Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/Against the Valentinians/IV

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Chapter IV.—The Heresy Traceable to Valentinus, an Able But Restless Man. Many Schismatical Leaders of the School Mentioned. Only One of Them Shows Respect to the Man Whose Name Designates the Entire School.

We know, I say, most fully their actual origin, and we are quite aware why we call them Valentinians, although they affect to disavow their name.  They have departed, it is true,[1] from their founder, yet is their origin by no means destroyed; and even if it chance to be changed, the very change bears testimony to the fact. Valentinus had expected to become a bishop, because he was an able man both in genius and eloquence. Being indignant, however, that another obtained the dignity by reason of a claim which confessorship[2] had given him, he broke with the church of the true faith. Just like those (restless) spirits which, when roused by ambition, are usually inflamed with the desire of revenge, he applied himself with all his might[3] to exterminate the truth; and finding the clue[4] of a certain old opinion, he marked out a path for himself with the subtlety of a serpent. Ptolemæus afterwards entered on the same path, by distinguishing the names and the numbers of the Ænons into personal substances, which, however, he kept apart from God. Valentinus had included these in the very essence of the Deity, as senses and affections of motion. Sundry bypaths were then struck off therefrom, by Heraclean and Secundus and the magician Marcus. Theotimus worked hard about “the images of the law.” Valentinus, however, was as yet nowhere, and still the Valentinians derive their name from Valentinus. Axionicus at Antioch is the only man who at the present time does honour[5] to the memory of Valentinus, by keeping his rules[6] to the full. But this heresy is permitted to fashion itself into as many various shapes as a courtezan, who usually changes and adjusts her dress every day. And why not?  When they review that spiritual seed of theirs in every man after this fashion, whenever they have hit upon any novelty, they forthwith call their presumption a revelation, their own perverse ingenuity a spiritual gift; but (they deny all) unity, admitting only diversity.[7] And thus we clearly see that, setting aside their customary dissimulation, most of them are in a divided state, being ready to say (and that sincerely) of certain points of their belief, “This is not so;” and, “I take this in a different sense;” and, “I do not admit that.” By this variety, indeed, innovation is stamped on the very face of their rules; besides which, it wears all the colourable features of ignorant conceits.[8]


  1. Enim.
  2. Martyrii.
  3. Conversus.
  4. Semitam.
  5. Consolatur.
  6. Regularum: the particulars of his system. [Here comes in the word, borrowed from heresy, which shaped Monasticism in after times and created the regular orders.]
  7. Nec unitatem, sed diversitatem: scil. appellant.
  8. Colores ignorantiarum.