Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/Appendix: Against All Heresies/IV

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, Appendix: Against All Heresies by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall

Chapter IV.—Valentinus, Ptolemy and Secundus, Heracleon.

Valentinus the heretic, moreover, introduced many fables. These I will retrench and briefly summarize.  For he introduces the Pleroma and the thirty Æons. These Æons, moreover, he explains in the way of syzygies, that is, conjugal unions[1] of some kind. For among the first,[2] he says, were Depth[3] and Silence; of these proceeded Mind and Truth; out of whom burst the Word and Life; from whom, again, were created Man[4] and the Church. But (these are not all); for of these last also proceeded twelve Æons; from Speech,[5] moreover, and Life proceeded other ten Æons: such is the Triacontad of Æons, which is made up in the Pleroma of an ogdoad, a decad, and a duodecad. The thirtieth Æon, moreover, willed to see the great Bythus; and, to see him, had the hardihood to ascend into the upper regions; and not being capable of seeing his magnitude, desponded,[6] and almost suffered dissolution, had not some one,—he whom he calls Horos, to wit,—sent to invigorate him, strengthened him by pronouncing the word “Iao.”[7] This Æon, moreover, which was thus reduced to despondency, he calls Achamoth, (and says) that he was seized with certain regretful passions, and out of his passions gave birth to material essences.[8] For he was panic-stricken, he says, and terror-stricken, and overcome with sadness; and of these passions he conceived and bare. Hence he made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and whatever is in them: for which cause all things made by him are infirm, and frail, and capable of falling, and mortal, inasmuch as he himself was conceived and produced from despondency.  He, however, originated this world[9] out of those material essences which Achamoth, by his panic, or terror, or sadness, or sweat, had supplied. For of his panic, he says, was made darkness; of his fear and ignorance, the spirits of wickedness and malignity; of his sadness and tears, the humidities of founts, the material essence of floods and sea.  Christ, moreover, was sent by that First-Father who is Bythus. He, moreover, was not in the substance of our flesh; but, bringing down from heaven some spiritual body or other, passed through the Virgin Mary as water through a pipe, neither receiving nor borrowing aught thence. The resurrection of our present flesh he denies, but (maintains that) of some sister-flesh.[10] Of the Law and the prophets some parts he approves, some he disapproves; that is, he disapproves all in reprobating some. A Gospel of his own he likewise has, beside these of ours.

After him arose the heretics Ptolemy and Secundus, who agree throughout with Valentinus, differing only in the following point: viz., whereas Valentinus had feigned but thirty Æons, they have added several more; for they first added four, and subsequently four more. And Valentine’s assertion, that it was the thirtieth Æon which strayed out from the Pleroma, (as falling into despondency,) they deny; for the one which desponded on account of disappointed yearning to see the First-Father was not of the original triacontad, they say.

There arose, besides, Heracleon, a brother[11]-heretic, whose sentiments pair with Valentine’s; but, by some novelty of terminology, he is desirous of seeming to differ in sentiment.  For he introduces the notion that there existed first what he terms (a Monad);[12] and then out of that Monad (arose) two, and then the rest of the Æons. Then he introduces the whole system of Valentine.


  1. Conjugationes. Cowper uses our word “conjugation” in this sense in one of his humorous pieces.  [“Pairing-time.”] The “syzygies” consisted of one male and one female Æon each.
  2. Oehler separates “in primis;” but perhaps they ought to be united—“inprimis,” or “imprimis”—and taken as ="primo ab initio.”
  3. Bythus.
  4. Hominem.
  5. “Sermone:” he said “Verbum” before.
  6. In defectione fuisse.
  7. Cf. adv. Valent. cc. x. xiv.  [Routh says that this IAO (see note 8) is wanting in the older editions. It was borrowed from the Adv. Valentin. to eke out a defect.]
  8. Such appears to be the meaning of this sentence as Oehler gives it.  But the text is here corrupt; and it seems plain there must either be something lost relating to this “Achamoth,” or else some capital error in the reading, or, thirdly, some gross and unaccountable confusion in the writer: for the sentence as it stands is wholly irreconcilable with what follows. It evidently makes “Achamoth” identical with “the thirtieth Æon” above-named; and yet, without introducing any fresh subject, the writer goes on to state that this despondent Œon, who “conceived and bare,” was itself the offspring of despondency, and made an infirm world out of the infirm materials which “Achamoth” supposed it with. Now it is apparent from other sources—as, for instance, from Tert. adv. Valentin, above referred to—that the “thirtieth Æon” was supposed to be female, Sophia (Wisdom) by name, and that she was said to be the parent of “Achamoth,” or “Enthymesis” (see adv. Valentin. cc. ix. x. xi. xiv. xxv.), while “Achamoth” herself appears by some accounts to be also called κάτω Σοφία. The name “Achamoth” itself, which Tertullian (adv. Valentin. c. xiv. ad init.) calls an “uninterpretable name,” is believed to be a representation of a Hebrew word meaning “wisdom;” and hence, possibly, some of the confusion may have arisen,—from a promiscuous use, namely, of the titles “Achamoth” and “Sophia.” Moreover, it would appear that some words lower down as to the production by “Achamoth” of “Demiurgus,” must have dropped out. Unless these two omissions be supplied, the passage is wholly unintelligible.  Can the fact that the Hebrew word which “Achamoth” represents is a fem. pl. in any way explain this confused medley, or help to reconcile conflicting accounts? The ἄνω and κάτω Σοφία seem to point in some degree to some such solution of some of the existing difficulties. “Iao,” again, is a word which has cause much perplexity. Can it possibly be connected with ἰάομαι, “to heal?” [See note 8.]
  9. Mundum.
  10. Oehler’s suggestion is to vary the pointing so as to give this sense:  “The resurrection of this flesh he denies. But of a sister-Law and prophets,” etc. But this seems even more harsh than the other.
  11. “Alter,” i.e., perhaps another of the same class.
  12. It seems almost necessary to supply some word here; and as “Monade” follows, it seemed simple to supply “Monada.”