A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Valentinians

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VALENTINIANS, a branch of the Gnostics, which sprang up in the second century; so called from their leader, Valentinus. His principles were, generally speaking, the same with those of the Gnostics, whose name he assumed; yet in many things he entertained opinions peculiar to himself. He placed, for instance, in the pleroma (so the Gnostics called the habitation of the Deity) thirty aions, of which the one half were male, and the other, female. To these he added four others, which were of neither sex; viz. Horus, (who guarded the borders of the pleroma,) Christ, the Holy Ghost, and Jesus. The youngest of the aions, called Sophia, (i. e. wisdom,) conceived an ardent desire of comprehending the nature of the supreme Being, and by the force of this propensity brought forth a daughter, naimed Achamoth. Achaimoth being exiled from the pleroma, fell down into the rude and undigested mass of matter, to which she gave a certain arrangement; and by the assistance of Jesus, produced the Demiurge, the Lord and Creator of all things. This Demiurge separated the subtile, or animal matter, from that of the grosser, or mere terrestrial kind. Out of the former he created the heavens; and out of the latter, this terraqueous globe. He also made man, in whose composition the subtile and the grosser matter were eunited in equal portions; but Achamoth, the mother of Demiurge, added to them a spiritual and celestial substance—the immortal soul.

The Creator of this world, who was the God of the Jews, according to Valentinus, arrived by degrees to that pitch of arrogance, that he either imagined himself to be God alone, or at least was desirous that mankind should consider him as such. For this purpose he sent forth prophets to the Jewish nation, to whom he affected to be the supreme Being; and the other angels, who preside over different parts of the world, imitated his ambition. To correct this arrogance of Demiurge, and to teach mankind the true and supreme Deity, Christ appeared upon earth, composed of an animal and spiritual substance, and clothed moreover with an aerial body, which passed through the womb of Mary untainted. Jesus, one of the supreme aions, was substantially united to him when he was baptized in Jordan. The God of the Jews, when he perceived his empire shaken by this divine man, caused him to be apprehended and nailed to the cross. But before Christ submitted to this punishment, not only Jesus, the Son of God, but also the rational soul of Christ, ascended up on high; so that only the animal soul and the ethereal body suffered crucifixion. Those who abandoned false deities, and the God of the Jews, and, living according to the precepts of Christ, submit the animal and sensual soul to the discipline of reason, shall be finally happy. Their rational and sensual soul shall ascend to the seats of bliss, which border on the pleroma. And when all souls are purified thoroughly, and separated from matter, then a raging fire shall dissolve the frame of this corporeal world.

The Valentinians were divided into many branches.[1] See Heracleonites, Ptolemites, Secundians, &c.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Mosheim, vol. i. p. 185—188.