased in this same matter, and received a form, and was made fit for the reception of perfect rationality; and this, too, while “bubbling up” among substances dissimilar and unfamiliar to itself, according to their own declaration that the earthly is opposed to the spiritual, and the spiritual to the earthly? How, then, could “a little particle,”86 as they say, increase, and receive shape, and reach perfection, in the midst of substances contrary to and unfamiliar to itself?

5. But further, and in addition to what has been said, the question occurs, Did their mother, when she beheld the angels, bring forth the seed all at once, or only one by one [in succession]? If she brought forth the whole simultaneously and at once, that which was thus produced cannot now be of an infantile character: its descent, therefore, into those men who now exist must be superfluous.87 But if one by one, then she did not form her conception according to the figure of those angels whom she beheld; for, contemplating them all together, and once for all, so as to conceive by them, she ought to have brought forth once for all the offspring of those from whose forms she had once for all conceived.

6. Why was it, too, that, beholding the angels along with the Saviour, she did indeed conceive their images, but not that of the Saviour, who is far more beautiful than they? Did He not please her; and did she not, on that account, conceive after His likeness?88 How was it, too, that the Demiurge, whom they can call an animal being, having, as they maintain, his own special magnitude and figure, was produced perfect as respects his substance; while that which is spiritual, which also ought to be more effective than that which is animal, was sent forth imperfect, and he required to descend into a soul, that in it he might obtain form, and thus becoming perfect, might be rendered fit for the reception of perfect reason? If, then, he obtains form in mere earthly and animal men, he can no longer be said to be after the likeness of angels whom they call lights, but [after the likeness] of those men who are here below. For he will not possess in that case the likeness and appearance of angels, but of those souls in whom also he receives shape; just as water when poured into a vessel takes the form of that vessel, and if on any occasion it happens to congeal in it, it will acquire the form of the vessel in which it has thus been frozen, since souls themselves possess the figure89 of the body [in which they dwell]; for they themselves have been adapted to the vessel [in which they exist], as I have said before. If, then, that seed [referred to] is here solidified and formed into a definite shape, it will possess the figure of a man. and not the form of the angels. How is it possible, therefore, that that seed should be after images of the angels, seeing it has obtained a form after the likeness of men? Why, again, since it was of a spiritual nature, had it any need of descending into flesh? For what is carnal stands in need of that which is spiritual, if indeed 387 it is to be saved, that in it it may be sanctified and cleared from all impurity, and that what is mortal may be swallowed up by immortality;90 but that which is spiritual has no need whatever of those things which are here below. For it is not we who benefit it, but it that improves us.

7. Still more manifestly is that talk of theirs concerning their seed proved to be false, and that in a way which must be evident to every one, by the fact that they declare those souls which have received seed from the Mother to be superior to all others; wherefore also they have been honoured by the Demiurge, and constituted princes, and kings, and priests. For if this were true, the high priest Caiaphas, and Annas, and the rest of the chief priests, arid doctors of the law, and rulers of the people, would have been the first to believe in the Lord, agreeing as they did with respect91 to that relationship; and even before them should have been Herod the king. But since neither he, nor the chief priests, nor the rulers, nor the eminent of the people, turned to Him [in faith], but, on the contrary, those who sat begging by the highway, the deaf, and the blind, while He was rejected and despised by others, according to what Paul declares, “For ye see your calling, brethren, that there are not many wise men among you, not many noble, not many mighty; but those things of the world which were despised hath God chosen.”92 Such souls, therefore, were not superior to others on account of the seed deposited in them, nor on this account were they honoured by the Demiurge.

8. As to the point, then, that their system is weak and untenable as well as utterly chimerical, enough has been said. For it is not needful, to use a common proverb, that one should drink up the ocean who wishes to learn that its water is salt. But, just as in the case of a statue which is made of clay, but coloured on the outside that it may be thought to be of gold, while it really is of clay, any one who takes out of it a small particle, and thus laying it open reveals the clay, will set free those who seek the truth from a false opinion; in the same way have I (by exposing not a small part only, but the several heads of their system which are of the greatest importance) shown to as many as do not wish wittingly to be led astray, what is wicked, deceitful, seductive, and pernicious, connected with the school of the Valentinians, and all those other heretics who promulgate93 wicked opinions respecting the Demiurge, that is, the Fashioner and Former of this universe, and who is in fact the only true God — exhibiting, [as I have done,] how easily their views are overthrown.

9. For who that has any intelligence, and possesses only a small proportion of truth, can tolerate them, when they affirm that there is another god above the Creator; and that there is another Monogenes as well as another Word of God, whom also they describe as having been produced in [a state of] degeneracy; and another Christ, whom they assert to have been formed, along with the Holy Spirit, later than the rest of the Aeons; and another Saviour, who, they say, did not proceed from the Father of all, but was a kind of joint production of those Aeons who were formed in [a state of] degeneracy, and that He was produced of necessity on account of this very degeneracy? It is thus their opinion that, unless the Aeons had been in a state of ignorance and degeneracy, neither Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor Horos, nor the Saviour, nor the angels, nor their Mother, nor her seed, nor the rest of the fabric of the world, would have been produced at all; but the universe would have been a desert, and destitute of the many good things which exist in it. They are therefore not only chargeable with impiety against the Creator, declaring Him the fruit of a defect, but also against Christ and the Holy Spirit, affirming that they were produced on account of that defect; and, in like manner, that the Saviour [was produced] subsequently to [the existence of] that defect. And who will tolerate the remainder of their vain talk, which they cunningly endeavour to accommodate to the parables, and have in this way plunged both themselves, and those who give credit to them, in the profoundest depths of impiety?

Chap. XX. — Futility of the Arguments Adduced to Demonstrate the Sufferings of the Twelfth Aeon, from the Parables, the Treachery of Judas, and the Passion of Our Saviour.

1. That they improperly and illogically apply both the parables and the actions of the Lord to their falsely-devised system, I prove as follows: They endeavour, for instance, to demonstrate that passion which, they say, happened in the case of the twelfth Aeon, from this fact, that the passion of the Saviour was brought about by the twelfth apostle, and happened in the twelfth month. For they hold that He preached [only] for one year after His baptism. They maintain also that the same thing was clearly set forth in the case of her who suffered from the issue of blood. For the woman suffered during twelve years, and 388 through touching the hem of the Saviour’s garment she was made whole by that power which went forth from the Saviour, and which, they affirm, had a previous existence. For that Power who suffered was stretching herself outwards and flowing into immensity, so that she was in danger of being dissolved into the general substance [of the Aeons]; but then, touching the primary Tetrad, which is typified by the hem of the garment, she was arrested, and ceased from her passion.

2. Then, again, as to their assertion that the passion of the twelfth Aeon was proved through the conduct of Judas, how is it possible that Judas can be compared [with this Aeon] as being an emblem of her — he who was expelled from the number of the twelve,112 and never restored to his place? For that Aeon, whose type they declare Judas to be, after being separated from her Enthymesis, was restored or recalled [to her former position]; but Judas was deprived [of his office], and cast out, while Matthias was ordained in his place, according to what is written, “And his bishopric let another take.” (Act_1:20, from Psa_109:8) They ought therefore to maintain that the twelfth Aeon was cast out of the Pleroma, and that another was produced, or sent forth to fill her place; if, that is to say, she is pointed at in Judas. Moreover, they tell us that it was the Aeon herself who suffered, but Judas was the betrayer, [and not the sufferer.] Even they themselves acknowledge that it was the suffering Christ, and not Judas, who came to [the endurance of] passion. How, then, could Judas, the betrayer of Him who had to suffer for our salvation, be the type and image of that Aeon who suffered?

3. But, in truth, the passion of Christ was neither similar to the passion of the Aeon, nor did it take place in similar circumstances. For the Aeon underwent a passion of dissolution and destruction, so that she who suffered was in danger also of being destroyed. But the Lord, our Christ, underwent a valid, and not a merely95 accidental passion; not only was He Himself not in danger of being destroyed, but He also established fallen man96 by His own strength, and recalled him to incorruption. The Aeon, again, underwent passion while she was seeking after the Father, and was notable to find Him; but the Lord suffered that He might bring those who have wandered from the Father, back to knowledge and to His fellowship. The search into the greatness of the Father became to her a passion leading to destruction; but the Lord, having suffered, and bestowing the knowledge of the Father, conferred on us salvation. Her passion, as they declare, gave origin to a female offspring, weak, infirm, unformed, and ineffective; but His passion gave rise to strength and power. For the Lord, through means of suffering, “ascending into the lofty place, led captivity captive, gave gifts to men,” (Psa_68:18; Eph_4:8) and conferred on those that believe in Him the power “to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and on all the power of the enemy,” (Luk_10:19; [Mar_16:17, Mar_16:18]) that is, of the leader of apostasy. Our Lord also by His passion destroyed death, and dispersed error, and put an end to corruption, and destroyed ignorance, while He manifested life and revealed truth, and bestowed the gift of incorruption. But their Aeon, when she had suffered, established97 ignorance, and brought forth a substance without shape, out of which all material works have been produced — death, corruption, error, and such like.

4. Judas, then, the twelfth in order of the disciples, was not a type of the suffering Aeon, nor, again, was the passion of the Lord; for these two things have been shown to be in every respect mutually dissimilar and inharmonious. This is the case not only as respects the points which I have already mentioned, but with regard to the very number. For that Judas the traitor is the twelfth in order, is agreed upon by all, there being twelve apostles mentioned by name in the Gospel. But this Aeon is not the twelfth, but the thirtieth; for, according to the views under consideration, there were not twelve Aeons only produced by the will of the Father, nor was she sent forth the twelfth in order: they reckon her, [on the contrary,] as having been produced in the thirtieth place. How, then, can Judas, the twelfth in order, be the type and image of that Aeon who occupies the thirtieth place?

5. But if they say that Judas in perishing was the image of her Enthymesis, neither in this way will the image bear any analogy to that truth which [by hypothesis] corresponds to it. For the Enthymesis having been separated from the Aeon, and itself afterwards receiving a shape from Christ,98 then being made a partaker of intelligence by the Saviour, and having formed all things which are outside of the Pleroma, after the image of those which are within the Pleroma, is said at last to have been received by them into the Pleroma, and, according to [the principle of] conjunction, to have been united to that Saviour who was formed out of all. But Judas having been once for all cast away, never returns 389 into the number of the disciples; otherwise a different person would not have been chosen to fill his place. Besides, the Lord also declared regarding him, “Woe to the man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed;” (Mat_26:24) and, “It were better for him if he had never been born;” (Mar_14:21) and he was called the “son of perdition” (Joh_17:12) by Him. If, however, they say that Judas was a type of the Enthymesis, not as separated from the Aeon, but of the passion entwined with her, neither in this way can the number twelve be regarded as a [fitting] type of the number three. For in the one case Judas was cast away, and Matthias was ordained instead of him; but in the other case the Aeon is said to have been in danger of dissolution and destruction, and [there are also] her Enthymesis and passion: for they markedly distinguish Enthymesis from the passion; and they represent the Aeon as being restored, and Enthymesis as acquiring form, but the passion, when separated from these, as becoming matter. Since, therefore, there are thus these three, the Aeon, her Enthymesis, and her passion, Judas and Matthias, being only two, cannot be the types of them.


68 Referring to numbers like 4, 5, 6, which do not correspond to any important fact in creation, as 7 e.g., does to the number of the planets.

69 The Latin text is here scarcely intelligible, and is variously pointed by the editors.

70 Harvey explains “his” as here denoting “in his,” but we are at a loss to know how he would translate the passage. It is in the highest degree obscure.

71 The text is here doubtful: Harvey proposes to read “qui” instead of “quae,” but we prefer “quod” with Grabe. The meaning is, that three hundred and sixty-five is more than forty-five Ogdoads (45 x 8 = 360).

72 “Operositatem.” corresponding to πραγματείαν, lit. manufacture.

73 Efficabiliter in the Latin text is thought to correspond to ἐνεργῶς in the original Greek.

74 Si is inserted by most of the editors; and although Harvey argues for its omission, we agree with Massuet in deeming it indispensable.

75 Comp. i. 2, 2.

76 It seems needless to insert an “et” before this word, as Harvey suggests, or, as an alternative, to strike out the first “Nun Propatoris.”

77 Some read “caecutientes” instead of “circumeuntes,” as above.

78 “Postgenitum quidem reliquis,” the representative, according to Grabe, of ἀπόγονον μὲν λοιποῖς in the Greek. Harvey remarks that τῶν λοιπῶν would have been better, and proposes to read “progenitum;” in the Latin; but we do not see any necessity for change.

79 “Incapabilis et incomprehensibilis,” corresponding to ἀχώρητος καὶ ἀκατάληπτος in the Greek.

80 Literally, “to these knowing,” “his scientibus.”

81 It seems necessary to read “se quidem” instead of “si quidem,” as in the mss.

82 Although Sophia was a feminine Aeon, she was regarded as being the father of Enthymesis, who again was the mother of the Valentinians.

83 Stieren refers for this allusion to Meineke’s edition of the Reliquioe Menan. et Philem., p. 116.

84 Mat_12:36. [The serious spirit of this remark lends force to it as exposition.]

85 Comp. i. 6, 1.

86 “Parvum emissum” — a small emission.

87 That is, there could be no need for its descending into them that it might increase, receive form, and thus be prepared for the reception of perfect reason.

88 Or, “on beholding Him.”

89 As Massuet here remarks, we may infer from this passage that Irenaeus believed souls to be corporeal, as being possessed of a definite form, — an opinion entertained by not a few of the ancients. [And, before we censure them, let us reflect whether their perceptions of “the carnal mind” as differing from the spirit of a man, may not account for it. 1Th_5:23.]

90 Comp. 1Co_15:44; 2Co_5:4. [As a Catholic I cannot accept everything contained in the Biblical Psychology of Dr. Delitzsch, but may I entreat the reader who has not studied it to do so before dismissing the ideas of Irenaeus on such topics. A translation has been provided for English readers, by the Messrs. T. & T. Clark of Edinburgh, 1867.]

91 The meaning apparently is, that by the high position which all these in common occupied, they proved themselves, on the principles of the heretics, to belong to the favoured “seed,” and should therefore have eagerly have welcomed the Lord. Or the meaning may be, “hurrying together to that relationship,” that is, to the relationship secured by faith in Christ.

92 1Co_1:26, 1Co_1:28, somewhat loosely quoted.

93 “Male tractant;” literally, handle badly.

94 Or, “from the twelfth number” — the twelfth position among the apostles.

95 The text is here uncertain. Most editions read “et quae non cederet,” but Harvey prefers “quae non accederet” (for “accideret”), and remarks that the corresponding Greek would be καὶ οὐ τυχὸν, which we have translated as above.

96 “Corruptum hominem.”

97 Though the reading “substituit” is found in all the mss. and editio