Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Hippolytus/The Refutation of All Heresies/Book VI/Part 33

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. V, Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, Book VI by Hippolytus, translated by John Henry MacMahon
Part 33

Chapter XXXII.—Valentinus Convicted of Plagiarisms from Plato.

I think that the heresy of Valentinus which is of Pythagorean (origin), has been sufficiently, indeed more than sufficiently, delineated. It therefore seems also expedient, that having explained his opinions, we should desist from (further) refutation (of his system). Plato, then, in expounding mysteries concerning the universe, writes to Dionysius expressing himself after some such manner[1] as this: “I must speak to you by riddles,[2] in order that if the letter may meet with any accident in its leaves by either sea or land, he who reads (what falls into his hands) may not understand it. For so it is.  All things are about the King of all, and on his account are all things, and he is cause of all the glorious (objects of creation). The second is about the second, and the third about the third. But pertaining to the King there is none of those things of which I have spoken. But after this the soul earnestly desires to learn what sort these are, looking upon those things that are akin to itself, and not one of these is (in itself) sufficient. This is, O son of Dionysius and Doris, the question (of yours) which is a cause of all evil things. Nay, but rather the solicitude concerning this is innate in the soul; and if one does not remove this, he will never really attain truth.[3] But what is astonishing in this matter, listen. For there are men who have heard these things—(men) furnished with capacities for learning, and furnished with capacities of memory, and persons who altogether in every way are endued with an aptitude for investigation with a view to inference. (These are) at present aged speculators.[4] And they assert that opinions which at one time were credible are now incredible, and that things once incredible are now the contrary. While, therefore, turning the eye of examination towards these (inquiries), exercise caution, lest at any time you should have reason to repent in regard of those things should they happen in a manner unbecoming to your dignity. On this account I have written nothing concerning these (points); nor is there any treatise of Plato’s (upon them), nor ever shall there be. The observations, however, now made are those of Socrates, conspicuous for virtue even while he was a young man.”

Valentinus, falling in with these (remarks), has made a fundamental principle in his system “the King of all,” whom Plato mentioned, and whom this heretic styles Pater, and Bythos, and Proarche[5] over the rest of the Æons. And when Plato uses the words, “what is second about things that are second,” Valentinus supposes to be second all the Æons that are within the limit (of the Pleroma, as well as) the limit (itself). And when Plato uses the words, “what is third about what is third,” he has (constituted as third) the entire of the arrangement (existing) outside the limit[6] and the Pleroma. And Valentinus has elucidated this (arrangement) very succinctly, in a psalm commencing from below, not as Plato does, from above, expressing himself thus: “I behold[7] all things suspended in air by spirit, and I perceive all things wafted by spirit; the flesh (I see) suspended from soul, but the soul shining out from air, and air depending from Æther, and fruits produced from Bythus, and the fœtus borne from the womb.” Thus (Valentinus) formed his opinion on such (points). Flesh, according to these (heretics), is matter which is suspended from the soul of the Demiurge. And soul shines out from air; that is, the Demiurge emerges from the spirit, (which is) outside the Pleroma. But air springs forth from Æther; that is, Sophia, which is outside (the Pleroma, is projected from the Pleroma) which is within the limit, and (from) the entire Pleroma (generally). And from Bythus fruits are produced; (that is,) the entire projection of the Æons is made from the Father. The opinions, then, advanced by Valentinus have been sufficiently declared. It remains for us to explain the tenets of those who have emanated from his school, though each adherent (of Valentinus) entertains different opinions.[8]


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Cruice thinks that the following extract from Plato’s epistles has been added by a second hand. [Cf. vol. iii. p. 181, this series.]
  2. There are some verbal diversities between the texts of Plato and Hippolytus, which a reference will show (see Plat., Epist., t. ix. p. 76, ed. Bekker).
  3. Some forty lines that follow in Plato’s letter are omitted here.
  4. Here likewise there is another deficiency as compared with the original letter.
  5. Miller’s text is, καὶ πᾶσι γῆν, etc. In the German and French edition of Hippolytus we have, instead of this, καὶ Προαρχὴν. The latter word is introduced on the authority of Epiphanius and Theodoret. Bernays proposes Σιγὴν, and Scott Πλάστην.  The Abbe Cruice considers Πλάστην an incongruous word as applied to the creation of spiritual beings.
  6. The word “limit” occurs twice in this sentence, and Bunsen alters the second into “Pleroma,” so that the words may be rendered thus: “Valentinus supposes to be second all the Æons that are within the Pleroma.”
  7. This is a Gnostic hymn, and is arranged metrically by Cruice, of which the following is a translation:— All things whirled on by spirit I see, Flesh from soul depending, And soul from air forth flashing, And air from æther hanging, And fruits from Bythus streaming, And from womb the infant growing.
  8. The text here is corrupt, but the above rendering follows the Abbe Cruice’s version. Bunsen’s emendation would, however, seem untenable.