Irenaeus – Against the Heresies Bk 1

Against the Heresies Book 1


1. Inasmuch [2655] as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, [2656] “minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith,” and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who founded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; [2657] and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth.

2. Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. One [2658] far superior to me has well said, in reference to this point, “A clever imitation in glass casts contempt, as it were, on that precious jewel the emerald (which is most highly esteemed by some), unless it come under the eye of one able to test and expose the counterfeit. Or, again, what inexperienced person can with ease detect the presence of brass when it has been mixed up with silver?” Lest, therefore, through my neglect, some should be carried off, even as sheep are by wolves, while they perceive not the true character of these men,–because they outwardly are covered with sheep’s clothing (against whom the Lord has enjoined [2659] us to be on our guard), and because their language resembles ours, while their sentiments are very different,–I have deemed it my duty (after reading some of the Commentaries, as they call them, of the disciples of Valentinus, and after making myself acquainted with their tenets through personal intercourse with some of them) to unfold to thee, my friend, these portentous and profound mysteries, which do not fall within the range of every intellect, because all have not sufficiently purged [2660] their brains. I do this, in order that thou, obtaining an acquaintance with these things, mayest in turn explain them to all those with whom thou art connected, and exhort them to avoid such an abyss of madness and of blasphemy against Christ. I intend, then, to the best of my ability, with brevity and clearness to set forth the opinions of those who are now promulgating heresy. I refer especially to the disciples of Ptolemaeus, whose school may be described as a bud from that of Valentinus. I shall also endeavour, according to my moderate ability, to furnish the means of overthrowing them, by showing how absurd and inconsistent with the truth are their statements. Not that I am practised either in composition or eloquence; but my feeling of affection prompts me to make known to thee and all thy companions those doctrines which have been kept in concealment until now, but which are at last, through the goodness of God, brought to light. “For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed, nor secret that shall not be made known.” [2661]

3. Thou wilt not expect from me, who am resident among the Keltae, [2662] and am accustomed for the most part to use a barbarous dialect, any display of rhetoric, which I have never learned, or any excellence of composition, which I have never practised, or any beauty and persuasiveness of style, to which I make no pretensions. But thou wilt accept in a kindly spirit what I in a like spirit write to thee simply, truthfully, and in my own homely way; whilst thou thyself (as being more capable than I am) wilt expand those ideas of which I send thee, as it were, only the seminal principles; and in the comprehensiveness of thy understanding, wilt develop to their full extent the points on which I briefly touch, so as to set with power before thy companions those things which I have uttered in weakness. In fine, as I (to gratify thy long-cherished desire for information regarding the tenets of these persons) have spared no pains, not only to make these doctrines known to thee, but also to furnish the means of showing their falsity; so shalt thou, according to the grace given to thee by the Lord, prove an earnest and efficient minister to others, that men may no longer be drawn away by the plausible system of these heretics, which I now proceed to describe. [2663]


[2655] The Greek original of the work of Irenaeus is from time to time recovered through the numerous quotations made from it by subsequent writers, especially by the author’s pupil Hippolytus, and by Epiphanius. The latter preserves (Haer. xxxi. secs. 9-32) the preface of Irenaeus, and most of the first book. An important difference of reading occurs between the Latin and Greek in the very first word. The translator manifestly read epei, quatenus, while in Epiphanius we find epi, against. The former is probably correct, and has been followed in our version. We have also supplied a clause, in order to avoid the extreme length of the sentence in the original, which runs on without any apodosis to the words anankaion hegesamen, “I have judged it necessary.”

[2656] 1 Tim. i. 4. The Latin has here genealogias infinitas, “endless genealogies,” as in textus receptus of New Testament.

[2657] As will be seen by and by, this fancied being was, in the Valentinian system, the creator of the material universe, but far inferior to the supreme ruler Bythus.

[2658] There are frequent references to Irenaeus to some venerable men who had preceded him in the Church. It is supposed that Pothinus, whom he succeeded at Lyons, is generally meant; but the reference may sometimes be to Polycarp, with whom in early life he had been acquainted. [On this matter of quotations from anonymous authors of the apostolic times, not infrequently made by Irenaeus, consult the important tractate of Dr. Routh, in his Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. i. 45-68.]

[2659] Comp. Matt. vii. 15.

[2660] The original is enkephalon exeptukasin, which the Latin translator renders simply, “have not sufficient brains.” He probably followed a somewhat different reading. Various emendations have been proposed, but the author may be understood by the ordinary text to be referring ironically to the boasted subtlety and sublimity of the Gnostics.

[2661] Matt. x. 26.

[2662] As Caesar informs us (Comm., i. 1), Gaul was divided into three parts, one of which was called Celtic Gaul, lying between the Seine and the Garonne. Of this division Lyons is the principal city.

[2663] [The reader will find a logical and easy introduction to the crabbed details which follow, by turning to chap. xxiii., and reading through succeeding chapters down to chap. xxix.]


Chapter I.

Absurd ideas of the disciples of Valentinus as to the origin, name, order, and conjugal productions of their fancied AEons, with the passages of Scripture which they adapt to their opinions.

1. They maintain, then, that in the invisible and ineffable heights above there exists a certain perfect, pre-existent AEon, [2664] whom they call Proarche, Propator, and Bythus, and describe as being invisible and incomprehensible. Eternal and unbegotten, he remained throughout innumerable cycles of ages in profound serenity and quiescence. There existed along with him Ennoea, whom they also call Charis and Sige. [2665] At last this Bythus determined to send forth from himself the beginning of all things, and deposited this production (which he had resolved to bring forth) in his contemporary Sige, even as seed is deposited in the womb. She then, having received this seed, and becoming pregnant, gave birth to Nous, who was both similar and equal to him who had produced him, and was alone capable of comprehending his father’s greatness. This Nous they call also Monogenes, and Father, and the Beginning of all Things. Along with him was also produced Aletheia; and these four constituted the first and first-begotten Pythagorean Tetrad, which they also denominate the root of all things. For there are first Bythus and Sige, and then Nous and Aletheia. And Monogenes, perceiving for what purpose he had been produced, also himself sent forth Logos and Zoe, being the father of all those who were to come after him, and the beginning and fashioning of the entire Pleroma. By the conjunction of Logos and Zoe were brought forth Anthropos and Ecclesia; and thus was formed the first-begotten Ogdoad, the root and substance of all things, called among them by four names, viz., Bythus, and Nous, and Logos, and Anthropos. For each of these is masculo-feminine, as follows: Propator was united by a conjunction with his Ennoea; then Monogenes, that is Nous, with Aletheia; Logos with Zoe, and Anthropos with Ecclesia.

2. These AEons having been produced for the glory of the Father, and wishing, by their own efforts, to effect this object, sent forth emanations by means of conjunction. Logos and Zoe, after producing Anthropos and Ecclesia, sent forth other ten AEons, whose names are the following: Bythius and Mixis, Ageratos and Henosis, Autophyes and Hedone, Acinetos and Syncrasis, Monogenes and Macaria. [2666] These are the ten AEons whom they declare to have been produced by Logos and Zoe. They then add that Anthropos himself, along with Ecclesia, produced twelve AEons, to whom they give the following names: Paracletus and Pistis, Patricos and Elpis, Metricos and Agape, Ainos and Synesis, Ecclesiasticus and Macariotes, Theletos and Sophia. 3. Such are the thirty AEons in the erroneous system of these men; and they are described as being wrapped up, so to speak, in silence, and known to none [except these professing teachers]. Moreover, they declare that this invisible and spiritual Pleroma of theirs is tripartite, being divided into an Ogdoad, a Decad, and a Duodecad. And for this reason they affirm it was that the “Saviour”– for they do not please to call Him “Lord”–did no work in public during the space of thirty years, [2667] thus setting forth the mystery of these AEons. They maintain also, that these thirty AEons are most plainly indicated in the parable [2668] of the labourers sent into the vineyard. For some are sent about the first hour, others about the third hour, others about the sixth hour, others about the ninth hour, and others about the eleventh hour. Now, if we add up the numbers of the hours here mentioned, the sum total will be thirty: for one, three, six, nine, and eleven, when added together, form thirty. And by the hours, they hold that the AEons were pointed out; while they maintain that these are great, and wonderful, and hitherto unspeakable mysteries which it is their special function to develop; and so they proceed when they find anything in the multitude [2669] of things contained in the Scriptures which they can adopt and accommodate to their baseless speculations.


[2664] This term AEon (Aion) seems to have been formed from the words aei on, ever-existing. “We may take aion, therefore,” says Harvey (Irenaeus, cxix.), “in the Valentinian acceptation of the word, to mean an emanation from the divine substance, subsisting co-ordinately and co-eternally with the Deity, the Pleroma still remaining one.”

[2665] Sige, however, was no true consort of Bythus, who included in himself the idea of male and female, and was the one cause of all things: comp. Hippolytus, Philosop., vi. 29. There seems to have been considerable disagreement among these heretics as to the completion of the mystical number thirty. Valentinus himself appears to have considered Bythus as a monad, and Sige as a mere nonentity. The two latest AEons, Christ and the Holy Spirit, would then complete the number thirty. But other Gnostic teachers included both Bythus and Sige in that mystical number.

[2666] It may be well to give here the English equivalents of the names of these AEons and their authors. They are as follows: Bythus, Profundity; Proarche, First-Beginning; Propator, First-Father; Ennoea, Idea; Charis, Grace; Sige, Silence; Nous, Intelligence; Aletheia, Truth; Logos, Word; Zoe, Life; Anthropos, Man; Ecclesia, Church; Bythius, Deep; Mixis, Mingling; Ageratos, Undecaying; Henosis, Union; Autophyes, Self-existent; Hedone, Pleasure; Acinetos, Immoveable; Syncrasis, Blending; Monogenes, Only-Begotten; Macaria, Happiness; Paracletus, Advocate; Pistis, Faith; Patricos, Ancestral; Elpis, Hope; Metricos, Metrical; Agape, Love; Ainos, Praise; Synesis, Understanding; Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastical; Macariotes, Felicity; Theletos, Desiderated; Sophia, Wisdom.

[2667] Luke iii. 23.

[2668] Matt. xx. 1-16.

[2669] Some omit en plethei, while others render the words “a definite number,” thus: “And if there is anything else in Scripture which is referred to by a definite number.”


Chapter II

The Propator was known to Monogenes alone. Ambition, disturbance, and danger into which Sophia fell; her shapeless offspring: she is restored by Horos. The production of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, in order to the completion of the AEons. Manner of the production of Jesus.

1. They proceed to tell us that the Propator of their scheme was known only to Monogenes, who sprang from him; in other words, only to Nous, while to all the others he was invisible and incomprehensible. And, according to them, Nous alone took pleasure in contemplating the Father, and exulting in considering his immeasurable greatness; while he also meditated how he might communicate to the rest of the AEons the greatness of the Father, revealing to them how vast and mighty he was, and how he was without beginning,–beyond comprehension, and altogether incapable of being seen. But, in accordance with the will of the Father, Sige restrained him, because it was his design to lead them all to an acquaintance with the aforesaid Propator, and to create within them a desire of investigating his nature. In like manner, the rest of the AEons also, in a kind of quiet way, had a wish to behold the Author of their being, and to contemplate that First Cause which had no beginning.

2. But there rushed forth in advance of the rest that AEon who was much the latest of them, and was the youngest of the Duodecad which sprang from Anthropos and Ecclesia, namely Sophia, and suffered passion apart from the embrace of her consort Theletos. This passion, indeed, first arose among those who were connected with Nous and Aletheia, but passed as by contagion to this degenerate AEon, who acted under a pretence of love, but was in reality influenced by temerity, because she had not, like Nous, enjoyed communion with the perfect Father. This passion, they say, consisted in a desire to search into the nature of the Father; for she wished, according to them, to comprehend his greatness. When she could not attain her end, inasmuch as she aimed at an impossibility, and thus became involved in an extreme agony of mind, while both on account of the vast profundity as well as the unsearchable nature of the Father, and on account of the love she bore him, she was ever stretching herself forward, there was danger lest she should at last have been absorbed by his sweetness, and resolved into his absolute essence, unless she had met with that Power which supports all things, and preserves them outside of the unspeakable greatness. This power they term Horos; by whom, they say, she was restrained and supported; and that then, having with difficulty been brought back to herself, she was convinced that the Father is incomprehensible, and so laid aside her original design, along with that passion which had arisen within her from the overwhelming influence of her admiration.

3. But others of them fabulously describe the passion and restoration of Sophia as follows: They say that she, having engaged in an impossible and impracticable attempt, brought forth an amorphous substance, such as her female nature enabled her to produce. [2670] When she looked upon it, her first feeling was one of grief, on account of the imperfection of its generation, and then of fear lest this should end [2671] her own existence. Next she lost, as it were, all command of herself, and was in the greatest perplexity while endeavouring to discover the cause of all this, and in what way she might conceal what had happened. Being greatly harassed by these passions, she at last changed her mind, and endeavoured to return anew to the Father. When, however, she in some measure made the attempt, strength failed her, and she became a suppliant of the Father. The other AEons, Nous in particular, presented their supplications along with her. And hence they declare material substance [2672] had its beginning from ignorance and grief, and fear and bewilderment.

4. The Father afterwards produces, in his own image, by means of Monogenes, the above-mentioned Horos, without conjunction, [2673] masculo-feminine. For they maintain that sometimes the Father acts in conjunction with Sige, but that at other times he shows himself independent both of male and female. They term this Horos both Stauros and Lytrotes, and Carpistes, and Horothetes, and Metagoges. [2674] And by this Horos they declare that Sophia was purified and established, while she was also restored to her proper conjunction. For her enthymesis (or inborn idea) having been taken away from her, along with its supervening passion, she herself certainly remained within the Pleroma; but her enthymesis, with its passion, was separated from her by Horos, fenced [2675] off, and expelled from that circle. This enthymesis was, no doubt, a spiritual substance, possessing some of the natural tendencies of an AEon, but at the same time shapeless and without form, because it had received nothing. [2676] And on this account they say that it was an imbecile and feminine production. [2677]

5. After this substance had been placed outside of the Pleroma of the AEons, and its mother restored to her proper conjunction, they tell us that Monogenes, acting in accordance with the prudent forethought of the Father, gave origin to another conjugal pair, namely Christ and the Holy Spirit (lest any of the AEons should fall into a calamity similar to that of Sophia), for the purpose of fortifying and strengthening the Pleroma, and who at the same time completed the number of the AEons. Christ then instructed them as to the nature of their conjunction, and taught them that those who possessed a comprehension of the Unbegotten were sufficient for themselves. [2678] He also announced among them what related to the knowledge of the Father,–namely, that he cannot be understood or comprehended, nor so much as seen or heard, except in so far as he is known by Monogenes only. And the reason why the rest of the AEons possess perpetual existence is found in that part of the Father’s nature which is incomprehensible; but the reason of their origin and formation was situated in that which may be comprehended regarding him, that is, in the Son. [2679] Christ, then, who had just been produced, effected these things among them.

6. But the Holy Spirit [2680] taught them to give thanks on being all rendered equal among themselves, and led them to a state of true repose. Thus, then, they tell us that the AEons were constituted equal to each other in form and sentiment, so that all became as Nous, and Logos, and Anthropos, and Christus. The female AEons, too, became all as Aletheia, and Zoe, and Spiritus, and Ecclesia. Everything, then, being thus established, and brought into a state of perfect rest, they next tell us that these beings sang praises with great joy to the Propator, who himself shared in the abounding exaltation. Then, out of gratitude for the great benefit which had been conferred on them, the whole Pleroma of the AEons, with one design and desire, and with the concurrence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, their Father also setting the seal of His approval on their conduct, brought together whatever each one had in himself of the greatest beauty and preciousness; and uniting all these contributions so as skilfully to blend the whole, they produced, to the honour and glory of Bythus, a being of most perfect beauty, the very star of the Pleroma, and the perfect fruit [of it], namely Jesus. Him they also speak of under the name of Saviour, and Christ, and patronymically, Logos, and Everything, because He was formed from the contributions of all. And then we are told that, by way of honour, angels of the same nature as Himself were simultaneously produced, to act as His body-guard.


[2670] Alluding to the Gnostic notion that, in generation, the male gives form, the female substance. Sophia, therefore, being a female AEon, gave to her enthymesis substance alone, without form. Comp. Hippol., Philosop., vi. 30.

[2671] Some render this obscure clause, “lest it should never attain perfection,” but the above seems preferable. See Hippol., vi. 31, where the fear referred to is extended to the whole Pleroma.

[2672] “The reader will observe the parallel; as the enthymesis of Bythus produced intelligent substance, so the enthymesis of Sophia resulted in the formation of material substance.”–Harvey.

[2673] Some propose reading these words in the dative rather than the accusative, and thus to make them refer to the image of the Father.

[2674] The meaning of these terms is as follows: Stauros means primarily a stake, and then a cross; Lytrotes is a Redeemer; Carpistes, according to Grabe, means an Emancipator, according to Neander a Reaper; Horothetes is one that fixes boundaries; and Metagoges is explained by Neander as being one that brings back, from the supposed function of Horos, to bring back all that sought to wander from the special grade of being assigned them.

[2675] The common text has aposterethenai, was deprived; but Billius proposes to read apostaurothenai, in conformity with the ancient Latin version, “crucifixam.”

[2676] That is, had not shared in any male influence, but was a purely female production.

[2677] Literally, “fruit.” Harvey remarks on this expression, “that what we understand by emanations, the Gnostic described as spiritual fructification; and as the seed of a tree is in itself, even in the embryo state, so these various AEons, as existing always in the divine nature, were co-eternal with it.”

[2678] This is an exceedingly obscure and difficult passage. Harvey’s rendering is: “For, say they, Christ taught them the nature of their copulae, (namely,) that being cognisant of their (limited) perception of the Unbegotten they needed no higher knowledge, and that He enounced,” etc. the words seem scarcely capable of yielding this sense: we have followed the interpretation of Billius.

[2679] Both the text and meaning are here very doubtful. Some think that the import of the sentence is, that the knowledge that the Father is incomprehensible secured the continued safety of the AEons, while the same knowledge conferred upon Monogenes his origin and form.

[2680] The Greek text inserts hen, one, before “Holy Spirit.”


Chapter III.

Texts of Holy Scripture used by these heretics to support their opinions.

1. Such, then, is the account they give of what took place within the Pleroma; such the calamities that flowed from the passion which seized upon the AEon who has been named, and who was within a little of perishing by being absorbed in the universal substance, through her inquisitive searching after the Father; such the consolidation [2681] [of that AEon] from her condition of agony by Horos, and Stauros, and Lytrotes, and Carpistes, and Horothetes, and Metagoges. [2682] Such also is the account of the generation of the later AEons, namely of the first Christ and of the Holy Spirit, both of whom were produced by the Father after the repentance [2683] [of Sophia], and of the second [2684] Christ (whom they also style Saviour), who owed his being to the joint contributions [of the AEons]. They tell us, however, that this knowledge has not been openly divulged, because all are not capable of receiving it, but has been mystically revealed by the Saviour through means of parables to those qualified for understanding it. This has been done as follows. The thirty AEons are indicated (as we have already remarked) by the thirty years during which they say the Saviour performed no public act, and by the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. Paul also, they affirm, very clearly and frequently names these AEons, and even goes so far as to preserve their order, when he says, “To all the generations of the AEons of the AEon.” [2685] Nay, we ourselves, when at the giving [2686] of thanks we pronounce the words, “To AEons of AEons” (for ever and ever), do set forth these AEons. And, in fine, wherever the words AEon or AEons occur, they at once refer them to these beings.

2. The production, again, of the Duodecad of the AEons, is indicated by the fact that the Lord was twelve [2687] years of age when He disputed with the teachers of the law, and by the election of the apostles, for of these there were twelve. [2688] The other eighteen AEons are made manifest in this way: that the Lord, [according to them,] conversed with His disciples for eighteen months [2689] after His resurrection from the dead. They also affirm that these eighteen AEons are strikingly indicated by the first two letters of His name [‘Iesous], namely Iota [2690] and Eta. And, in like manner, they assert that the ten AEons are pointed out by the letter Iota, which begins His name; while, for the same reason, they tell us the Saviour said, “One Iota, or one tittle, shall by no means pass away until all be fulfilled.” [2691]

3. They further maintain that the passion which took place in the case of the twelfth AEon is pointed at by the apostasy of Judas, who was the twelfth apostle, and also by the fact that Christ suffered in the twelfth month. For their opinion is, that He continued to preach for one year only after His baptism. The same thing is also most clearly indicated by the case of the woman who suffered from an issue of blood. For after she had been thus afflicted during twelve years, she was healed by the advent of the Saviour, when she had touched the border of His garment; and on this account the Saviour said, “Who touched me?” [2692] –teaching his disciples the mystery which had occurred among the AEons, and the healing of that AEon who had been involved in suffering. For she who had been afflicted twelve years represented that power whose essence, as they narrate, was stretching itself forth, and flowing into immensity; and unless she had touched the garment of the Son, [2693] that is, Aletheia of the first Tetrad, who is denoted by the hem spoken of, she would have been dissolved into the general essence [2694] [of which she participated]. She stopped short, however, and ceased any longer to suffer. For the power that went forth from the Son (and this power they term Horos) healed her, and separated the passion from her.

4. They moreover affirm that the Saviour [2695] is shown to be derived from all the AEons, and to be in Himself everything by the following passage: “Every male that openeth the womb.” [2696] For He, being everything, opened the womb [2697] of the enthymesis of the suffering AEon, when it had been expelled from the Pleroma. This they also style the second Ogdoad, of which we shall speak presently. And they state that it was clearly on this account that Paul said, “And He Himself is all things;” [2698] and again, “All things are to Him, and of Him are all things;” [2699] and further, “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead;” [2700] and yet again, “All things are gathered together by God in Christ.” [2701] Thus do they interpret these and any like passages to be found in Scripture.

5. They show, further, that that Horos of theirs, whom they call by a variety of names, has two faculties,–the one of supporting, and the other of separating; and in so far as he supports and sustains, he is Stauros, while in so far as he divides and separates, he is Horos. They then represent the Saviour as having indicated this twofold faculty: first, the sustaining power, when He said, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross (Stauros), and follow after me, cannot be my disciple;” [2702] and again, “Taking up the cross, follow me;” [2703] but the separating power when He said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” [2704] They also maintain that John indicated the same thing when he said, “The fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge the floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.” [2705] By this declaration He set forth the faculty of Horos. For that fan they explain to be the cross (Stauros), which consumes, no doubt, all material [2706] objects, as fire does chaff, but it purifies all them that are saved, as a fan does wheat. Moreover, they affirm that the Apostle Paul himself made mention of this cross in the following words: “The doctrine of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.” [2707] And again: “God forbid that I should glory in anything [2708] save in the cross of Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.”

6. Such, then, is the account which they all give of their Pleroma, and of the formation [2709] of the universe, striving, as they do, to adapt the good words of revelation to their own wicked inventions. And it is not only from the writings of the evangelists and the apostles that they endeavour to derive proofs for their opinions by means of perverse interpretations and deceitful expositions: they deal in the same way with the law and the prophets, which contain many parables and allegories that can frequently be drawn into various senses, according to the kind of exegesis to which they are subjected. And others [2710] of them, with great craftiness, adapted such parts of Scripture to their own figments, lead away captive from the truth those who do not retain a stedfast faith in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.


[2681] The reading is here very doubtful. We have followed the text of Grabe (approved by Harvey), ex agonos sumpexis.

[2682] These are all names of the same person: see above, ii. 4. Hence some have proposed the reading hexaionios instead of ex agonos, alluding to the sixfold appellation of the AEon Horos.

[2683] Billius renders, “from the repentance of the Father,” but the above seems preferable.

[2684] Harvey remarks, “Even in their Christology the Valentinians must have their part and counterpart.”

[2685] Or, “to all the generations of the ages of the age.” See Eph. iii. 21. The apostle, of course, simply uses these words as a strong expression to denote “for ever.”

[2686] Literally, “at the thanksgiving,” or “eucharist.” Massuet, the Benedictine editor, refers this to the Lord’s Supper, and hence concludes that some of the ancient liturgies still extant must even then have been in use. Harvey and others, however, deny that there is any necessity for supposing the Holy Eucharist to be referred to; the ancient Latin version translates in the plural, “in gratiarum actionibus.”

[2687] Luke ii. 42.

[2688] Luke vi. 13.

[2689] This opinion is in positive contradiction to the forty days mentioned by St. Luke (Acts i. 3). But the Valentinians seem to have followed a spurious writing of their own called “The Gospel of Truth.” See iii. 11, 8.

[2690] The numeral value of Iota in Greek is ten, and of Eta, eight.

[2691] Matt. v. 18.

[2692] Mark v. 31.

[2693] The Latin reads “filii,” which we have followed. Reference is made in this word to Nous, who was, as we have already seen, also called Son, and who interested himself in the recovery of Sophia. Aletheia was his consort, and was typified by the hem of the Saviour’s garment.

[2694] Her individuality (morphe) would have been lost, while her substance (ousia) would have survived in the common essence of the AEons.

[2695] That is, the “second Christ” referred to above, sec. 1. [It is much to be wished that this second were always distinguished by the untranslated name Soter.]

[2696] Ex. xiii. 2; Luke ii. 23.

[2697] Not as being born of it, but as fecundating it, and so producing a manifold offspring. See below.

[2698] Col. iii. 11.

[2699] Rom. xi. 36.

[2700] Col. ii. 9.

[2701] Eph. i. 10.

[2702] Luke xiv. 27. It will be observed that the quotations of Scripture made by Irenaeus often vary somewhat from the received text. This may be due to various reasons–his quoting from memory; his giving the texts in the form in which they were quoted by the heretics; or, as Harvey conjectures, from his having been more familiar with a Syriac version of the New Testament than with the Greek original.

[2703] Matt. x. 21.

[2704] Matt. x. 34.

[2705] Luke iii. 17.

[2706] Hence Stauros was called by the agricultural name Carpistes, as separating what was gross and material from the spiritual and heavenly.

[2707] 1 Cor. i. 18.

[2708] Gal. vi. 14. The words en medeni do not occur in the Greek text.

[2709] Billius renders, “of their opinion.”

[2710] The punctuation and rendering are here slightly doubtful.


Chapter IV.

Account given by the heretics of the formation of Achamoth; origin of the visible world from her disturbances.

1. The following are the transactions which they narrate as having occurred outside of the Pleroma: The enthymesis of that Sophia who dwells above, which they also term Achamoth, [2711] being removed from the Pleroma, together with her passion, they relate to have, as a matter of course, become violently excited in those places of darkness and vacuity [to which she had been banished]. For she was excluded from light [2712] and the Pleroma, and was without form or figure, like an untimely birth, because she had received nothing [2713] [from a male parent]. But the Christ dwelling on high took pity upon her; and having extended himself through and beyond Stauros, [2714] he imparted a figure to her, but merely as respected substance, and not so as to convey intelligence. [2715] Having effected this, he withdrew his influence, and returned, leaving Achamoth to herself, in order that she, becoming sensible of her suffering as being severed from the Pleroma, might be influenced by the desire of better things, while she possessed in the meantime a kind of odour of immortality left in her by Christ and the Holy Spirit. Wherefore also she is called by two names–Sophia after her father (for Sophia is spoken of as being her father), and Holy Spirit from that Spirit who is along with Christ. Having then obtained a form, along with intelligence, and being immediately deserted by that Logos who had been invisibly present with her–that is, by Christ –she strained herself to discover that light which had forsaken her, but could not effect her purpose, inasmuch as she was prevented by Horos. And as Horos thus obstructed her further progress, he exclaimed, Iao, [2716] whence, they say, this name Iao derived its origin. And when she could not pass by Horos on account of that passion in which she had been involved, and because she alone had been left without, she then resigned herself to every sort of that manifold and varied state of passion to which she was subject; and thus she suffered grief on the one hand because she had not obtained the object of her desire, and fear on the other hand, lest life itself should fail her, as light had already done, while, in addition, she was in the greatest perplexity. All these feelings were associated with ignorance. And this ignorance of hers was not like that of her mother, the first Sophia, an AEon, due to degeneracy by means of passion, but to an [innate] opposition [of nature to knowledge]. [2717] Moreover, another kind of passion fell upon her (Achamoth), namely, that of desiring to return to him who gave her life.

2. This collection [of passions] they declare was the substance of the matter from which this world was formed. For from [her desire of] returning [to him who gave her life], every soul belonging to this world, and that of the Demiurge [2718] himself, derived its origin. All other things owed their beginning to her terror and sorrow. For from her tears all that is of a liquid nature was formed; from her smile all that is lucent; and from her grief and perplexity all the corporeal elements of the world. For at one time, as they affirm, she would weep and lament on account of being left alone in the midst of darkness and vacuity; while, at another time, reflecting on the light which had forsaken her, she would be filled with joy, and laugh; then, again, she would be struck with terror; or, at other times, would sink into consternation and bewilderment.

3. Now what follows from all this? No light tragedy comes out of it, as the fancy of every man among them pompously explains, one in one way, and another in another, from what kind of passion and from what element being derived its origin. They have good reason, as seems to me, why they should not feel inclined to teach these things to all in public, but only to such as are able to pay a high price for an acquaintance with such profound mysteries. For these doctrines are not at all similar to those of which our Lord said, “Freely ye have received, freely give.” [2719] They are, on the contrary, abstruse, and portentous, and profound mysteries, to be got at only with great labour by such as are in love with falsehood. For who would not expend all that he possessed, if only he might learn in return, that from the tears of the enthymesis of the AEon involved in passion, seas, and fountains, and rivers, and every liquid substance derived its origin; that light burst forth from her smile; and that from her perplexity and consternation the corporeal elements of the world had their formation?

4. I feel somewhat inclined myself to contribute a few hints towards the development of their system. For when I perceive that waters are in part fresh, such as fountains, rivers, showers, and so on, and in part salt; such as those in the sea, I reflect with myself that all such waters cannot be derived from her tears, inasmuch as these are of a saline quality only. It is clear, therefore, that the waters which are salt are alone those which are derived from her tears. But it is probable that she, in her intense agony and perplexity, was covered with perspiration. And hence, following out their notion, we may conceive that fountains and rivers, and all the fresh water in the world, are due to this source. For it is difficult, since we know that all tears are of the same quality, to believe that waters both salt and fresh proceeded from them. The more plausible supposition is, that some are from her tears, and some from her perspiration. And since there are also in the world certain waters which are hot and acrid in their nature, thou must be left to guess their origin, how and whence. Such are some of the results of their hypothesis.

5. They go on to state that, when the mother Achamoth had passed through all sorts of passion, and had with difficulty escaped from them, she turned herself to supplicate the light which had forsaken her, that is, Christ. He, however, having returned to the Pleroma, and being probably unwilling again to descend from it, sent forth to her the Paraclete, that is, the Saviour. [2720] This being was endowed with all power by the Father, who placed everything under his authority, the AEons [2721] doing so likewise, so that “by him were all things, visible and invisible, created, thrones, divinities, dominions.” [2722] He then was sent to her along with his contemporary angels. And they related that Achamoth, filled with reverence, at first veiled herself through modesty, but that by and by, when she had looked upon him with all his endowments, and had acquired strength from his appearance, she ran forward to meet him. He then imparted to her form as respected intelligence, and brought healing to her passions, separating them from her, but not so as to drive them out of thought altogether. For it was not possible that they should be annihilated as in the former case, [2723] because they had already taken root and acquired strength [so as to possess an indestructible existence]. All that he could do was to separate them and set them apart, and then commingle and condense them, so as to transmute them from incorporeal passion into unorganized matter. [2724] He then by this process conferred upon them a fitness and a nature to become concretions and corporeal structures, in order that two substances should be formed,–the one evil, resulting from the passions, and the other subject indeed to suffering, but originating from her conversion. And on this account (i.e., on account of this hypostatizing of ideal matter) they say that the Saviour virtually [2725] created the world. But when Achamoth was freed from her passion, she gazed with rapture on the dazzling vision of the angels that were with him; and in her ecstasy, conceiving by them, they tell us that she brought forth new beings, partly after her own image, and partly a spiritual progeny after the image of the Saviour’s attendants.


[2711] This term, though Tertullian declares himself to have been ignorant of its derivation, was evidently formed from the Hebrew word chkmh–chockmah, wisdom.

[2712] The reader will observe that light and fulness are the exact correlatives of the darkness and vacuity which have just been mentioned.

[2713] As above stated (ii. 3), the Gnostics held that form and figure were due to the male, substance to the female parent.

[2714] The Valentinian Stauros was the boundary fence of the Pleroma beyond which Christ extended himself to assist the enthymesis of Sophia.

[2715] The peculiar gnosis which Nous received from his father, and communicated to the other AEons.

[2716] Probably corresponding to the Hebrew yhvh, Jehovah.

[2717] This sentence is very elliptical in the original, but the sense is as given above. Sophia fell from Gnosis by degradation; Achamoth never possessed this knowledge, her nature being from the first opposed to it.

[2718] “The Demiurge derived from Enthymesis an animal, and not a spiritual nature.”– Harvey.

[2719] Matt. x. 8.

[2720] “Jesus, or Soter, was also called the Paraclete in the sense of Advocate, or one acting as the representative of others.”–Harvey.

[2721] Both the Father and the other AEons constituting Soter an impersonation of the entire Pleroma.

[2722] Col. i. 16.

[2723] That is, as in the case of her mother Sophia, who is sometimes called “the Sophia above,” Achamoth being “the Sophia below,” or “the second Sophia.”

[2724] Thus Harvey renders asomaton hulen: so Baur, Chr. Gnos., as quoted by Stieren. Billius proposes to read ensomaton, corporeal.

[2725] Though not actually, for that was the work of the Demiurge. See next chapter.


Chapter V.

Formation of the Demiurge; description of him. He is the creator of everything outside of the Pleroma.

1. These three kinds of existence, then, having, according to them, been now formed,–one from the passion, which was matter; a second from the conversion, which was animal; and the third, that which she (Achamoth) herself brought forth, which was spiritual,–she next addressed herself to the task of giving these form. But she could not succeed in doing this as respected the spiritual existence, because it was of the same nature with herself. She therefore applied herself to give form to the animal substance which had proceeded from her own conversion, and to bring forth to light the instructions of the Saviour. [2726] And they say she first formed out of animal substance him who is Father and King of all things, both of these which are of the same nature with himself, that is, animal substances, which they also call right-handed, and those which sprang from the passion, and from matter, which they call left-handed. For they affirm that he formed all the things which came into existence after him, being secretly impelled thereto by his mother. From this circumstance they style him Metropator, [2727] Apator, Demiurge, and Father, saying that he is Father of the substances on the right hand, that is, of the animal, but Demiurge of those on the left, that is, of the material, while he is at the same time the king of all. For they say that this Enthymesis, desirous of making all things to the honour of the AEons, formed images of them, or rather that the Saviour [2728] did so through her instrumentality. And she, in the image [2729] of the invisible Father, kept herself concealed from the Demiurge. But he was in the image of the only-begotten Son, and the angels and archangels created by him were in the image of the rest of the AEons.

2. They affirm, therefore, that he was constituted the Father and God of everything outside of the Pleroma, being the creator of all animal and material substances. For he it was that discriminated these two kinds of existence hitherto confused, and made corporeal from incorporeal substances, fashioned things heavenly and earthly, and became the Framer (Demiurge) of things material and animal, of those on the right and those on the left, of the light and of the heavy, and of those tending upwards as well as of those tending downwards. He created also seven heavens, above which they say that he, the Demiurge, exists. And on this account they term him Hebdomas, and his mother Achamoth Ogdoads, preserving the number of the first-begotten and primary Ogdoad as the Pleroma. They affirm, moreover, that these seven heavens are intelligent, and speak of them as being angels, while they refer to the Demiurge himself as being an angel bearing a likeness to God; and in the same strain, they declare that Paradise, situated above the third heaven, is a fourth angel possessed of power, from whom Adam derived certain qualities while he conversed with him.

3. They go on to say that the Demiurge imagined that he created all these things of himself, while he in reality made them in conjunction with the productive power of Achamoth. He formed the heavens, yet was ignorant of the heavens; he fashioned man, yet knew not man; he brought to light the earth, yet had no acquaintance with the earth; and, in like manner, they declare that he was ignorant of the forms of all that he made, and knew not even of the existence of his own mother, but imagined that he himself was all things. They further affirm that his mother originated this opinion in his mind, because she desired to bring him forth possessed of such a character that he should be the head and source of his own essence, and the absolute ruler over every kind of operation [that was afterwards attempted]. This mother they also call Ogdoad, Sophia, Terra, Jerusalem, Holy Spirit, and, with a masculine reference, Lord. [2730] Her place of habitation is an intermediate one, above the Demiurge indeed, but below and outside of the Pleroma, even to the end. [2731]

4. As, then, they represent all material substance to be formed from three passions, viz., fear, grief, and perplexity, the account they give is as follows: Animal substances originated from fear and from conversion; the Demiurge they also describe as owing his origin to conversion; but the existence of all the other animal substances they ascribe to fear, such as the souls of irrational animals, and of wild beasts, and men. And on this account, he (the Demiurge), being incapable of recognising any spiritual essences, imagined himself to be God alone, and declared through the prophets, “I am God, and besides me there is none else.” [2732] They further teach that the spirits of wickedness derived their origin from grief. Hence the devil, whom they also call Cosmocrator (the ruler of the world), and the demons, and the angels, and every wicked spiritual being that exists, found the source of their existence. They represent the Demiurge as being the son of that mother of theirs (Achamoth), and Cosmocrator as the creature of the Demiurge. Cosmocrator has knowledge of what is above himself, because he is a spirit of wickedness; but the Demiurge is ignorant of such things, inasmuch as he is merely animal. Their mother dwells in that place which is above the heavens, that is, in the intermediate abode; the Demiurge in the heavenly place, that is, in the hebdomad; but the Cosmocrator in this our world. The corporeal elements of the world, again, sprang, as we before remarked, from bewilderment and perplexity, as from a more ignoble source. Thus the earth arose from her state of stupor; water from the agitation caused by her fear; air from the consolidation of her grief; while fire, producing death and corruption, was inherent in all these elements, even as they teach that ignorance also lay concealed in these three passions.

5. Having thus formed the world, he (the Demiurge) also created the earthy [part of] man, not taking him from this dry earth, but from an invisible substance consisting of fusible and fluid matter, and then afterwards, as they define the process, breathed into him the animal part of his nature. It was this latter which was created after his image and likeness. The material part, indeed, was very near to God, so far as the image went, but not of the same substance with him. The animal, on the other hand, was so in respect to likeness; and hence his substance was called the spirit of life, because it took its rise from a spiritual outflowing. After all this, he was, they say, enveloped all round with a covering of skin; and by this they mean the outward sensitive flesh.

6. But they further affirm that the Demiurge himself was ignorant of that offspring of his mother Achamoth, which she brought forth as a consequence of her contemplation of those angels who waited on the Saviour, and which was, like herself, of a spiritual nature. She took advantage of this ignorance to deposit it (her production) in him without his knowledge, in order that, being by his instrumentality infused into that animal soul proceeding from himself, and being thus carried as in a womb in this material body, while it gradually increased in strength, might in course of time become fitted for the reception of perfect rationality. [2733] Thus it came to pass, then, according to them, that, without any knowledge on the part of the Demiurge, the man formed by his inspiration was at the same time, through an unspeakable providence, rendered a spiritual man by the simultaneous inspiration received from Sophia. For, as he was ignorant of his mother, so neither did he recognise her offspring. This [offspring] they also declare to be the Ecclesia, an emblem of the Ecclesia which is above. This, then, is the kind of man whom they conceive of: he has his animal soul from the Demiurge, his body from the earth, his fleshy part from matter, and his spiritual man from the mother Achamoth.


[2726] “In order that,” says Grabe, “this formation might not be merely according to essence, but also according to knowledge, as the formation of the mother Achamoth was characterized above.”

[2727] Metropator, as proceeding only from his mother Achamoth: Apator, as having no male progenitor.

[2728] Harvey remarks, “The Valentinian Saviour being an aggregation of all the aeonic perfections, the images of them were reproduced by the spiritual conception of Achamoth beholding the glory of Soter. The reader will not fail to observe that every successive development is the reflex of a more divine antecedent.”

[2729] The relation indicated seems to be as follows: Achamoth, after being formed “according to knowledge,” was outside of the Pleroma as the image of Propator, the Demiurge was as Nous, and the mundane angels which he formed corresponded to the other AEons of the Pleroma.

[2730] “Achamoth by these names must be understood to have an intermediate position between the divine prototypal idea and creation: she was the reflex of the one, and therefore masculo-feminine; she was the pattern to be realized in the latter, and therefore was named Earth and Jerusalem.” –Harvey.

[2731] But after the consummation here referred to, Achamoth regained the Pleroma: see below, chap. vii. 1.

[2732] Isa. xlv. 5, 6, Isa. xlvi. 9.

[2733] An account is here given of the infusion of a spiritual principle into mankind. The Demiurge himself could give no more than the animal soul; but, unwittingly to himself, he was made the instrument of conveying that spiritual essence from Achamoth, which had grown up within her from the contemplation of those angels who accompanied the Saviour.


Chapter VI

The threefold kind of man feigned by these heretics: good works needless for them, though necessary to others: their abandoned morals.

1. There being thus three kinds of substances, they declare of all that is material (which they also describe as being “on the left hand”) that it must of necessity perish, inasmuch as it is incapable of receiving any afflatus of incorruption. As to every animal existence (which they also denominate “on the right hand”), they hold that, inasmuch as it is a mean between the spiritual and the material, it passes to the side to which inclination draws it. Spiritual substance, again, they describe as having been sent forth for this end, that, being here united with that which is animal, it might assume shape, the two elements being simultaneously subjected to the same discipline. And this they declare to be “the salt” [2734] and “the light of the world.” For the animal substance had need of training by means of the outward senses; and on this account they affirm that the world was created, as well as that the Saviour came to the animal substance (which was possessed of free-will), that He might secure for it salvation. For they affirm that He received the first-fruits of those whom He was to save [as follows], from Achamoth that which was spiritual, while He was invested by the Demiurge with the animal Christ, but was begirt [2735] by a [special] dispensation with a body endowed with an animal nature, yet constructed with unspeakable skill, so that it might be visible and tangible, and capable of enduring suffering. At the same time, they deny that He assumed anything material [into His nature], since indeed matter is incapable of salvation. They further hold that the consummation of all things will take place when all that is spiritual has been formed and perfected by Gnosis (knowledge); and by this they mean spiritual men who have attained to the perfect knowledge of God, and been initiated into these mysteries by Achamoth. And they represent themselves to be these persons.

2. Animal men, again, are instructed in animal things; such men, namely, as are established by their works, and by a mere faith, while they have not perfect knowledge. We of the Church, they say, are these persons. [2736] Wherefore also they maintain that good works are necessary to us, for that otherwise it is impossible we should be saved. But as to themselves, they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature. [2737] For, just as it is impossible that material substance should partake of salvation (since, indeed, they maintain that it is incapable of receiving it), so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged. For even as gold, when submersed in filth, loses not on that account its beauty, but retains its own native qualities, the filth having no power to injure the gold, so they affirm that they cannot in any measure suffer hurt, or lose their spiritual substance, whatever the material actions in which they may be involved.

3. Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” [2738] For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols, imagining that they can in this way contract no defilement. Then, again, at every heathen festival celebrated in honour of the idols, these men are the first to assemble; and to such a pitch do they go, that some of them do not even keep away from that bloody spectacle hateful both to God and men, in which gladiators either fight with wild beasts, or singly encounter one another. Others of them yield themselves up to the lusts of the flesh with the utmost greediness, maintaining that carnal things should be allowed to the carnal nature, while spiritual things are provided for the spiritual. Some of them, moreover, are in the habit of defiling those women to whom they have taught the above doctrine, as has frequently been confessed by those women who have been led astray by certain of them, on their returning to the Church of God, and acknowledging this along with the rest of their errors. Others of them, too, openly and without a blush, having become passionately attached to certain women, seduce them away from their husbands, and contract marriages of their own with them. Others of them, again, who pretend at first to live in all modesty with them as with sisters, have in course of time been revealed in their true colours, when the sister has been found with child by her [pretended] brother.

4. And committing many other abominations and impieties, they run us down (who from the fear of God guard against sinning even in thought or word) as utterly contemptible and ignorant persons, while they highly exalt themselves, and claim to be perfect, and the elect seed. For they declare that we simply receive grace for use, wherefore also it will again be taken away from us; but that they themselves have grace as their own special possession, which has descended from above by means of an unspeakable and indescribable conjunction; and on this account more will be given them. [2739] They maintain, therefore, that in every way it is always necessary for them to practise the mystery of conjunction. And that they may persuade the thoughtless to believe this, they are in the habit of using these very words, “Whosoever being in this world does not so love a woman as to obtain possession of her, is not of the truth, nor shall attain to the truth. But whosoever being of [2740] this world has intercourse with woman, shall not attain to the truth, because he has so acted under the power of concupiscence.” On this account, they tell us that it is necessary for us whom they call animal men, and describe as being of the world, to practise continence and good works, that by this means we may attain at length to the intermediate habitation, but that to them who are called “the spiritual and perfect” such a course of conduct is not at all necessary. For it is not conduct of any kind which leads into the Pleroma, but the seed sent forth thence in a feeble, immature state, and here brought to perfection.


[2734] Matt. v. 13, 14.

[2735] “The doctrine of Valentinus, therefore,” says Harvey, “as regards the human nature of Christ, was essentially Docetic. His body was animal, but not material, and only visible and tangible as having been formed kat’ oikonomian and kateskeuasmenon arrheto techne.”

[2736] [That is, carnal; men of the carnal mind, psychic instead of pneumatic. Rom. viii. 6.]

[2737] On account of what they had received from Achamoth.

[2738] Gal. v. 21.

[2739] Comp. Luke xix. 26.

[2740] Comp. John xvii. 16. The Valentinians, while in the world, claimed to be not of the world, as animal men were.


Chapter VII.

The mother Achamoth, when all her seed are perfected, shall pass into the Pleroma, accompanied by those men who are spiritual; the Demiurge, with animal men, shall pass into the intermediate habitation; but all material men shall go into corruption. Their blasphemous opinions against the true incarnation of Christ by the Virgin Mary. Their views as to the prophecies. Stupid ignorance of the Demiurge.

1. When all the seed shall have come to perfection, they state that then their mother Achamoth shall pass from the intermediate place, and enter in within the Pleroma, and shall receive as her spouse the Saviour, who sprang from all the AEons, that thus a conjunction may be formed between the Saviour and Sophia, that is, Achamoth. These, then, are the bridegroom and bride, while the nuptial chamber is the full extent of the Pleroma. The spiritual seed, again, being divested of their animal souls, [2741] and becoming intelligent spirits, shall in an irresistible and invisible manner enter in within the Pleroma, and be bestowed as brides on those angels who wait upon the Saviour. The Demiurge himself will pass into the place of his mother Sophia; [2742] that is, the intermediate habitation. In this intermediate place, also, shall the souls of the righteous repose; but nothing of an animal nature shall find admittance to the Pleroma. When these things have taken place as described, then shall that fire which lies hidden in the world blaze forth and burn; and while destroying all matter, shall also be extinguished along with it, and have no further existence. They affirm that the Demiurge was acquainted with none of these things before the advent of the Saviour.

2. There are also some who maintain that he also produced Christ as his own proper son, but of an animal nature, and that mention was [2743] made of him by the prophets. This Christ passed through Mary [2744] just as water flows through a tube; and there descended upon him in the form of a dove at the time of his baptism, that Saviour who belonged to the Pleroma, and was formed by the combined efforts of all its inhabitants. In him there existed also that spiritual seed which proceeded from Achamoth. They hold, accordingly, that our Lord, while preserving the type of the first-begotten and primary tetrad, was compounded of these four substances,–of that which is spiritual, in so far as He was from Achamoth; of that which is animal, as being from the Demiurge by a special dispensation, inasmuch as He was formed [corporeally] with unspeakable skill; and of the Saviour, as respects that dove which descended upon Him. He also continued free from all suffering, since indeed it was not possible that He should suffer who was at once incomprehensible and invisible. And for this reason the Spirit of Christ, who had been placed within Him, was taken away when He was brought before Pilate. They maintain, further, that not even the seed which He had received from the mother [Achamoth] was subject to suffering; for it, too, was impassible, as being spiritual, and invisible even to the Demiurge himself. It follows, then, according to them, that the animal Christ, and that which had been formed mysteriously by a special dispensation, underwent suffering, that the mother might exhibit through him a type of the Christ above, namely, of him who extended himself through Stauros, [2745] and imparted to Achamoth shape, so far as substance was concerned. For they declare that all these transactions were counterparts of what took place above.

3. They maintain, moreover, that those souls which possess the seed of Achamoth are superior to the rest, and are more dearly loved by the Demiurge than others, while he knows not the true cause thereof, but imagines that they are what they are through his favour towards them. Wherefore, also, they say he distributed them to prophets, priests, and kings; and they declare that many things were spoken [2746] by this seed through the prophets, inasmuch as it was endowed with a transcendently lofty nature. The mother also, they say, spake much about things above, and that both through him and through the souls which were formed by him. Then, again, they divide the prophecies [into different classes], maintaining that one portion was uttered by the mother, a second by her seed, and a third by the Demiurge. In like manner, they hold that Jesus uttered some things under the influence of the Saviour, others under that of the mother, and others still under that of the Demiurge, as we shall show further on in our work.

4. The Demiurge, while ignorant of those things which were higher than himself, was indeed excited by the announcements made [through the prophets], but treated them with contempt, attributing them sometimes to one cause and sometimes to another; either to the prophetic spirit (which itself possesses the power of self-excitement), or to [mere unassisted] man, or that it was simply a crafty device of the lower [and baser order of men]. [2747] He remained thus ignorant until the appearing of the Lord. But they relate that when the Saviour came, the Demiurge learned all things from Him, and gladly with all his power joined himself to Him. They maintain that he is the centurion mentioned in the Gospel, who addressed the Saviour in these words: “For I also am one having soldiers and servants under my authority; and whatsoever I command they do.” [2748] They further hold that he will continue administering the affairs of the world as long as that is fitting and needful, and specially that he may exercise a care over the Church; while at the same time he is influenced by the knowledge of the reward prepared for him, namely, that he may attain to the habitation of his mother.

5. They conceive, then, of three kinds of men, spiritual, material, and animal, represented by Cain, Abel, and Seth. These three natures are no longer found in one person, [2749] but constitute various kinds [of men]. The material goes, as a matter of course, into corruption. The animal, if it make choice of the better part, finds repose in the intermediate place; but if the worse, it too shall pass into destruction. But they assert that the spiritual principles which have been sown by Achamoth, being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls (because when given forth by her they were yet but weak), at last attaining to perfection, shall be given as brides to the angels of the Saviour, while their animal souls of necessity rest for ever with the Demiurge in the intermediate place. And again subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and others by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the [spiritual] seed; the evil by nature are those who are never able to receive that seed.


[2741] Their spiritual substance was received from Achamoth; their animal souls were created by the Demiurge. These are now separated; the spirit enters the Pleroma, while the soul remains in heaven.

[2742] Viz., Achamoth.

[2743] A Syriac fragment here reads, “He spake by the prophets through him.”

[2744] “Thus,” says Harvey, “we may trace back to the Gnostic period the Apollinarian error, closely allied to the Docetic, that the body of Christ was not derived from the blessed Virgin, but that it was of heavenly substance, and was only brought forth into the world through her instrumentality.”

[2745] By thus extending himself through Stauros, who bounded the Pleroma, the Christ above became the type of the Christ below, who was extended upon the cross.

[2746] Billius, following the old Latin version, reads, “They interpret many things, spoken by the prophets, of this seed.”

[2747] Such appears to be the meaning of this sentence, but the original is very obscure. The writer seems to refer to the spiritual, the animal, and the material classes of men, and to imply that the Demiurge supposed some prophecies to be due to one of these classes, and some to the others.

[2748] Matt. viii. 9; Luke vii. 8.

[2749] As was the case at first, in Adam.


Chapter VIII.

How the Valentinians pervert the Scriptures to support their own pious opinions.

1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; [2750] and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions. We have already stated how far they proceed in this way with respect to the interior of the Pleroma.

2. Then, again, as to those things outside of their Pleroma, the following are some specimens of what they attempt to accommodate out of the Scriptures to their opinions. They affirm that the Lord came in the last times of the world to endure suffering, for this end, that He might indicate the passion which occurred to the last of the AEons, and might by His own end announce the cessation of that disturbance which had risen among the AEons. They maintain, further, that that girl of twelve years old, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, [2751] to whom the Lord approached and raised her from the dead, was a type of Achamoth, to whom their Christ, by extending himself, imparted shape, and whom he led anew to the perception of that light which had forsaken her. And that the Saviour appeared to her when she lay outside of the Pleroma as a kind of abortion, they affirm Paul to have declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians [in these words], “And last of all, He appeared to me also, as to one born out of due time.” [2752] Again, the coming of the Saviour with His attendants to Achamoth is declared in like manner by him in the same Epistle, when he says, “A woman ought to have a veil upon her head, because of the angels.” [2753] Now, that Achamoth, when the Saviour came to her, drew a veil over herself through modesty, Moses rendered manifest when he put a veil upon his face. Then, also, they say that the passions which she endured were indicated by the Lord upon the cross. Thus, when He said, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [2754] He simply showed that Sophia was deserted by the light, and was restrained by Horos from making any advance forward. Her anguish, again, was indicated when He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;” [2755] her fear by the words, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me;” [2756] and her perplexity, too, when He said, “And what I shall say, I know not.” [2757]

3. And they teach that He pointed out the three kinds of men as follows: the material, when He said to him that asked Him, “Shall I follow Thee?” [2758] “The Son of man hath not where to lay His head;”– the animal, when He said to him that declared, “I will follow Thee, but suffer me first to bid them farewell that are in my house,” “No man, putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven” [2759] (for this man they declare to be of the intermediate class, even as they do that other who, though he professed to have wrought a large amount of righteousness, yet refused to follow Him, and was so overcome by [the love of] riches, as never to reach perfection)–this one it pleases them to place in the animal class;–the spiritual, again, when He said, “Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God,” [2760] and when He said to Zaccheus the publican, “Make haste, and come down, for to-day I must abide in thine house” [2761] –for these they declared to have belonged to the spiritual class. Also the parable of the leaven which the woman is described as having hid in three measures of meal, they declare to make manifest the three classes. For, according to their teaching, the woman represented Sophia; the three measures of meal, the three kinds of men– spiritual, animal, and material; while the leaven denoted the Saviour Himself. Paul, too, very plainly set forth the material, animal, and spiritual, saying in one place, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy;” [2762] and in another place, “But the animal man receiveth not the things of the Spirit;” [2763] and again: “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” [2764] And this, “The animal man receiveth not the things of the Spirit,” they affirm to have been spoken concerning the Demiurge, who, as being animal, knew neither his mother who was spiritual, nor her seed, nor the AEons in the Pleroma. And that the Saviour received first-fruits of those whom He was to save, Paul declared when he said, “And if the first-fruits be holy, the lump is also holy,” [2765] teaching that the expression “first-fruits” denoted that which is spiritual, but that “the lump” meant us, that is, the animal Church, the lump of which they say He assumed, and blended it with Himself, inasmuch as He is “the leaven.”

4. Moreover, that Achamoth wandered beyond the Pleroma, and received form from Christ, and was sought after by the Saviour, they declare that He indicated when He said, that He had come after that sheep which was gone astray. [2766] For they explain the wandering sheep to mean their mother, by whom they represent the Church as having been sown. The wandering itself denotes her stay outside of the Pleroma in a state of varied passion, from which they maintain that matter derived its origin. The woman, again, who sweeps the house and finds the piece of money, they declare to denote the Sophia above, who, having lost her enthymesis, afterwards recovered it, on all things being purified by the advent of the Saviour. Wherefore this substance also, according to them, was reinstated in Pleroma. They say, too, that Simeon, “who took Christ into his arms, and gave thanks to God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word,” [2767] was a type of the Demiurge, who, on the arrival of the Saviour, learned his own change of place, and gave thanks to Bythus. They also assert that by Anna, who is spoken of in the gospel [2768] as a prophetess, and who, after living seven years with her husband, passed all the rest of her life in widowhood until she saw the Saviour, and recognised Him, and spoke of Him to all, was most plainly indicated Achamoth, who, having for a little while looked upon the Saviour with His associates, and dwelling all the rest of the time in the intermediate place, waited for Him till He should come again, and restore her to her proper consort. Her name, too, was indicated by the Saviour, when He said, “Yet wisdom is justified by her children.” [2769] This, too, was done by Paul in these words, “But we speak wisdom among them that are perfect.” [2770] They declare also that Paul has referred to the conjunctions within the Pleroma, showing them forth by means of one; for, when writing of the conjugal union in this life, he expressed himself thus: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” [2771]

5. Further, they teach that John, the disciple of the Lord, indicated the first Ogdoad, expressing themselves in these words: John, the disciple of the Lord, wishing to set forth the origin of all things, so as to explain how the Father produced the whole, lays down a certain principle,–that, namely, which was first-begotten by God, which Being he has termed both the only-begotten Son and God, in whom the Father, after a seminal manner, brought forth all things. By him the Word was produced, and in him the whole substance of the AEons, to which the Word himself afterwards imparted form. Since, therefore, he treats of the first origin of things, he rightly proceeds in his teaching from the beginning, that is, from God and the Word. And he expresses himself thus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God.” [2772] Having first of all distinguished these three–God, the Beginning, and the Word –he again unites them, that he may exhibit the production of each of them, that is, of the Son and of the Word, and may at the same time show their union with one another, and with the Father. For “the beginning” is in the Father, and of the Father, while “the Word” is in the beginning, and of the beginning. Very properly, then, did he say, “In the beginning was the Word,” for He was in the Son; “and the Word was with God,” for He was the beginning; “and the Word was God,” of course, for that which is begotten of God is God. “The same was in the beginning with God”–this clause discloses the order of production. “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made;” [2773] for the Word was the author of form and beginning to all the AEons that came into existence after Him. But “what was made in Him,” says John, “is life.” [2774] Here again he indicated conjunction; for all things, he said, were made by Him, but in Him was life. This, then, which is in Him, is more closely connected with Him than those things which were simply made by Him, for it exists along with Him, and is developed by Him. When, again, he adds, “And the life was the light of men,” while thus mentioning Anthropos, he indicated also Ecclesia by that one expression, in order that, by using only one name, he might disclose their fellowship with one another, in virtue of their conjunction. For Anthropos and Ecclesia spring from Logos and Zoe. Moreover, he styled life (Zoe) the light of men, because they are enlightened by her, that is, formed and made manifest. This also Paul declares in these words: “For whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” [2775] Since, therefore, Zoe manifested and begat both Anthropos and Ecclesia, she is termed their light. Thus, then, did John by these words reveal both other things and the second Tetrad, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia. And still further, he also indicated the first Tetrad. For, in discoursing of the Saviour and declaring that all things beyond the Pleroma received form from Him, he says that He is the fruit of the entire Pleroma. For he styles Him a “light which shineth in darkness, and which was not comprehended” [2776] by it, inasmuch as, when He imparted form to all those things which had their origin from passion, He was not known by it. [2777] He also styles Him Son, and Aletheia, and Zoe, and the “Word made flesh, whose glory,” he says, “we beheld; and His glory was as that of the Only-begotten (given to Him by the Father), full of grace and truth.” [2778] (But what John really does say is this: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” [2779] ) Thus, then, does he [according to them] distinctly set forth the first Tetrad, when he speaks of the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia. In this way, too, does John tell of the first Ogdoad, and that which is the mother of all the AEons. For he mentions the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia, and Logos, and Zoe, and Anthropos, and Ecclesia. Such are the views of Ptolemaeus. [2780]


[2750] Literally, “reading from things unwritten.”

[2751] Luke viii. 41.

[2752] 1 Cor. xv. 8.

[2753] 1 Cor. xi. 10. Irenaeus here reads kalumma, veil, instead of exousian, power, as in the received text. [An interesting fact, as it betokens an old gloss, which may have slipped into the text of some ancient mss.]

[2754] Matt. xxvii. 46.

[2755] Matt. xxvi. 38.

[2756] Matt. xxvi. 39.

[2757] John xii. 27. The Valentinians seem, for their own purposes, to have added ouk oida to this text.

[2758] Luke ix. 57, 58.

[2759] Luke ix. 61, 62.

[2760] Luke ix. 60.

[2761] Luke xix. 5.

[2762] 1 Cor. xv. 48.

[2763] 1 Cor. ii. 14.

[2764] 1 Cor. ii. 15.

[2765] Rom. xi. 16.

[2766] Luke xv. 4, 8.

[2767] Luke ii. 28.

[2768] Luke ii. 36.

[2769] Luke vii. 35.

[2770] 1 Cor. ii. 6.

[2771] Eph. v. 32.

[2772] John i. 1, 2.

[2773] John i. 3.

[2774] John i. 3, 4. The punctuation here followed is different from that commonly adopted, but is found in many of the Fathers, and in some of the most ancient mss.

[2775] Eph. v. 13.

[2776] John i. 5.

[2777] hup’ autes, occurring twice, is rendered both times in the old Latin version, “ab eis.” The reference is to skotia, darkness, i.e., all those not belonging to the spiritual seed.

[2778] Comp. John i. 14.

[2779] This is parenthetically inserted by the author, to show the misquotation of Scripture by these heretics. [2780] These words are wanting in the Greek, but are inserted in the old Latin version.


Chapter IX.

Refutation of the impious interpretations of these heretics.

1. You see, my friend, the method which these men employ to deceive themselves, while they abuse the Scriptures by endeavouring to support their own system out of them. For this reason, I have brought forward their modes of expressing themselves, that thus thou mightest understand the deceitfulness of their procedure, and the wickedness of their error. For, in the first place, if it had been John’s intention to set forth that Ogdoad above, he would surely have preserved the order of its production, and would doubtless have placed the primary Tetrad first as being, according to them, most venerable and would then have annexed the second, that, by the sequence of the names, the order of the Ogdoad might be exhibited, and not after so long an interval, as if forgetful for the moment and then again calling the matter to mind, he, last of all, made mention of the primary Tetrad. In the next place, if he had meant to indicate their conjunctions, he certainly would not have omitted the name of Ecclesia; while, with respect to the other conjunctions, he either would have been satisfied with the mention of the male [AEons] (since the others [like Ecclesia] might be understood), so as to preserve a uniformity throughout; or if he enumerated the conjunctions of the rest, he would also have announced the spouse of Anthropos, and would not have left us to find out her name by divination.

2. The fallacy, then, of this exposition is manifest. For when John, proclaiming one God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten, by whom all things were made, declares that this was the Son of God, this the Only-begotten, this the Former of all things, this the true Light who enlighteneth every man, this the Creator of the world, this He that came to His own, this He that became flesh and dwelt among us,–these men, by a plausible kind of exposition, perverting these statements, maintain that there was another Monogenes, according to production, whom they also style Arche. They also maintain that there was another Saviour, and another Logos, the son of Monogenes, and another Christ produced for the re-establishment of the Pleroma. Thus it is that, wresting from the truth every one of the expressions which have been cited, and taking a bad advantage of the names, they have transferred them to their own system; so that, according to them, in all these terms John makes no mention of the Lord Jesus Christ. For if he has named the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia, and Logos, and Zoe, and Anthropos, and Ecclesia, according to their hypothesis, he has, by thus speaking, referred to the primary Ogdoad, in which there was as yet no Jesus, and no Christ, the teacher of John. But that the apostle did not speak concerning their conjunctions, but concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he also acknowledges as the Word of God, he himself has made evident. For, summing up his statements respecting the Word previously mentioned by him, he further declares, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” But, according to their hypothesis, the Word did not become flesh at all, inasmuch as He never went outside of the Pleroma, but that Saviour [became flesh] who was formed by a special dispensation [out of all the AEons], and was of later date than the Word.

3. Learn then, ye foolish men, that Jesus who suffered for us, and who dwelt among us, is Himself the Word of God. For if any other of the AEons had become flesh for our salvation, it would have been probable that the apostle spoke of another. But if the Word of the Father who descended is the same also that ascended, He, namely, the Only-begotten Son of the only God, who, according to the good pleasure of the Father, became flesh for the sake of men, the apostle certainly does not speak regarding any other, or concerning any Ogdoad, but respecting our Lord Jesus Christ. For, according to them, the Word did not originally become flesh. For they maintain that the Saviour assumed an animal body, formed in accordance with a special dispensation by an unspeakable providence, so as to become visible and palpable. But flesh is that which was of old formed for Adam by God out of the dust, and it is this that John has declared the Word of God became. Thus is their primary and first-begotten Ogdoad brought to nought. For, since Logos, and Monogenes, and Zoe, and PhOs, and Soter, and Christus, and the Son of God, and He who became incarnate for us, have been proved to be one and the same, the Ogdoad which they have built up at once falls to pieces. And when this is destroyed, their whole system sinks into ruin,–a system which they falsely dream into existence, and thus inflict injury on the Scriptures, while they build up their own hypothesis.

4. Then, again, collecting a set of expressions and names scattered here and there [in Scripture], they twist them, as we have already said, from a natural to a non-natural sense. In so doing, they act like those who bring forward any kind of hypothesis they fancy, and then endeavour to support [2781] them out of the poems of Homer, so that the ignorant imagine that Homer actually composed the verses bearing upon that hypothesis, which has, in fact, been but newly constructed; and many others are led so far by the regularly-formed sequence of the verses, as to doubt whether Homer may not have composed them. Of this kind [2782] is the following passage, where one, describing Hercules as having been sent by Eurystheus to the dog in the infernal regions, does so by means of these Homeric verses,–for there can be no objection to our citing these by way of illustration, since the same sort of attempt appears in both:–

“”Thus saying, there sent forth from his house deeply groaning.”–Od., x. 76. “The hero Hercules conversant with mighty deeds.”–Od., xxi. 26.

“Eurystheus, the son of Sthenelus, descended from Perseus.”–Il., xix. 123.

“That he might bring from Erebus the dog of gloomy Pluto.”–Il., viii. 368.

“And he advanced like a mountain-bred lion confident of strength.”–Od., vi. 130.

“Rapidly through the city, while all his friends followed.” –Il., xxiv. 327.

“Both maidens, and youths, and much-enduring old men.”–Od., xi. 38.

“Mourning for him bitterly as one going forward to death.” –Il., xxiv. 328. “But Mercury and the blue-eyed Minerva conducted him.”–Od., xi. 626.

“For she knew the mind of her brother, how it laboured with grief.”–Il., ii. 409.”

Now, what simple-minded man, I ask, would not be led away by such verses as these to think that Homer actually framed them so with reference to the subject indicated? But he who is acquainted with the Homeric writings will recognise the verses indeed, but not the subject to which they are applied, as knowing that some of them were spoken of Ulysses, others of Hercules himself, others still of Priam, and others again of Menelaus and Agamemnon. But if he takes them and restores each of them to its proper position, he at once destroys the narrative in question. In like manner he also who retains unchangeable [2783] in his heart the rule of the truth which he received by means of baptism, will doubtless recognise the names, the expressions, and the parables taken from the Scriptures, but will by no means acknowledge the blasphemous use which these men make of them. For, though he will acknowledge the gems, he will certainly not receive the fox instead of the likeness of the king. But when he has restored every one of the expressions quoted to its proper position, and has fitted it to the body of the truth, he will lay bare, and prove to be without any foundation, the figment of these heretics. 5. But since what may prove a finishing-stroke [2784] to this exhibition is wanting, so that any one, on following out their farce to the end, may then at once append an argument which shall overthrow it, we have judged it well to point out, first of all, in what respects the very fathers of this fable differ among themselves, as if they were inspired by different spirits of error. For this very fact forms an a priori proof that the truth proclaimed by the Church is immoveable, [2785] and that the theories of these men are but a tissue of falsehoods.

5. But since what may prove a finishing-stroke to this exhibition is wanting, so that any one, on following out their farce to the end, may then at once append an argument which shall overthrow it, we have judged it well to point out, first of all, in what respects the very fathers of this fable differ among themselves, as if they were inspired by different spirits of error. For this very fact forms an a priori proof that the truth proclaimed by the Church is immoveable, and that the theories of these men are but a tissue of falsehoods.


[2781] It is difficult to give an exact rendering of meletan in this passage; the old Lat. version translates it by meditari, which Massuet proposes to render “skilfully to fit.”

[2782] Tertullian refers (Praescrip. Haer.) to those Homeric centos of which a specimen follows. We have given each line as it stands in the original: the text followed by Irenaeus differs slightly from the received text.

[2783] Literally, “immoveable in himself,” the word akline being used with an apparent reference to the original meaning of kanona, a builder’s rule.

[2784] The meaning of the word apolutrosis here is not easily determined; but it is probably a scenic term equivalent to apolusis, and may be rendered as above.

[2785] [The Creed, in the sublime simplicity of its fundamental articles, is established; that is, by the impossibility of framing anything to take their place.]


Chapter X.

Unity of the faith of the Church throughout the whole world.

1. The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations [2786] of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” [2787] and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” [2788] to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,” [2789] and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.

2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions [2790] of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

3. It does not follow because men are endowed with greater and less degrees of intelligence, that they should therefore change the subject-matter [of the faith] itself, and should conceive of some other God besides Him who is the Framer, Maker, and Preserver of this universe, (as if He were not sufficient [2791] for them), or of another Christ, or another Only-begotten. But the fact referred to simply implies this, that one may [more accurately than another] bring out the meaning of those things which have been spoken in parables, and accommodate them to the general scheme of the faith; and explain [with special clearness] the operation and dispensation of God connected with human salvation; and show that God manifested longsuffering in regard to the apostasy of the angels who transgressed, as also with respect to the disobedience of men; and set forth why it is that one and the same God has made some things temporal and some eternal, some heavenly and others earthly; and understand for what reason God, though invisible, manifested Himself to the prophets not under one form, but differently to different individuals; and show why it was that more covenants than one were given to mankind; and teach what was the special character of each of these covenants; and search out for what reason “God [2792] hath concluded every man [2793] in unbelief, that He may have mercy upon all;” and gratefully [2794] describe on what account the Word of God became flesh and suffered; and relate why the advent of the Son of God took place in these last times, that is, in the end, rather than in the beginning [of the world]; and unfold what is contained in the Scriptures concerning the end [itself], and things to come; and not be silent as to how it is that God has made the Gentiles, whose salvation was despaired of, fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers with the saints; and discourse how it is that “this mortal body shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption;” [2795] and proclaim in what sense [God] says, “That is a people who was not a people; and she is beloved who was not beloved;” [2796] and in what sense He says that “more are the children of her that was desolate, than of her who possessed a husband.” [2797] For in reference to these points, and others of a like nature, the apostle exclaims: “Oh! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” [2798] But [the superior skill spoken of] is not found in this, that any one should, beyond the Creator and Framer [of the world], conceive of the Enthymesis of an erring AEon, their mother and his, and should thus proceed to such a pitch of blasphemy; nor does it consist in this, that he should again falsely imagine, as being above this [fancied being], a Pleroma at one time supposed to contain thirty, and at another time an innumerable tribe of AEons, as these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.


[2786] ” Of God” is added from the old Latin

[2787] Eph. i. 10.

[2788] Phil. ii. 10, 11.

[2789] Eph. vi. 12.

[2790] Probably referring to the Churches in Palestine.

[2791] The text here is arkoumenous toutous, which is manifestly corrupt. Various emendations have been proposed: we prefer reading arkoumenos toutois, and have translated accordingly.

[2792] Rom. xi. 32.

[2793] Irenaeus here reads panta instead of pantas, as in Text. Rec. of New Testament.

[2794] eucharistein– this word has been deemed corrupt, as it certainly appears out of keeping with the other verbs; but it may be rendered as above.

[2795] 1 Cor. xv. 54.

[2796] Hos. ii. 23; Rom. ix. 25.

[2797] Isa. liv. 1; Gal. iv. 27.

[2798] Rom. xi. 33.


Chapter XI.

The opinions of Valentinus, with those of his disciples and others.

1. Let us now look at the inconsistent opinions of those heretics (for there are some two or three of them), how they do not agree in treating the same points, but alike, in things and names, set forth opinions mutually discordant. The first [2799] of them, Valentinus, who adapted the principles of the heresy called “Gnostic” to the peculiar character of his own school, taught as follows: He maintained that there is a certain Dyad (twofold being), who is inexpressible by any name, of whom one part should be called Arrhetus (unspeakable), and the other Sige (silence). But of this Dyad a second was produced, one part of whom he names Pater, and the other Aletheia. From this Tetrad, again, arose Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia. These constitute the primary Ogdoad. He next states that from Logos and Zoe ten powers were produced, as we have before mentioned. But from Anthropos and Ecclesia proceeded twelve, one of which separating from the rest, and falling from its original condition, produced the rest [2800] of the universe. He also supposed two beings of the name of Horos, the one of whom has his place between Bythus and the rest of the Pleroma, and divides the created AEons from the uncreated Father, while the other separates their mother from the Pleroma. Christ also was not produced from the AEons within the Pleroma, but was brought forth by the mother who had been excluded from it, in virtue of her remembrance of better things, but not without a kind of shadow. He, indeed, as being masculine, having severed the shadow from himself, returned to the Pleroma; but his mother being left with the shadow, and deprived of her spiritual substance, brought forth another son, namely, the Demiurge, whom he also styles the supreme ruler of all those things which are subject to him. He also asserts that, along with the Demiurge, there was produced a left-hand power, in which particular he agrees with those falsely called Gnostics, of whom to we have yet to speak. Sometimes, again, he maintains that Jesus was produced from him who was separated from their mother, and united to the rest, that is, from Theletus, sometimes as springing from him who returned into the Pleroma, that is, from Christ; and at other times still as derived from Anthropos and Ecclesia. And he declares that the Holy Spirit was produced by Aletheia [2801] for the inspection and fructification of the AEons, by entering invisibly into them, and that, in this way, the AEons brought forth the plants of truth. 2. Secundus again affirms that the primary Ogdoad consists of a right hand and a left hand Tetrad, and teaches that the one of these is called light, and the other darkness. But he maintains that the power which separated from the rest, and fell away, did not proceed directly from the thirty AEons, but from their fruits. 3. There is another, [2802] who is a renowned teacher among them, and who, struggling to reach something more sublime, and to attain to a kind of higher knowledge, has explained the primary Tetrad as follows: There is [he says] a certain Proarche who existed before all things, surpassing all thought, speech, and nomenclature, whom I call Monotes (unity). Together with this Monotes there exists a power, which again I term Henotes (oneness). This Henotes and Monotes, being one, produced, yet not so as to bring forth [apart from themselves, as an emanation] the beginning of all things, an intelligent, unbegotten, and invisible being, which beginning language terms “Monad.” With this Monad there co-exists a power of the same essence, which again I term Hen (One). These powers then– Monotes, and Henotes, and Monas, and Hen–produced the remaining company of the AEons. 4. Iu, Iu! Pheu, Pheu!–for well may we utter these tragic exclamations at such a pitch of audacity in the coining of names as he has displayed without a blush, in devising a nomenclature for his system of falsehood. For when he declares: There is a certain Proarche before all things, surpassing all thought, whom I call Monotes; and again, with this Monotes there co-exists a power which I also call Henotes,–it is most manifest that he confesses the things which have been said to be his own invention, and that he himself has given names to his scheme of things, which had never been previously suggested by any other. It is manifest also, that he himself is the one who has had sufficient audacity to coin these names; so that, unless he had appeared in the world, the truth would still have been destitute of a name. But, in that case, nothing hinders any other, in dealing with the same subject, to affix names after such a fashion as the following: There [2803] is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all thought, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus. [2804] For if it is fitting that that language which is used respecting the universe be transformed to the primary Tetrad, and if any one may assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all? 5. Others still, however, have called their primary and first-begotten Ogdoad by the following names: first, Proarche; then Anennoetos; thirdly, Arrhetos; and fourthly, Aoratos. Then, from the first, Proarche, there was produced, in the first and fifth place, Arche; from Anennoetos, in the second and sixth place, Acataleptos; from Arrhetos, in the third and seventh place, Anonomastos; and from Aoratos, in the fourth and eighth place, Agennetos. This is the Pleroma of the first Ogdoad. They maintain that these powers were anterior to Bythus and Sige, that they may appear more perfect than the perfect, and more knowing than the very Gnostics! To these persons one may justly exclaim: “O ye trifling sophists!” since, even respecting Bythus himself, there are among them many and discordant opinions. For some declare him to be without a consort, and neither male nor female, and, in fact, nothing at all; while others affirm him to be masculo-feminine, assigning to him the nature of a hermaphrodite; others, again, allot Sige to him as a spouse, that thus may be formed the first conjunction.


[2799] That is, the first of the two or three here referred to, not the first of the Gnostic teachers, as some have imagined. [The Gnosticism of one age may be essentially the same in spirit as the Agnosticism of another.]

[2800] Viz., all outside of the Pleroma.

[2801] Corrected from Ecclesia in the text.

[2802] Some have supposed that the name of this teacher was Epiphanes, and that the old Latin mistakenly translates this by clarus; others think that Colorbasus is the teacher in question.

[2803] The Greek text is wanting till the end of this section.

[2804] [1 Kings xviii. 27. “It came to pass that Elijah mocked them,” etc. This reductio ad absurdum of our author is singularly applicable to certain forms of what is called “Modern Thought.”]


Chapter XII.

The doctrines of the followers of Ptolemy and Colorbasus.

1. But the followers of Ptolemy say [2805] that he [Bythus] has two consorts, which they also name Diatheses (affections), viz., Ennoea and Thelesis. For, as they affirm, he first conceived the thought of producing something, and then willed to that effect. Wherefore, again, these two affections, or powers, Ennoea and Thelesis, having intercourse, as it were, between themselves, the production of Monogenes and Aletheia took place according to conjunction. These two came forth as types and images of the two affections of the Father,–visible representations of those that were invisible,–Nous (i.e., Monogenes) of Thelesis, and Aletheia of Ennoea, and accordingly the image resulting from Thelesis was masculine, [2806] while that from Ennoea was feminine. Thus Thelesis (will) became, as it were, a faculty of Ennoea (thought). For Ennoea continually yearned after offspring; but she could not of herself bring forth that which she desired. But when the power of Thelesis (the faculty of will) came upon her, then she brought forth that on which she had brooded.

2. These fancied beings [2807] (like the Jove of Homer, who is represented [2808] as passing an anxious sleepless night in devising plans for honouring Achilles and destroying numbers of the Greeks) will not appear to you, my dear friend, to be possessed of greater knowledge than He who is the God of the universe. He, as soon as He thinks, also performs what He has willed; and as soon as He wills, also thinks that which He has willed; then thinking when He wills, and then willing when He thinks, since He is all thought, [all will, all mind, all light,] [2809] all eye, all ear, the one entire fountain of all good things.

3. Those of them, however, who are deemed more skilful than the persons who have just been mentioned, say that the first Ogdoad was not produced gradually, so that one AEon was sent forth by another, but that all [2810] the AEons were brought into existence at once by Propator and his Ennoea. He (Colorbasus) affirms this as confidently as if he had assisted at their birth. Accordingly, he and his followers maintain that Anthropos and Ecclesia were not produced, [2811] as others hold, from Logos and Zoe; but, on the contrary, Logos and Zoe from Anthropos and Ecclesia. But they express this in another form, as follows: When the Propator conceived the thought of producing something, he received the name of Father. But because what he did produce was true, it was named Aletheia. Again, when he wished to reveal himself, this was termed Anthropos. Finally, when he produced those whom he had previously thought of, these were named Ecclesia. Anthropos, by speaking, formed Logos: this is the first-born son. But Zoe followed upon Logos; and thus the first Ogdoad was completed.

4. They have much contention also among themselves respecting the Saviour. For some maintain that he was formed out of all; wherefore also he was called Eudocetos, because the whole Pleroma was well pleased through him to glorify the Father. But others assert that he was produced from those ten AEons alone who sprung from Logos and Zoe, and that on this account he was called Logos and Zoe, thus preserving the ancestral names. [2812] Others, again, affirm that he had his being from those twelve AEons who were the offspring of Anthropos and Ecclesia; and on this account he acknowledges himself the Son of man, as being a descendant of Anthropos. Others still, assert that he was produced by Christ and the Holy Spirit, who were brought forth for the security of the Pleroma; and that on this account he was called Christ, thus preserving the appellation of the Father, by whom he was produced. And there are yet others among them who declare that the Propator of the whole, Proarche, and Proanennoetos is called Anthropos; and that this is the great and abstruse mystery, namely, that the Power which is above all others, and contains all in his embrace, is termed Anthropos; hence does the Saviour style himself the “Son of man.”


[2805] We here follow the Greek as preserved by Hippolytus (Philosoph., vi. 38). The text followed by Epiphanius (Haer., xxxiii. 1) does not so well agree with the Latin.

[2806] The text is here hopelessly corrupt; but the general meaning seems to be that given above.

[2807] This sentence exists only in the Latin version, and we can give only a free translation.

[2808] Iliad, ii. 1, etc.

[2809] These words are found in Epiphanius, but omitted in the old Latin version. The Latin gives “sense” instead of “light.”

[2810] The text is here very uncertain. Some propose to read six AEons instead of all.

[2811] Here again the text is corrupt and obscure. We have followed what seems the most probable emendation.

[2812] Harvey justly remarks, that “one cause of perplexity in unravelling the Valentinian scheme is the recurrence of similar names at different points of the system, e.g., the Enthymesis of Sophia was called Sophia and Spiritus; and Pater, Arche, Monogenes, Christus, Anthropos, Ecclesia, were all of them terms of a double denomination.”


Chapter XIII.

The deceitful arts and nefarious practices of Marcus.

1. But [2813] there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master. He is a perfect adept in magical impostures, and by this means drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist. For, joining the buffooneries of Anaxilaus [2814] to the craftiness of the magi, as they are called, he is regarded by his senseless and cracked-brain followers as working miracles by these means.

2. Pretending [2815] to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, he contrives to give them a purple and reddish colour, so that Charis, [2816] who is one of those that are superior to all things, should be thought to drop her own blood into that cup through means of his invocation, and that thus those who are present should be led to rejoice to taste of that cup, in order that, by so doing, the Charis, who is set forth by this magician, may also flow into them. Again, handing mixed cups to the women, he bids them consecrate these in his presence. When this has been done, he himself produces another cup of much larger size than that which the deluded woman has consecrated, and pouring from the smaller one consecrated by the woman into that which has been brought forward by himself, he at the same time pronounces these words: “May that Charis who is before all things, and who transcends all knowledge and speech, fill thine inner man, and multiply in thee her own knowledge, by sowing the grain of mustard seed in thee as in good soil.” Repeating certain other like words, and thus goading on the wretched woman [to madness], he then appears a worker of wonders when the large cup is seen to have been filled out of the small one, so as even to overflow by what has been obtained from it. By accomplishing several other similar things, he has completely deceived many, and drawn them away after him.

3. It appears probable enough that this man possesses a demon as his familiar spirit, by means of whom he seems able to prophesy, [2817] and also enables as many as he counts worthy to be partakers of his Charis themselves to prophesy. He devotes himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth, whom he frequently seeks to draw after him, by addressing them in such seductive words as these: “I am eager to make thee a partaker of my Charis, since the Father of all doth continually behold thy angel before His face. Now the place of thy angel is among us: [2818] it behoves us to become one. Receive first from me and by me [the gift of] Charis. Adorn thyself as a bride who is expecting her bridegroom, that thou mayest be what I am, and I what thou art. Establish the germ of light in thy nuptial chamber. Receive from me a spouse, and become receptive of him, while thou art received by him. Behold Charis has descended upon thee; open thy mouth and prophesy.” On the woman replying, “I have never at any time prophesied, nor do I know how to prophesy;” then engaging, for the second time, in certain invocations, so as to astound his deluded victim, he says to her, “Open thy mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to thee, and thou shalt prophesy.” She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently [from emotion], reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one heated by an empty spirit. (Referring to this, one superior to me has observed, that the soul is both audacious and impudent when heated with empty air.) Henceforth she reckons herself a prophetess, and expresses her thanks to Marcus for having imparted to her of his own Charis. She then makes the effort to reward him, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he has collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him.

4. But already some of the most faithful women, possessed of the fear of God, and not being deceived (whom, nevertheless, he did his best to seduce like the rest by bidding them prophesy), abhorring and execrating him, have withdrawn from such a vile company of revellers. This they have done, as being well aware that the gift of prophecy is not conferred on men by Marcus, the magician, but that only those to whom God sends His grace from above possess the divinely-bestowed power of prophesying; and then they speak where and when God pleases, and not when Marcus orders them to do so. For that which commands is greater and of higher authority than that which is commanded, inasmuch as the former rules, while the latter is in a state of subjection. If, then, Marcus, or any one else, does command,– as these are accustomed continually at their feasts to play at drawing lots, and [in accordance with the lot] to command one another to prophesy, giving forth as oracles what is in harmony with their own desires,–it will follow that he who commands is greater and of higher authority than the prophetic spirit, though he is but a man, which is impossible. But such spirits as are commanded by these men, and speak when they desire it, are earthly and weak, audacious and impudent, sent forth by Satan for the seduction and perdition of those who do not hold fast that well-compacted faith which they received at first through the Church.

5. Moreover, that this Marcus compounds philters and love-potions, in order to insult the persons of some of these women, if not of all, those of them who have returned to the Church of God– a thing which frequently occurs–have acknowledged, confessing, too, that they have been defiled by him, and that they were filled with a burning passion towards him. A sad example of this occurred in the case of a certain Asiatic, one of our deacons, who had received him (Marcus) into his house. His wife, a woman of remarkable beauty, fell a victim both in mind and body to this magician, and, for a long time, travelled about with him. At last, when, with no small difficulty, the brethren had converted her, she spent her whole time in the exercise of public confession, [2819] weeping over and lamenting the defilement which she had received from this magician.

6. Some of his disciples, too, addicting themselves [2820] to the same practices, have deceived many silly women, and defiled them. They proclaim themselves as being “perfect,” so that no one can be compared to them with respect to the immensity of their knowledge, nor even were you to mention Paul or Peter, or any other of the apostles. They assert that they themselves know more than all others, and that they alone have imbibed the greatness of the knowledge of that power which is unspeakable. They also maintain that they have attained to a height above all power, and that therefore they are free in every respect to act as they please, having no one to fear in anything. For they affirm, that because of the “Redemption” [2821] it has come to pass that they can neither be apprehended, nor even seen by the judge. But even if he should happen to lay hold upon them, then they might simply repeat these words, while standing in his presence along with the “Redemption:” “O thou, who sittest beside God, [2822] and the mystical, eternal Sige, thou through whom the angels (mightiness), who continually behold the face of the Father, having thee as their guide and introducer, do derive their forms [2823] from above, which she in the greatness of her daring inspiring with mind on account of the goodness of the Propator, produced us as their images, having her mind then intent upon the things above, as in a dream,– behold, the judge is at hand, and the crier orders me to make my defence. But do thou, as being acquainted with the affairs of both, present the cause of both of us to the judge, inasmuch as it is in reality but one cause.” [2824] Now, as soon as the Mother hears these words, she puts the Homeric [2825] helmet of Pluto upon them, so that they may invisibly escape the judge. And then she immediately catches them up, conducts them into the bridal chamber, and hands them over to their consorts.

7. Such are the words and deeds by which, in our own district of the Rhone, they have deluded many women, who have their consciences seared as with a hot iron. [2826] Some of them, indeed, make a public confession of their sins; but others of them are ashamed to do this, and in a tacit kind of way, despairing of [attaining to] the life of God, have, some of them, apostatized altogether; while others hesitate between the two courses, and incur that which is implied in the proverb, “neither without nor within;” possessing this as the fruit from the seed of the children of knowledge.


[2813] The Greek text of this section is preserved both by Epiphanius (Haer. xxxiv. 1) and by Hippolytus (Philosoph., vi. 39, 40). Their citations are somewhat discordant, and we therefore follow the old Latin version.

[2814] Pliny, Hist. Nat., xxxv. 15, etc.

[2815] Epiphanius now gives the Greek text verbatim, to which, therefore, we return.

[2816] Probably referring to Sige, the consort of Bythus.

[2817] [Comp. Acts xvi. 16.]

[2818] Literally, “the place of thy mightiness is in us.”

[2819] [Note this manner of primitive “confession;” and see Bingham, Antiquities, book xv. cap. 8]

[2820] We here follow the rendering of Billius, “in iisdem studiis versantes.” Others adhere to the received text, and translate peripolizontes “going about idly.”

[2821] Grabe is of opinion that reference is made in this term to an imprecatory formula in use among the Marcosians, analogous to the form of thanksgiving employed night and morning by the Jews for their redemption from Egypt. Harvey refers the word to the second baptism practised among these and other heretics, by which it was supposed they were removed from the cognizance of the Demiurge, who is styled the “judge” in the close of the above sentence.

[2822] That is, Sophia, of whom Achamoth, afterwards referred to, was the emanation.

[2823] The angels accompanying Soter were the consorts of spiritual Gnostics, to whom they were restored after death.

[2824] The syntax in this long sentence is very confused, but the meaning is tolerably plain. The gist of it is, that these Gnostics, as being the spiritual seed, claimed a consubstantiality with Achamoth, and consequently escaped from the material Demiurge, and attained at last to the Pleroma.

[2825] Rendering the wearer invisible. See Il., v. 844. [2826] 2 Tim. iii. 6.


Chapter XIV.

The various hypotheses of Marcus and others. Theories respecting letters and syllables.

1. This Marcus [2827] then, declaring that he alone was the matrix and receptacle of the Sige of Colorbasus, inasmuch as he was only-begotten, has brought to the birth in some such way as follows that which was committed to him of the defective Enthymesis. He declares that the infinitely exalted Tetrad descended upon him from the invisible and indescribable places in the form of a woman (for the world could not have borne it coming in its male form), and expounded to him alone its own nature, and the origin of all things, which it had never before revealed to any one either of gods or men. This was done in the following terms: When first the unoriginated, inconceivable Father, who is without material substance, [2828] and is neither male nor female, willed to bring forth that which is ineffable to Him, and to endow with form that which is invisible, He opened His mouth, and sent forth the Word similar to Himself, who, standing near, showed Him what He Himself was, inasmuch as He had been manifested in the form of that which was invisible. Moreover, the pronunciation of His name took place as follows:–He spoke the first word of it, which was the beginning [2829] [of all the rest], and that utterance consisted of four letters. He added the second, and this also consisted of four letters. Next He uttered the third, and this again embraced ten letters. Finally, He pronounced the fourth, which was composed of twelve letters. Thus took place the enunciation of the whole name, consisting of thirty letters, and four distinct utterances. Each of these elements has its own peculiar letters, and character, and pronunciation, and forms, and images, and there is not one of them that perceives the shape of that [utterance] of which it is an element. Neither does any one know [2830] itself, nor is it acquainted with the pronunciation of its neighbour, but each one imagines that by its own utterance it does in fact name the whole. For while every one of them is a part of the whole, it imagines its own sound to be the whole name, and does not leave off sounding until, by its own utterance, it has reached the last letter of each of the elements. This teacher declares that the restitution of all things will take place, when all these, mixing into one letter, shall utter one and the same sound. He imagines that the emblem of this utterance is found in Amen, which we pronounce in concert. [2831] The diverse sounds (he adds) are those which give form to that AEon who is without material substance and unbegotten, and these, again, are the forms which the Lord has called angels, who continually behold the face of the Father. [2832]

2. Those names of the elements which may be told, and are common, he has called AEons, and words, and roots, and seeds, and fulnesses, and fruits. He asserts that each of these, and all that is peculiar to every one of them, is to be understood as contained in the name Ecclesia. Of these elements, the last letter of the last one uttered its voice, and this sound [2833] going forth generated its own elements after the image of the [other] elements, by which he affirms, that both the things here below were arranged into the order they occupy, and those that preceded them were called into existence. He also maintains that the letter itself, the sound of which followed that sound below, was received up again by the syllable to which it belonged, in order to the completion of the whole, but that the sound remained below as if cast outside. But the element itself from which the letter with its special pronunciation descended to that below, he affirms to consist of thirty letters, while each of these letters, again, contains other letters in itself, by means of which the name of the letter is expressed. And thus, again, others are named by other letters, and others still by others, so that the multitude of letters swells out into infinitude. You may more clearly understand what I mean by the following example:–The word Delta contains five letters, viz., D, E, L, T, A: these letters again, are written by other letters, [2834] and others still by others. If, then, the entire composition of the word Delta [when thus analyzed] runs out into infinitude, letters continually generating other letters, and following one another in constant succession, how much vaster than that [one] word is the [entire] ocean of letters! And if even one letter be thus infinite, just consider the immensity of the letters in the entire name; out of which the Sige of Marcus has taught us the Propator is composed. For which reason the Father, knowing the incomprehensibleness of His own nature, assigned to the elements which He also terms AEons, [the power] of each one uttering its own enunciation, because no one of them was capable by itself of uttering the whole.

3. Moreover, the Tetrad, explaining these things to him more fully, said:–I wish to show thee Aletheia (Truth) herself; for I have brought her down from the dwellings above, that thou mayest see her without a veil, and understand her beauty –that thou mayest also hear her speaking, and admire her wisdom. Behold, then, her head on high, Alpha and Omega; her neck, Beta and Psi; her shoulders with her hands, Gamma and Chi; her breast, Delta and Phi; her diaphragm, Epsilon and Upsilon; her back, Zeta and Tau; her belly, Eta and Sigma; her thighs, Theta and Rho; her knees, Iota and Pi; her legs, Kappa and Omicron; her ankles, Lambda and Xi; her feet, Mu and Nu. Such is the body of Truth, according to this magician, such the figure of the element, such the character of the letter. And he calls this element Anthropos (Man), and says that is the fountain of all speech, and the beginning of all sound, and the expression of all that is unspeakable, and the mouth of the silent Sige. This indeed is the body of Truth. But do thou, elevating the thoughts of thy mind on high, listen from the mouth of Truth to the self-begotten Word, who is also the dispenser of the bounty of the Father.

4. When she (the Tetrad) had spoken these things, Aletheia looked at him, opened her mouth, and uttered a word. That word was a name, and the name was this one which we do know and speak of, viz., Christ Jesus. When she had uttered this name, she at once relapsed into silence. And as Marcus waited in the expectation that she would say something more, the Tetrad again came forward and said:–Thou hast reckoned as contemptible that word which thou hast heard from the mouth of Aletheia. This which thou knowest and seemest to possess, is not an ancient name. For thou possessest the sound of it merely, whilst thou art ignorant of its power. For Jesus (‘Iesous) is a name arithmetically [2835] symbolical, consisting of six letters, and is known by all those that belong to the called. But that which is among the AEons of the Pleroma consists of many parts, and is of another form and shape, and is known by those [angels] who are joined in affinity with Him, and whose figures (mightinesses) are always present with Him.

5. Know, then, that the four-and-twenty letters which you possess are symbolical emanations of the three powers that contain the entire number of the elements above. For you are to reckon thus –that the nine mute [2836] letters are [the images] of Pater and Aletheia, because they are without voice, that is, of such a nature as cannot be uttered or pronounced. But the semi-vowels [2837] represent Logos and Zoe, because they are, as it were, midway between the consonants and the vowels, partaking [2838] of the nature of both. The vowels, again, are representative of Anthropos and Ecclesia, inasmuch as a voice proceeding from Anthropos gave being to them all; for the sound of the voice imparted to them form. Thus, then, Logos and Zoe possess eight [of these letters]; Anthropos and Ecclesia seven; and Pater and Aletheia nine. But since the number allotted to each was unequal, He who existed in the Father came down, having been specially sent by Him from whom He was separated, for the rectification of what had taken place, that the unity of the Pleromas, being endowed with equality, might develop in all that one power which flows from all. Thus that division which had only seven letters, received the power of eight, [2839] and the three sets were rendered alike in point of number, all becoming Ogdoads; which three, when brought together, constitute the number four-and-twenty. The three elements, too (which he declares to exist in conjunction with three powers, [2840] and thus form the six from which have flowed the twenty-four letters), being quadrupled by the word of the ineffable Tetrad, give rise to the same number with them; and these elements he maintains to belong to Him who cannot be named. These, again, were endowed by the three powers with a resemblance to Him who is invisible. And he says that those letters which we call double [2841] are the images of the images of these elements; and if these be added to the four-and-twenty letters, by the force of analogy they form the number thirty.

6. He asserts that the fruit of this arrangement and analogy has been manifested in the likeness of an image, namely, Him who, after six days, ascended [2842] into the mountain along with three others, and then became one of six (the sixth), [2843] in which character He descended and was contained in the Hebdomad, since He was the illustrious Ogdoad, [2844] and contained in Himself the entire number of the elements, which the descent of the dove (who is Alpha and Omega) made clearly manifest, when He came to be baptized; for the number of the dove is eight hundred and one. [2845] And for this reason did Moses declare that man was formed on the sixth day; and then, again, according to arrangement, it was on the sixth day, which is the preparation, that the last man appeared, for the regeneration of the first. Of this arrangement, both the beginning and the end were formed at that sixth hour, at which He was nailed to the tree. For that perfect being Nous, knowing that the number six had the power both of formation and regeneration, declared to the children of light, that regeneration which has been wrought out by Him who appeared as the Episemon in regard to that number. Whence also he declares it is that the double letters [2846] contain the Episemon number; for this Episemon, when joined to the twenty-four elements, completed the name of thirty letters.

7. He employed as his instrument, as the Sige of Marcus declares, the power of seven letters, [2847] in order that the fruit of the independent will [of Achamoth] might be revealed. “Consider this present Episemon,” she says–“Him who was formed after the [original] Episemon, as being, as it were, divided or cut into two parts, and remaining outside; who, by His own power and wisdom, through means of that which had been produced by Himself, gave life to this world, consisting of seven powers, [2848] after the likeness of the power of the Hebdomad, and so formed it, that it is the soul of everything visible. And He indeed uses this work Himself as if it had been formed by His own free will; but the rest, as being images of what cannot be [fully] imitated, are subservient to the Enthymesis of the mother. And the first heaven indeed pronounces Alpha, the next to this Epsilon, the third Eta, the fourth, which is also in the midst of the seven, utters the sound of Iota, the fifth Omicron, the sixth Upsilon, the seventh, which is also the fourth from the middle, utters the elegant Omega,”– as the Sige of Marcus, talking a deal of nonsense, but uttering no word of truth, confidently asserts. “And these powers,” she adds, “being all simultaneously clasped in each other’s embrace, do sound out the glory of Him by whom they were produced; and the glory of that sound is transmitted upwards to the Propator.” She asserts, moreover, that “the sound of this uttering of praise, having been wafted to the earth, has become the Framer and the Parent of those things which are on the earth.”

8. He instances, in proof of this, the case of infants who have just been born, the cry of whom, as soon as they have issued from the womb, is in accordance with the sound of every one of these elements. As, then, he says, the seven powers glorify the Word, so also does the complaining soul of infants. [2849] For this reason, too, David said: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise;” [2850] and again: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” [2851] Hence also it comes to pass, that when the soul is involved in difficulties and distresses, for its own relief it calls out, “Oh” (O), in honour of the letter in question, [2852] so that its cognate soul above may recognise [its distress], and send down to it relief.

9. Thus it is, that in regard to the whole name, [2853] which consists of thirty letters, and Bythus, who receives his increase from the letters of this [name], and, moreover, the body of Aletheia, which is composed of twelve members, each of which consists of two letters, and the voice which she uttered without having spoken at all, and in regard to the analysis of that name which cannot be expressed in words, and the soul of the world and of man, according as they possess that arrangement, which is after the image [of things above], he has uttered his nonsensical opinions. It remains that I relate how the Tetrad showed him from the names a power equal in number; so that nothing, my friend, which I have received as spoken by him, may remain unknown to thee; and thus thy request, often proposed to me, may be fulfilled.


[2827] This sentence has completely baffled all the critics. [Its banter, or mock gravity, has not been self-evident.] We cannot enter upon the wide field of discussion which it has opened up, but would simply state that Irenaeus here seems to us, as often, to be playing upon the terms which were in common use among these heretics. Marcus probably received his system from Colorbasus, and is here declared, by the use of that jargon which Irenaeus means to ridicule while so employing it, to have proceeded to develop it in the way described.

[2828] Such appears to be the meaning of anousios in this passage. The meaning of ousia fluctuated for a time in the early Church, and was sometimes used to denote material substance, instead of its usual significance of being.

[2829] The old Latin preserves arche untranslated, implying that this was the first word which the Father spoke. Some modern editors adopt this view, while others hold the meaning simply to be, as given above, that that first sound which the Father uttered was the origin of all the rest.

[2830] The letters are here confounded with the AEons, which they represented.

[2831] [1 Cor. xiv. 16.]

[2832] Matt. xviii. 10.

[2833] By this Achamoth is denoted, who was said to give rise to the material elements, after the image of the Divine.

[2834] That is, their names are spelt by other letters.

[2835] The old Latin version renders episemon, insigne, illustrious, but there seems to be a reference to the Valentinian notion of the mystic number of 888 formed (10+8+200+70+400+200) by the numerical value of the letters in the word ‘Iesous.

[2836] The mutes are p, k, t, b, g, d, ph, ch, th.

[2837] The semi-vowels are l, m, n, r, s, z, x, ps.

[2838] It seems scarcely possible to give a more definite rendering of this clause: it may be literally translated thus: “And because they receive the outflow of those above, but the turning back again of those below.”

[2839] The ninth letter being taken from the mutes and added to the semi-vowels, an equal division of the twenty-four was thus secured.

[2840] Viz., Pater, Anthropos, and Logos.

[2841] Viz., z, x, ps = ds, ks, ps.

[2842] Matt. xvii. 7; Mark ix. 2.

[2843] Moses and Elias being added to the company.

[2844] Referring to the word Chreistos, according to Harvey, who remarks, that “generally the Ogdoad was the receptacle of the spiritual seed.”

[2845] The Saviour, as Alpha and Omega, was symbolized by the dove, the sum of the Greek numerals, p, e, r, i, s, t, e, r, a (peristera, dove), being, like that of A and O, 801.

[2846] That is, the letters z, x, ps all contain s, whose value is six, and which was called episemon by the Greeks.

[2847] Referring to Aletheia, which, in Greek, contains seven letters.

[2848] By these seven powers are meant the seven heavens (also called angels), formed by the Demiurge.

[2849] We here follow the text of Hippolytus: the ordinary text and the old Latin read, “So does the soul of infants, weeping and mourning over Marcus, deify him.”

[2850] Ps. viii. 2.

[2851] Ps. xix. 1.

[2852] The text is here altogether uncertain: we have given the probable meaning.

[2853] That is, the name of Soter, the perfect result of the whole Pleroma.


Chapter XV.

Sige relates to Marcus the generation of the twenty-four elements and of Jesus. Exposure of these absurdities.

1. The all-wise Sige then announced the production of the four-and-twenty elements to him as follows:–Along with Monotes there coexisted Henotes, from which sprang two productions, as we have remarked above, Monas and Hen, which, added to the other two, make four, for twice two are four. And again, two and four, when added together, exhibit the number six. And further, these six being quadrupled, give rise to the twenty-four forms. And the names of the first Tetrad, which are understood to be most holy, and not capable of being expressed in words, are known by the Son alone, while the father also knows what they are. The other names which are to be uttered with respect, and faith, and reverence, are, according to him, Arrhetos and Sige, Pater and Aletheia. Now the entire number of this Tetrad amounts to four-and-twenty letters; for the name Arrhetos contains in itself seven letters, Seige [2854] five, Pater five, and Aletheia seven. If all these be added together–twice five, and twice seven–they complete the number twenty-four. In like manner, also, the second Tetrad, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia, reveal the same number of elements. Moreover, that name of the Saviour which may be pronounced, viz., Jesus [‘Iesous], consists of six letters, but His unutterable name comprises four-and-twenty letters. The name Christ the Son [2855] (huios Chreistos) comprises twelve letters, but that which is unpronounceable in Christ contains thirty letters. And for this reason he declares that He is Alpha and Omega, that he may indicate the dove, inasmuch as that bird has this number [in its name].

2. But Jesus, he affirms, has the following unspeakable origin. From the mother of all things, that is, the first Tetrad, there came forth the second Tetrad, after the manner of a daughter; and thus an Ogdoad was formed, from which, again, a Decad proceeded: thus was produced a Decad and an Ogdoad. The Decad, then, being joined with the Ogdoad, and multiplying it ten times, gave rise to the number eighty; and, again, multiplying eighty ten times, produced the number eight hundred. Thus, then, the whole number of the letters proceeding from the Ogdoad [multiplied] into the Decad, is eight hundred and eighty-eight. [2856] This is the name of Jesus; for this name, if you reckon up the numerical value of the letters, amounts to eight hundred and eighty-eight. Thus, then, you have a clear statement of their opinion as to the origin of the supercelestial Jesus. Wherefore, also, the alphabet of the Greeks contains eight Monads, eight Decads, and eight Hecatads [2857] , which present the number eight hundred and eighty-eight, that is, Jesus, who is formed of all numbers; and on this account He is called Alpha and Omega, indicating His origin from all. And, again, they put the matter thus: If the first Tetrad be added up according to the progression of number, the number ten appears. For one, and two, and three, and four, when added together, form ten; and this, as they will have it, is Jesus. Moreover, Chreistus, he says, being a word of eight letters, indicates the first Ogdoad, and this, when multiplied by ten, gives birth to Jesus (888). And Christ the Son, he says, is also spoken of, that is, the Duodecad. For the name Son, (uios) contains four letters, and Christ (Chreistus) eight, which, being combined, point out the greatness of the Duodecad. But, he alleges, before the Episemon of this name appeared, that is Jesus the Son, mankind were involved in great ignorance and error. But when this name of six letters was manifested (the person bearing it clothing Himself in flesh, that He might come under the apprehension of man’s senses, and having in Himself these six and twenty-four letters), then, becoming acquainted with Him, they ceased from their ignorance, and passed from death unto life, this name serving as their guide to the Father of truth. [2858] For the Father of all had resolved to put an end to ignorance, and to destroy death. But this abolishing of ignorance was just the knowledge of Him. And therefore that man (Anthropos) was chosen according to His will, having been formed after the image of the [corresponding] power above.

3. As to the AEons, they proceeded from the Tetrad, and in that Tetrad were Anthropos and Ecclesia, Logos and Zoe. The powers, then, he declares, who emanated from these, generated that Jesus who appeared upon the earth. The angel Gabriel took the place of Logos, the Holy Spirit that of Zoe, the Power of the Highest that of Anthropos, while the Virgin pointed out the place of Ecclesia. And thus, by a special dispensation, there was generated by Him, through Mary, that man, whom, as He passed through the womb, the Father of all chose to [obtain] the knowledge of Himself by means of the Word. And on His coming to the water [of baptism], there descended on Him, in the form of a dove, that Being who had formerly ascended on high, and completed the twelfth number, in whom there existed the seed of those who were produced contemporaneously with Himself, and who descended and ascended along with Him. Moreover, he maintains that power which descended was the seed of the Father, which had in itself both the Father and the Son, as well as that power of Sige which is known by means of them, but cannot be expressed in language, and also all the AEons. And this was that Spirit who spoke by the mouth of Jesus, and who confessed that He was the son of Man as well as revealed the Father, and who, having descended into Jesus, was made one with Him. And he says that the Saviour formed by special dispensation did indeed destroy death, but that Christ made known the Father. [2859] He maintains, therefore, that Jesus is the name of that man formed by a special dispensation, and that He was formed after the likeness and form of that [heavenly] Anthropos, who was about to descend upon Him. After He had received that AEon, He possessed Anthropos himself, and Logos himself, and Pater, and Arrhetus, and Sige, and Aletheia, and Ecclesia, and Zoe.

4. Such ravings, we may now well say, go beyond Iu, Iu, Pheu, Pheu, and every kind of tragic exclamation or utterance of misery. [2860] For who would not detest one who is the wretched contriver of such audacious falsehoods, when he perceives the truth turned by Marcus into a mere image, and that punctured all over with the letters of the alphabet? The Greeks confess that they first received sixteen letters from Cadmus, and that but recently, as compared with the beginning, [the vast antiquity of which is implied] in the common proverb: “Yesterday and before;” [2861] and afterwards, in the course of time, they themselves invented at one period the aspirates, and at another the double letters, while, last of all, they say Palamedes added the long letters to the former. Was it so, then, that until these things took place among the Greeks, truth had no existence? For, according to thee, Marcus, the body of truth is posterior to Cadmus and those who preceded him– posterior also to those who added the rest of the letters– posterior even to thyself! For thou alone hast formed that which is called by thee the truth into an [outward, visible] image.

5. But who will tolerate thy nonsensical Sige, who names Him that cannot be named, and expounds the nature of Him that is unspeakable, and searches out Him that is unsearchable, and declares that He whom thou maintainest to be destitute of body and form, opened His mouth and sent forth the Word, as if He were included among organized beings; and that His Word, while like to His Author, and bearing the image of the invisible, nevertheless consisted of thirty elements and four syllables? It will follow, then, according to thy theory, that the Father of all, in accordance with the likeness of the Word, consists of thirty elements and four syllables! Or, again, who will tolerate thee in thy juggling with forms and numbers,–at one time thirty, at another twenty-four, and at another, again, only six,–whilst thou shuttest up [in these] the Word of God, the Founder, and Framer, and Maker of all things; and then, again, cutting Him up piecemeal into four syllables and thirty elements; and bringing down the Lord of all who founded the heavens to the number eight hundred and eighty-eight, so that He should be similar to the alphabet; and subdividing the Father, who cannot be contained, but contains all things, into a Tetrad, and an Ogdoad, and a Decad, and a Duodecad; and by such multiplications, setting forth the unspeakable and inconceivable nature of the Father, as thou thyself declarest it to be? And showing thyself a very Daedalus for evil invention, and the wicked architect of the supreme power, thou dost construct a nature and substance for Him whom thou callest incorporeal and immaterial, out of a multitude of letters, generated the one by the other. And that power whom thou affirmest to be indivisible, thou dost nevertheless divide into consonants, and vowels, and semi-vowels; and, falsely ascribing those letters which are mute to the Father of all things, and to His Ennoea (thought), thou hast driven on all that place confidence in thee to the highest point of blasphemy, and to the grossest impiety. [2862]

6. With good reason, therefore, and very fittingly, in reference to thy rash attempt, has that divine elder [2863] and preacher of the truth burst forth in verse against thee as follows:– “Marcus, thou former of idols, inspector of portents, Skill’d in consulting the stars, and deep in the black arts of magic, Ever by tricks such as these confirming the doctrines of error, Furnishing signs unto those involved by thee in deception, Wonders of power that is utterly severed from God and apostate, Which Satan, thy true father, enables thee still to accomplish, By means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel,– Thus making thee the precursor of his own impious actions.” Such are the words of the saintly elder. And I shall endeavour to state the remainder of their mystical system, which runs out to great length, in brief compass, and to bring to the light what has for a long time been concealed. For in this way such things will become easily susceptible of exposure by all.


[2854] Manifestly to be so spelt here, as in the sequel Chreistus, for Christus.

[2855] The text is here altogether uncertain, and the meaning obscure.

[2856] The reading is exceedingly doubtful: some prefer the number eighty-eight.

[2857] There were, as Harvey observes, three extraneous characters introduced into the Greek alphabet for the sake of numeration –the three episema for 6, 90, and 900 respectively. The true alphabet, then, as employed to denote number, included eight units, eight tens, and eight hundreds.

[2858] Or, according to the Greek text, “being as the way to the Father;” comp. John xiv. 6.

[2859] The text is here uncertain: we follow that suggested by Grabe.

[2860] [Comp. cap. xi. 4, supra.]

[2861] Comp. Gen. xxxi. 2. –We here follow the punctuation of Scaliger, now generally accepted by the editors, though entirely different from the old Latin.

[2862] [Mosheim thinks this Marcus was a lunatic.]

[2863] [Some think Pothinus.]


Chapter XVI.

Absurd interpretations of the Marcosians.

1. Blending in one the production of their own AEons, and the straying and recovery of the sheep [spoken of in the Gospel [2864] ], these persons endeavour to set forth things in a more mystical style, while they refer everything to numbers, maintaining that the universe has been formed out of a Monad and a Dyad. And then, reckoning from unity on to four, they thus generate the Decad. For when one, two, three, and four are added together, they give rise to the number of the ten AEons. And, again, the Dyad advancing from itself [by twos] up to six–two, and four, and six–brings out the Duodecad. Once more, if we reckon in the same way up to ten, the number thirty appears, in which are found eight, and ten, and twelve. They therefore term the Duodecad–because it contains the Episemon, [2865] and because the Episemon [so to speak] waits upon it–the passion. And for this reason, because an error occurred in connection with the twelfth number, [2866] the sheep frisked off, and went astray; for they assert that a defection took place from the Duodecad. In the same way they oracularly declare, that one power having departed also from the Duodecad, has perished; and this was represented by the woman who lost the drachma, [2867] and, lighting a lamp, again found it. Thus, therefore, the numbers that were left, viz., nine, as respects the pieces of money, and eleven in regard to the sheep, [2868] when multiplied together, give birth to the number ninety-nine, for nine times eleven are ninety-nine. Wherefore also they maintain the word “Amen” contains this number.

2. I will not, however, weary thee by recounting their other interpretations, that you may perceive the results everywhere. They maintain for instance, that the letter Eta (e) along with the Episemon (s) constitutes an Ogdoad, inasmuch as it occupies the eighth place from the first letter. Then, again, without the Episemon, reckoning the number of the letters, and adding them up till we come to Eta, they bring out the Triacontad. For if one begins at Alpha and ends with Eta, omitting the Episemon, and adds together the value of the letters in succession, he will find their number altogether to amount to thirty. For up to Epsilon (e) fifteen are formed; then adding seven to that number, the sum of twenty-two is reached. Next, Eta being added to these, since its value is eight, the most wonderful Triacontad is completed. And hence they give forth that the Ogdoad is the mother of the thirty AEons. Since, therefore, the number thirty is composed of three powers [the Ogdoad, Decad, and Duodecad], when multiplied by three, it produces ninety, for three times thirty are ninety. Likewise this Triad, when multiplied by itself, gives rise to nine. Thus the Ogdoad generates, by these means, ninety-nine. And since the twelfth AEon, by her defection, left eleven in the heights above, they maintain that therefore the position of the letters is a true coordinate of the method of their calculation [2869] (for Lambda is the eleventh in order among the letters, and represents the number thirty), and also forms a representation of the arrangement of affairs above, since, on from Alpha, omitting Episemon, the number of the letters up to Lambda, when added together according to the successive value of the letters, and including Lambda itself, forms the sum of ninety-nine; but that this Lambda, being the eleventh in order, descended to seek after one equal to itself, so as to complete the number of twelve letters, and when it found such a one, the number was completed, is manifest from the very configuration of the letter; for Lambda being engaged, as it were, in the quest of one similar to itself, and finding such an one, and clasping it to itself, thus filled up the place of the twelfth, the letter Mu (M) being composed of two Lambdas (LL). Wherefore also they, by means of their “knowledge,” avoid the place of ninety-nine, that is, the defection–a type of the left hand, [2870] –but endeavour to secure one more, which, when added to the ninety and nine, has the effect of changing their reckoning to the right hand.

3. I well know, my dear friend, that when thou hast read through all this, thou wilt indulge in a hearty laugh over this their inflated wise folly! But those men are really worthy of being mourned over, who promulgate such a kind of religion, and who so frigidly and perversely pull to pieces the greatness of the truly unspeakable power, and the dispensations of God in themselves so striking, by means of Alpha and Beta, and through the aid of numbers. But as many as separate from the Church, and give heed to such old wives’ fables as these, are truly self-condemned; and these men Paul commands us, “after a first and second admonition, to avoid.” [2871] And John, the disciple of the Lord, has intensified their condemnation, when he desires us not even to address to them the salutation of “good-speed;” for, says he, “He that bids them be of good-speed is a partaker with their evil deeds;” [2872] and that with reason, “for there is no good-speed to the ungodly,” [2873] saith the Lord. Impious indeed, beyond all impiety, are these men, who assert that the Maker of heaven and earth, the only God Almighty, besides whom there is no God, was produced by means of a defect, which itself sprang from another defect, so that, according to them, He was the product of the third defect. [2874] Such an opinion we should detest and execrate, while we ought everywhere to flee far apart from those that hold it; and in proportion as they vehemently maintain and rejoice in their fictitious doctrines, so much the more should we be convinced that they are under the influence of the wicked spirits of the Ogdoad,–just as those persons who fall into a fit of frenzy, the more they laugh, and imagine themselves to be well, and do all things as if they were in good health [both of body and mind], yea, some things better than those who really are so, are only thus shown to be the more seriously diseased. In like manner do these men, the more they seem to excel others in wisdom, and waste their strength by drawing the bow too tightly, [2875] the greater fools do they show themselves. For when the unclean spirit of folly has gone forth, and when afterwards he finds them not waiting upon God, but occupied with mere worldly questions, then, “taking seven other spirits more wicked than himself,” [2876] and inflating the minds of these men with the notion of their being able to conceive of something beyond God, and having fitly prepared them for the reception of deceit, he implants within them the Ogdoad of the foolish spirits of wickedness.


[2864] Luke xv. 4.

[2865] All the editors, Grabe, Massuet, Stieren, and Harvey, differ as to the text and interpretation of this sentence. We have given what seems the simplest rendering of the text as it stands.

[2866] Referring to the last of the twelve AEons.

[2867] Luke xv. 8.

[2868] Meaning the AEon who left the Duodecad, when eleven remained, and not referring to the lost sheep of the parable.

[2869] Harvey gives the above paraphrase of the very obscure original; others propose to read l instead of logou.

[2870] Massuet explains this and the following reference, by remarking that the ancients used the fingers of the hand in counting; by the left hand they indicated all the numbers below a hundred, but by the right hand all above that sum.–Comp. Juvenal, Sat., x. 249.

[2871] Tit. iii. 10.

[2872] 2 John 10, 11.

[2873] Isa. xlviii. 22.

[2874] The Demiurge being the fruit of the abortive conversion of the abortive passion of Achamoth, who, again, was the abortive issue of Sophia.

[2875] i.e., by aiming at what transcends their ability, they fall into absurdity, as a bow is broken by bending it too far.

[2876] Matt. xii. 43.


Chapter XVII.

The theory of the Marcosians, that created things were made after the image of things invisible.

1. I wish also to explain to thee their theory as to the way in which the creation itself was formed through the mother by the Demiurge (as it were without his knowledge), after the image of things invisible. They maintain, then, that first of all the four elements, fire, water, earth, and air, were produced after the image of the primary Tetrad above, and that then, we add their operations, viz., heat, cold, dryness, and humidity, an exact likeness of the Ogdoad is presented. They next reckon up ten powers in the following manner:–There are seven globular bodies, which they also call heavens; then that globular body which contains these, which also they name the eighth heaven; and, in addition to these, the sun and moon. These, being ten in number, they declare to be types of the invisible Decad, which proceeded from Logos and Zoe. As to the Duodecad, it is indicated by the zodiacal circle, as it is called; for they affirm that the twelve signs do most manifestly shadow forth the Duodecad, the daughter of Anthropos and Ecclesia. And since the highest heaven, beating upon the very sphere [of the seventh heaven], has been linked with the most rapid precession of the whole system, as a check, and balancing that system with its own gravity, so that it completes the cycle from sign to sign in thirty years,–they say that this is an image of Horus, encircling their thirty-named mother. [2877] And then, again, as the moon travels through her allotted space of heaven in thirty days, they hold, that by these days she expresses the number of the thirty AEons. The sun also, who runs through his orbit in twelve months, and then returns to the same point in the circle, makes the Duodecad manifest by these twelve months; and the days, as being measured by twelve hours, are a type of the invisible Duodecad. Moreover, they declare that the hour, which is the twelfth part of the day, is composed [2878] of thirty parts, in order to set forth the image of the Triacontad. Also the circumference of the zodiacal circle itself contains three hundred and sixty degrees (for each of its signs comprises thirty); and thus also they affirm, that by means of this circle an image is preserved of that connection which exists between the twelve and the thirty. Still further, asserting that the earth is divided into twelve zones, and that in each zone it receives power from the heavens, according to the perpendicular [position of the sun above it], bringing forth productions corresponding to that power which sends down its influence upon it, they maintain that this is a most evident type of the Duodecad and its offspring.

2. In addition to these things, they declare that the Demiurge, desiring to imitate the infinitude, and eternity, and immensity, and freedom from all measurement by time of the Ogdoad above, but, as he was the fruit of defect, being unable to express its permanence and eternity, had recourse to the expedient of spreading out its eternity into times, and seasons, and vast numbers of years, imagining, that by the multitude of such times he might imitate its immensity. They declare further, that the truth having escaped him, he followed that which was false, and that, for this reason, when the times are fulfilled, his work shall perish.


[2877] Such is the translation which Harvey, following the text preserved by Hippolytus, gives of the above intricate and obscure sentence.

[2878] Literally, “is adorned with.”


Chapter XVIII.

Passages from Moses, which the heretics pervert to the support of their hypothesis.

1. And while they affirm such things as these concerning the creation, every one of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability; for no one is deemed “perfect,” who does not develop among them some mighty fictions. It is thus necessary, first, to indicate what things they metamorphose [to their own use] out of the prophetical writings, and next, to refute them. Moses, then, they declare, by his mode of beginning the account of the creation, has at the commencement pointed out the mother of all things when he says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;” [2879] for, as they maintain, by naming these four,–God, beginning, heaven, and earth,–he set forth their Tetrad. Indicating also its invisible and hidden nature, he said, “Now the earth was invisible and unformed.” [2880] They will have it, moreover, that he spoke of the second Tetrad, the offspring of the first, in this way–by naming an abyss and darkness, in which were also water, and the Spirit moving upon the water. Then, proceeding to mention the Decad, he names light, day, night, the firmament, the evening, the morning, dry land, sea, plants, and, in the tenth place, trees. Thus, by means of these ten names, he indicated the ten AEons. The power of the Duodecad, again, was shadowed forth by him thus:–He names the sun, moon, stars, seasons, years, whales, fishes, reptiles, birds, quadrupeds, wild beasts, and after all these, in the twelfth place, man. Thus they teach that the Triacontad was spoken of through Moses by the Spirit. Moreover, man also, being formed after the image of the power above, had in himself that ability which flows from the one source. This ability was seated in the region of the brain, from which four faculties proceed, after the image of the Tetrad above, and these are called: the first, sight, the second, hearing, the third, smell, and the fourth, [2881] taste. And they say that the Ogdoad is indicated by man in this way: that he possesses two ears, the like number of eyes, also two nostrils, and a twofold taste, namely, of bitter and sweet. Moreover, they teach that the whole man contains the entire image of the Triacontad as follows: In his hands, by means of his fingers, he bears the Decad; and in his whole body the Duodecad, inasmuch as his body is divided into twelve members; for they portion that out, as the body of Truth is divided by them–a point of which we have already spoken. [2882] But the Ogdoad, as being unspeakable and invisible, is understood as hidden in the viscera.

2. Again, they assert that the sun, the great light-giver, was formed on the fourth day, with a reference to the number of the Tetrad. So also, according to them, the courts [2883] of the tabernacle constructed by Moses, being composed of fine linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, pointed to the same image. Moreover, they maintain that the long robe of the priest falling over his feet, as being adorned with four rows of precious stones, [2884] indicates the Tetrad; and if there are any other things in the Scriptures which can possibly be dragged into the number four, they declare that these had their being with a view to the Tetrad. The Ogdoad, again, was shown as follows:–They affirm that man was formed on the eighth day, for sometimes they will have him to have been made on the sixth day, and sometimes on the eighth, unless, perchance, they mean that his earthly part was formed on the sixth day, but his fleshly part on the eighth, for these two things are distinguished by them. Some of them also hold that one man was formed after the image and likeness of God, masculo-feminine, and that this was the spiritual man; and that another man was formed out of the earth.

3. Further, they declare that the arrangement made with respect to the ark in the Deluge, by means of which eight persons were saved, [2885] most clearly indicates the Ogdoad which brings salvation. David also shows forth the same, as holding the eighth place in point of age among his brethren. [2886] Moreover, that circumcision which took place on the eighth day, [2887] represented the circumcision of the Ogdoad above. In a word, whatever they find in the Scriptures capable of being referred to the number eight, they declare to fulfil the mystery of the Ogdoad. With respect, again, to the Decad, they maintain that it is indicated by those ten nations which God promised to Abraham for a possession. [2888] The arrangement also made by Sarah when, after ten years, she gave [2889] her handmaid Hagar to him, that by her he might have a son, showed the same thing. Moreover, the servant of Abraham who was sent to Rebekah, and presented her at the well with ten bracelets of gold, and her brethren who detained her for ten days; [2890] Jeroboam also, who received the ten sceptres [2891] (tribes), and the ten courts [2892] of the tabernacle, and the columns of ten cubits [2893] [high], and the ten sons of Jacob who were at first sent into Egypt to buy corn, [2894] and the ten apostles to whom the Lord appeared after His resurrection,–Thomas [2895] being absent,–represented, according to them, the invisible Decad.

4. As to the Duodecad, in connection with which the mystery of the passion of the defect occurred, from which passion they maintain that all things visible were framed, they assert that is to be found strikingly and manifestly everywhere [in Scripture]. For they declare that the twelve sons of Jacob, [2896] from whom also sprung twelve tribes,– the breastplate of the high priest, which bore twelve precious stones and twelve little bells, [2897] –the twelve stones which were placed by Moses at the foot of the mountain, [2898] –the same number which was placed by Joshua in the river, [2899] and again, on the other side, the bearers of the ark of the covenant, [2900] –those stones which were set up by Elijah when the heifer was offered as a burnt-offering; [2901] the number, too, of the apostles; and, in fine, every event which embraces in it the number twelve,–set forth their Duodecad. And then the union of all these, which is called the Triacontad, they strenuously endeavour to demonstrate by the ark of Noah, the height of which was thirty cubits; [2902] by the case of Samuel, who assigned Saul the chief place among thirty guests; [2903] by David, when for thirty days he concealed himself in the field; [2904] by those who entered along with him into the cave; also by the fact that the length (height) of the holy tabernacle was thirty cubits; [2905] and if they meet with any other like numbers, they still apply these to their Triacontad.


[2879] Gen. i. 1.

[2880] Gen. i. 2.

[2881] One of the senses was thus capriciously cancelled by these heretics.

[2882] See above, chap. xiv. 2.

[2883] Or, rather, perhaps “curtains.” Ex. xxvi. 1.

[2884] Ex. xxviii. 17.

[2885] Gen. vi. 18; 1 Pet. iii. 20.

[2886] 1 Sam. xvi. 10.

[2887] Gen. xvii. 12.

[2888] Gen. xv. 19.

[2889] Gen. xvi. 2.

[2890] Gen. xxiv. 22, 25.

[2891] 1 Kings xi. 31.

[2892] Ex. xxvi. 1, Ex. xxxvi. 8.

[2893] Ex. xxxvi. 21.

[2894] Gen. xlii. 3.

[2895] John xx. 24.

[2896] Gen. xxxv. 22, Gen. xlix. 28.

[2897] Ex. xxviii. 2.–There is no mention of the number of the bells in Scripture.

[2898] Ex. xxiv. 4.

[2899] Josh. iv. 3.

[2900] Josh. iii. 12.

[2901] 1 Kings xviii. 31.

[2902] Gen. vi. 15.

[2903] 1 Sam. ix. 22.

[2904] 1 Sam. xx. 5.

[2905] Ex. xxvi. 8. Numbers appear to have been often capriciously introduced by these heretics to give a colour of support to their own theories.


Chapter XIX.

Passages of Scripture by which they attempt to prove that the Supreme Father was unknown before the coming of Christ.

1. I judge it necessary to add to these details also what, by garbling passages of Scripture, they try to persuade us concerning their Propator, who was unknown to all before the coming of Christ. Their object in this is to show that our Lord announced another Father than the Maker of this universe, whom, as we said before, they impiously declare to have been the fruit of a defect. For instance, when the prophet Isaiah says, “But Israel hath not known Me, and My people have not understood Me,” [2906] they pervert his words to mean ignorance of the invisible Bythus. And that which is spoken by Hosea, “There is no truth in them, nor the knowledge of God,” [2907] they strive to give the same reference. And, “There is none that understandeth, or that seeketh after God: they have all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable,” [2908] they maintain to be said concerning ignorance of Bythus. Also that which is spoken by Moses, “No man shall see God and live,” [2909] has, as they would persuade us, the same reference.

2. For they falsely hold, that the Creator was seen by the prophets. But this passage, “No man shall see God and live,” they would interpret as spoken of His greatness unseen and unknown by all; and indeed that these words, “No man shall see God,” are spoken concerning the invisible Father, the Maker of the universe, is evident to us all; but that they are not used concerning that Bythus whom they conjure into existence, but concerning the Creator (and He is the invisible God), shall be shown as we proceed. They maintain that Daniel also set forth the same thing when he begged of the angels explanations of the parables, as being himself ignorant of them. But the angel, hiding from him the great mystery of Bythus, said unto him, “Go thy way quickly, Daniel, for these sayings are closed up until those who have understanding do understand them, and those who are white be made white.” [2910] Moreover, they vaunt themselves as being the white and the men of good understanding.


[2906] Isa. i. 3.

[2907] Hos. iv. 1.

[2908] Rom. iii. 11; Ps. xiv. 3.

[2909] Ex. xxxiii. 20.

[2910] Dan. xii. 9, 10. The words in the above quotation not occurring in the Hebrew text of the passage, seem to have been interpolated by these heretics.


Chapter XX.

The apocryphal and spurious Scriptures of the Marcosians, with passages of the Gospels which they pervert.

1. Besides the above [misrepresentations], they adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth. Among other things, they bring forward that false and wicked story [2911] which relates that our Lord, when He was a boy learning His letters, on the teacher saying to Him, as is usual, “Pronounce Alpha,” replied [as He was bid], “Alpha.” But when, again, the teacher bade Him say, “Beta,” the Lord replied, “Do thou first tell me what Alpha is, and then I will tell thee what Beta is.” This they expound as meaning that He alone knew the Unknown, which He revealed under its type Alpha.

2. Some passages, also, which occur in the Gospels, receive from them a colouring of the same kind, such as the answer which He gave His mother when He was twelve years of age: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” [2912] Thus, they say, He announced to them the Father of whom they were ignorant. On this account, also, He sent forth the disciples to the twelve tribes, that they might proclaim to them the unknown God. And to the person who said to Him, “Good Master,” [2913] He confessed that God who is truly good, saying, “Why callest thou Me good: there is One who is good, the Father in the heavens;” [2914] and they assert that in this passage the AEons receive the name of heavens. Moreover, by His not replying to those who said to Him, “By what power doest Thou this?” [2915] but by a question on His own side, put them to utter confusion; by His thus not replying, according to their interpretation, He showed the unutterable nature of the Father. Moreover, when He said, “I have often desired to hear one of these words, and I had no one who could utter it,” [2916] they maintain, that by this expression “one” He set forth the one true God whom they knew not. Further, when, as He drew nigh to Jerusalem, He wept over it and said, “If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace, but they are hidden from thee,” [2917] by this word “hidden” He showed the abstruse nature of Bythus. And again, when He said, “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, and learn of Me,” [2918] He announced the Father of truth. For what they knew not, these men say that He promised to teach them.

3. But they adduce the following passage as the highest testimony, [2919] and, as it were, the very crown of their system:–“I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes. Even so, my Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knoweth the Father but the Son, or the Son but the Father, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.” [2920] In these words they affirm that He clearly showed that the Father of truth, conjured into existence by them, was known to no one before His advent. And they desire to construe the passage as if teaching that the Maker and Framer [of the world] was always known by all, while the Lord spoke these words concerning the Father unknown to all, whom they now proclaim.


[2911] [From the Protevangel of Thomas. Compare the curious work of Dominic Deodati, De Christo Graece loquente, p. 95. London, 1843.]

[2912] Luke ii. 49.

[2913] Mark x. 17.

[2914] Luke xviii. 18.

[2915] Matt. xxi. 23.

[2916] Taken from some apocryphal writing.

[2917] Luke xix. 42, loosely quoted.

[2918] Matt. xi. 28.

[2919] The translator evidently read ton for ten, in which case the rendering will be “proof of those most high,” but the Greek text seems preferable.

[2920] Matt. xi. 25-27.


Chapter XXI.

The views of redemption entertained by these heretics.

1. It happens that their tradition respecting redemption [2921] is invisible and incomprehensible, as being the mother of things which are incomprehensible and invisible; and on this account, since it is fluctuating, it is impossible simply and all at once to make known its nature, for every one of them hands it down just as his own inclination prompts. Thus there are as many schemes of “redemption” as there are teachers of these mystical opinions. And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.

2. They maintain that those who have attained to perfect knowledge must of necessity be regenerated into that power which is above all. For it is otherwise impossible to find admittance within the Pleroma, since this [regeneration] it is which leads them down into the depths of Bythus. For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins, but the redemption brought in by that Christ who descended upon Him, was for perfection; and they allege that the former is animal, but the latter spiritual. And the baptism of John was proclaimed with a view to repentance, but the redemption by Jesus [2922] was brought in for the sake of perfection. And to this He refers when He says, “And I have another baptism to be baptized with, and I hasten eagerly towards it.” [2923] Moreover, they affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom, saying, “Can ye be baptized with the baptism which I shall be baptized with?” [2924] Paul, too, they declare, has often set forth, in express terms, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and this was the same which is handed down by them in so varied and discordant forms.

3. For some of them prepare a nuptial couch, and perform a sort of mystic rite (pronouncing certain expressions) with those who are being initiated, and affirm that it is a spiritual marriage which is celebrated by them, after the likeness of the conjunctions above. Others, again, lead them to a place where water is, and baptize them, with the utterance of these words, “Into the name of the unknown Father of the universe– into truth, the mother of all things–into Him who descended on Jesus–into union, and redemption, and communion with the powers.” Others still repeat certain Hebrew words, in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated, as follows: “Basema, Chamosse, Baoenaora, Mistadia, Ruada, Kousta, Babaphor, Kalachthei.” [2925] The interpretation of these terms runs thus: “I invoke that which is above every power of the Father, which is called light, and good Spirit, and life, because Thou hast reigned in the body.” Others, again, set forth the redemption thus: The name which is hidden from every deity, and dominion, and truth which Jesus of Nazareth was clothed with in the lives [2926] of the light of Christ–of Christ, who lives by the Holy Ghost, for the angelic redemption. The name of restitution stands thus: Messia, Uphareg, Namempsoeman, Chaldoeaur, Mosomedoea, Acphranoe, Psaua, Jesus Nazaria. [2927] The interpretation of these words is as follows: “I do not divide the Spirit of Christ, neither the heart nor the supercelestial power which is merciful; may I enjoy Thy name, O Saviour of truth!” Such are words of the initiators; but he who is initiated, replies, “I am established, and I am redeemed; I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Iao, who redeemed his own soul into redemption in Christ who liveth.” Then the bystanders add these words, “Peace be to all on whom this name rests.” After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this unguent is a type of that sweet odour which is above all things.

4. But there are some of them who assert that it is superfluous to bring persons to the water, but mixing oil and water together, they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated, with the use of some such expressions as we have already mentioned. And this they maintain to be the redemption. They, too, are accustomed to anoint with balsam. Others, however, reject all these practices, and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power ought not to be performed by visible and corruptible creatures, nor should that of those [beings] who are inconceivable, and incorporeal, and beyond the reach of sense, [be performed] by such as are the objects of sense, and possessed of a body. These hold that the knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself perfect redemption. For since both defect and passion flowed from ignorance, the whole substance of what was thus formed is destroyed by knowledge; and therefore knowledge is the redemption of the inner man. This, however, is not of a corporeal nature, for the body is corruptible; nor is it animal, since the animal soul is the fruit of a defect, and is, as it were, the abode of the spirit. The redemption must therefore be of a spiritual nature; for they affirm that the inner and spiritual man is redeemed by means of knowledge, and that they, having acquired the knowledge of all things, stand thenceforth in need of nothing else. This, then, is the true redemption.

5. Others still there are who continue to redeem persons even up to the moment of death, by placing on their heads oil and water, or the pre-mentioned ointment with water, using at the same time the above-named invocations, that the persons referred to may become incapable of being seized or seen by the principalities and powers, and that their inner man may ascend on high in an invisible manner, as if their body were left among created things in this world, while their soul is sent forward to the Demiurge. And they instruct them, on their reaching the principalities and powers, to make use of these words: “I am a son from the Father–the Father who had a pre-existence, and a son in Him who is pre-existent. I have come to behold all things, both those which belong to myself and others, although, strictly speaking, they do not belong to others, but to Achamoth, who is female in nature, and made these things for herself. For I derive being from Him who is pre-existent, and I come again to my own place whence I went forth.” And they affirm that, by saying these things, he escapes from the powers. He then advances to the companions of the Demiurge, and thus addresses them:–“I am a vessel more precious than the female who formed you. If your mother is ignorant of her own descent, I know myself, and am aware whence I am, and I call upon the incorruptible Sophia, who is in the Father, and is the mother of your mother, who has no father, nor any male consort; but a female springing from a female formed you, while ignorant of her own mother, and imagining that she alone existed; but I call upon her mother.” And they declare, that when the companions of the Demiurge hear these words, they are greatly agitated, and upbraid their origin and the race of their mother. But he goes into his own place, having thrown [off] his chain, that is, his animal nature. These, then, are the particulars which have reached us respecting “redemption.” [2928] But since they differ so widely among themselves both as respects doctrine and tradition, and since those of them who are recognised as being most modern make it their effort daily to invent some new opinion, and to bring out what no one ever before thought of, it is a difficult matter to describe all their opinions.


[2921] Comp. chap. xiii. 6.

[2922] The Latin reads “Christ.”

[2923] Luke xii. 50. The text was probably thus corrupted by the heretics.

[2924] Mark x. 38.

[2925] We have given these words as they stand in the Greek text: a very different list, but equally unmeaning, is found in the Latin.

[2926] The Latin reads zonis, “zones,” instead of “lives,” as in the Greek.

[2927] Here, again, are many variations.

[2928] The Greek text, which has hitherto been preserved almost entire, ends at this point. With only brief extracts from the original, now and then, we are henceforth exclusively dependent on the old Latin version, with some Syriac and Armenian fragments recently discovered.


Chapter XXII.

Deviations of heretics from the truth.

1. The rule [2929] of truth which we hold, is, that there is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed, out of that which had no existence, all things which exist. Thus saith the Scripture, to that effect: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them, by the spirit of His mouth.” [2930] And again, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.” [2931] There is no exception or deduction stated; but the Father made all things by Him, whether visible or invisible, objects of sense or of intelligence, temporal, on account of a certain character given them, or eternal; and these eternal [2932] things He did not make by angels, or by any powers separated from His Ennoea. For God needs none of all these things, but is He who, by His Word and Spirit, makes, and disposes, and governs all things, and commands all things into existence,–He who formed the world (for the world is of all),–He who fashioned man,–He [who] [2933] is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, above whom there is no other God, nor initial principle, nor power, nor pleroma,–He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we shall prove. Holding, therefore, this rule, we shall easily show, notwithstanding the great variety and multitude of their opinions, that these men have deviated from the truth; for almost all the different sects of heretics admit that there is one God; but then, by their pernicious doctrines, they change [this truth into error], even as the Gentiles do through idolatry,–thus proving themselves ungrateful to Him that created them. Moreover, they despise the workmanship of God, speaking against their own salvation, becoming their own bitterest accusers, and being false witnesses [against themselves]. Yet, reluctant as they may be, these men shall one day rise again in the flesh, to confess the power of Him who raises them from the dead; but they shall not be numbered among the righteous on account of their unbelief.

2. Since, therefore, it is a complex and multiform task to detect and convict all the heretics, and since our design is to reply to them all according to their special characters, we have judged it necessary, first of all, to give an account of their source and root, in order that, by getting a knowledge of their most exalted Bythus, thou mayest understand the nature of the tree which has produced such fruits.


[2929] The Latin here begins with the words “cum teneamus,” and the apodosis is found afterwards at “facile arguimus.” But we have broken up the one long sentence into several.

[2930] Ps. xxxiii. 6.

[2931] John i. 3.

[2932] The text is here uncertain and obscure: eternal things seem to be referred to, not as regarded substance, but the forms assigned them.

[2933] This word would perhaps be better cancelled.


Chapter XXIII.

Doctrines and practices of Simon Magus and Menander.

1. Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries.” [2934] This Simon, then–who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus–suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would,–was addressed in these words by Peter: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God can be purchased with money: thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” [2935] He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men. Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honoured with a statue, on account of his magical power. [2936] This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.

2. Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials:–Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, a certain woman named Helena, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. For this Ennoea leaping forth from him, and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions [of space], and generated angels and powers, by whom also he declared this world was formed. But after she had produced them, she was detained by them through motives of jealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked upon as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, they had no knowledge of him whatever; but his Ennoea was detained by those powers and angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of contumely from them, so that she could not return upwards to her father, but was even shut up in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken; for whose sake also Stesichorus [2937] was struck blind, because he had cursed her in his verses, but afterwards, repenting and writing what are called palinodes, in which he sang her praise, he was restored to sight. Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep. [2938]

3. For this purpose, then, he had come that he might win her first, and free her from slavery, while he conferred salvation upon men, by making himself known to them. For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

4. Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called “Paredri” (familiars) and “Oniropompi” (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them “knowledge, falsely so called,” [2939] received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions.

5. The successor of this man was Menander, also a Samaritan by birth, and he, too, was a perfect adept in the practice of magic. He affirms that the primary Power continues unknown to all, but that he himself is the person who has been sent forth from the presence of the invisible beings as a saviour, for the deliverance of men. The world was made by angels, whom, like Simon, he maintains to have been produced by Ennoea. He gives, too, as he affirms, by means of that magic which he teaches, knowledge to this effect, that one may overcome those very angels that made the world; for his disciples obtain the resurrection by being baptized into him, and can die no more, but remain in the possession of immortal youth.


[2934] Acts viii. 9-11.

[2935] Acts viii. 20, 21, 23.

[2936] Comp. Just. Mart., Apol., i. 26. It is generally supposed that Simon Magus was thus confounded with the Sabine god, Semo Sancus; but see our note, loc. cit. [And mine at end of the First Apology. Consult Orelli’s Inscriptions there noted.]

[2937] A lyric poet of Sicily, said to have been dealt with, as stated above, by Castor and Pollux.

[2938] Matt. xviii. 12.

[2939] 1 Tim. vi. 20.


Chapter XXIV.

Doctrines of Saturninus and Basilides.

1. Arising among these men, Saturninus (who was of that Antioch which is near Daphne) and Basilides laid hold of some favourable opportunities, and promulgated different systems of doctrine–the one in Syria, the other at Alexandria. Saturninus, like Menander, set forth one father unknown to all, who made angels, archangels, powers, and potentates. The world, again, and all things therein, were made by a certain company of seven angels. Man, too, was the workmanship of angels, a shining image bursting forth below from the presence of the supreme power; and when they could not, he says, keep hold of this, because it immediately darted upwards again, they exhorted each other, saying, “Let us make man after our image and likeness.” [2940] He was accordingly formed, yet was unable to stand erect, through the inability of the angels to convey to him that power, but wriggled [on the ground] like a worm. Then the power above taking pity upon him, since he was made after his likeness, sent forth a spark of life, which gave man an erect posture, compacted his joints, and made him live. He declares, therefore, that this spark of life, after the death of a man, returns to those things which are of the same nature with itself, and the rest of the body is decomposed into its original elements.

2. He has also laid it down as a truth, that the Saviour was without birth, without body, and without figure, but was, by supposition, a visible man; and he maintained that the God of the Jews was one of the angels; and, on this account, because all the powers wished to annihilate his father, Christ came to destroy the God of the Jews, but to save such as believe in him; that is, those who possess the spark of his life. This heretic was the first to affirm that two kinds of men were formed by the angels,–the one wicked, and the other good. And since the demons assist the most wicked, the Saviour came for the destruction of evil men and of the demons, but for the salvation of the good. They declare also, that marriage and generation are from Satan. [2941] Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by a feigned temperance of this kind. They hold, moreover, that some of the prophecies were uttered by those angels who made the world, and some by Satan; whom Saturninus represents as being himself an angel, the enemy of the creators of the world, but especially of the God of the Jews.

3. Basilides again, that he may appear to have discovered something more sublime and plausible, gives an immense development to his doctrines. He sets forth that Nous was first born of the unborn father, that from him, again, was born Logos, from Logos Phronesis, from Phronesis Sophia and Dynamis, and from Dynamis and Sophia the powers, and principalities, and angels, whom he also calls the first; and that by them the first heaven was made. Then other powers, being formed by emanation from these, created another heaven similar to the first; and in like manner, when others, again, had been formed by emanation from them, corresponding exactly to those above them, these, too, framed another third heaven; and then from this third, in downward order, there was a fourth succession of descendants; and so on, after the same fashion, they declare that more and more principalities and angels were formed, and three hundred and sixty-five heavens. [2942] Wherefore the year contains the same number of days in conformity with the number of the heavens.

4. Those angels who occupy the lowest heaven, that, namely, which is visible to us, formed all the things which are in the world, and made allotments among themselves of the earth and of those nations which are upon it. The chief of them is he who is thought to be the God of the Jews; and inasmuch as he desired to render the other nations subject to his own people, that is, the Jews, all the other princes resisted and opposed him. Wherefore all other nations were at enmity with his nation. But the father without birth and without name, perceiving that they would be destroyed, sent his own first-begotten Nous (he it is who is called Christ) to bestow deliverance on them that believe in him, from the power of those who made the world. He appeared, then, on earth as a man, to the nations of these powers, and wrought miracles. Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. For since he was an incorporeal power, and the Nous (mind) of the unborn father, he transfigured himself as he pleased, and thus ascended to him who had sent him, deriding them, inasmuch as he could not be laid hold of, and was invisible to all. Those, then, who know these things have been freed from the principalities who formed the world; so that it is not incumbent on us to confess him who was crucified, but him who came in the form of a man, and was thought to be crucified, and was called Jesus, and was sent by the father, that by this dispensation he might destroy the works of the makers of the world. If any one, therefore, he declares, confesses the crucified, that man is still a slave, and under the power of those who formed our bodies; but he who denies him has been freed from these beings, and is acquainted with the dispensation of the unborn father.

5. Salvation belongs to the soul alone, for the body is by nature subject to corruption. He declares, too, that the prophecies were derived from those powers who were the makers of the world, but the law was specially given by their chief, who led the people out of the land of Egypt. He attaches no importance to [the question regarding] meats offered in sacrifice to idols, thinks them of no consequence, and makes use of them without any hesitation; he holds also the use of other things, and the practice of every kind of lust, a matter of perfect indifference. These men, moreover, practise magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious art. Coining also certain names as if they were those of the angels, they proclaim some of these as belonging to the first, and others to the second heaven; and then they strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, and powers of the three hundred and sixty-five imagined heavens. They also affirm that the barbarous name in which the Saviour ascended and descended, is Caulacau. [2943]

6. He, then, who has learned [these things], and known all the angels and their causes, is rendered invisible and incomprehensible to the angels and all the powers, even as Caulacau also was. And as the son was unknown to all, so must they also be known by no one; but while they know all, and pass through all, they themselves remain invisible and unknown to all; for, “Do thou,” they say, “know all, but let nobody know thee.” For this reason, persons of such a persuasion are also ready to recant [their opinions], yea, rather, it is impossible that they should suffer on account of a mere name, since they are like to all. The multitude, however, cannot understand these matters, but only one out of a thousand, or two out of ten thousand. They declare that they are no longer Jews, and that they are not yet Christians; and that it is not at all fitting to speak openly of their mysteries, but right to keep them secret by preserving silence.

7. They make out the local position of the three hundred and sixty-five heavens in the same way as do mathematicians. For, accepting the theorems of these latter, they have transferred them to their own type of doctrine. They hold that their chief is Abraxas; [2944] and, on this account, that word contains in itself the numbers amounting to three hundred and sixty-five.


[2940] Gen. i. 26.

[2941] [1 Tim. iv. 3.]

[2942] The ordinary text reads, “three hundred and seventy-five,” but it should manifestly be corrected as above.

[2943] This sentence is wholly unintelligible as it stands in the Latin version. Critics differ greatly as to its meaning; Harvey tries to bring out of it something like the translation given above. [This name is manufactured from a curious abuse of (qv lqv) Isa. xxviii. 10-13, which is variously understood. See (Epiphanius ed. Oehler, vol. i.) Philastr., p. 38.]

[2944] So written in Latin, but in Greek ‘Abrasax, the numerical value of the letters in which is three hundred and sixty-five. [See Aug. (ed. Migne), vol. viii. p. 26.] It is doubtful to whom or what this word refers; probably to the heavens.


Chapter XXV.

Doctrines of Carpocrates.

1. Carpocrates, again, and his followers maintain that the world and the things which are therein were created by angels greatly inferior to the unbegotten Father. They also hold that Jesus was the son of Joseph, and was just like other men, with the exception that he differed from them in this respect, that inasmuch as his soul was stedfast and pure, he perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed [2945] within the sphere of the unbegotten God. On this account, a power descended upon him from the Father, that by means of it he might escape from the creators of the world; and they say that it, after passing through them all, and remaining in all points free, ascended again to him, and to the powers, [2946] which in the same way embraced like things to itself. They further declare, that the soul of Jesus, although educated in the practices of the Jews, regarded these with contempt, and that for this reason he was endowed with faculties, by means of which he destroyed those passions which dwelt in men as a punishment [for their sins].

2. The soul, therefore, which is like that of Christ can despise those rulers who were the creators of the world, and, in like manner, receives power for accomplishing the same results. This idea has raised them to such a pitch of pride, that some of them declare themselves similar to Jesus; while others, still more mighty, maintain that they are superior to his disciples, such as Peter and Paul, and the rest of the apostles, whom they consider to be in no respect inferior to Jesus. For their souls, descending from the same sphere as his, and therefore despising in like manner the creators of the world, are deemed worthy of the same power, and again depart to the same place. But if any one shall have despised the things in this world more than he did, he thus proves himself superior to him.

3. They practise also magical arts and incantations; philters, also, and love-potions; and have recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over, even now, the princes and formers of this world; and not only them, but also all things that are in it. These men, even as the Gentiles, have been sent forth by Satan [2947] to bring dishonour upon the Church, so that, in one way or another, men hearing the things which they speak, and imagining that we all are such as they, may turn away their ears from the preaching of the truth; or, again, seeing the things they practise, may speak evil of us all, who have in fact no fellowship with them, either in doctrine or in morals, or in our daily conduct. But they lead a licentious life, [2948] and, to conceal their impious doctrines, they abuse the name [of Christ], as a means of hiding their wickedness; so that “their condemnation is just,” [2949] when they receive from God a recompense suited to their works.

4. So unbridled is their madness, that they declare they have in their power all things which are irreligious and impious, and are at liberty to practise them; for they maintain that things are evil or good, simply in virtue of human opinion. [2950] They deem it necessary, therefore, that by means of transmigration from body to body, souls should have experience of every kind of life as well as every kind of action (unless, indeed, by a single incarnation, one may be able to prevent any need for others, by once for all, and with equal completeness, doing all those things which we dare not either speak or hear of, nay, which we must not even conceive in our thoughts, nor think credible, if any such thing is mooted among those persons who are our fellow-citizens), in order that, as their writings express it, their souls, having made trial of every kind of life, may, at their departure, not be wanting in any particular. It is necessary [2951] to insist upon this, lest, on account of some one thing being still wanting to their deliverance, they should be compelled once more to become incarnate. They affirm that for this reason Jesus spoke the following parable:–“Whilst thou art with thine adversary in the way, give all diligence, that thou mayest be delivered from him, lest he give thee up to the judge, and the judge surrender thee to the officer, and he cast thee into prison. Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt not go out thence until thou pay the very last farthing.” [2952] They also declare the “adversary” is one of those angels who are in the world, whom they call the Devil, maintaining that he was formed for this purpose, that he might lead those souls which have perished from the world to the Supreme Ruler. They describe him also as being chief among the makers of the world, and maintain that he delivers such souls [as have been mentioned] to another angel, who ministers to him, that he may shut them up in other bodies; for they declare that the body is “the prison.” Again, they interpret these expressions, “Thou shalt not go out thence until thou pay the very last farthing,” as meaning that no one can escape from the power of those angels who made the world, but that he must pass from body to body, until he has experience of every kind of action which can be practised in this world, and when nothing is longer wanting to him, then his liberated soul should soar upwards to that God who is above the angels, the makers of the world. In this way also all souls are saved, whether their own which, guarding against all delay, participate in all sorts of actions during one incarnation, or those, again, who, by passing from body to body, are set free, on fulfilling and accomplishing what is requisite in every form of life into which they are sent, so that at length they shall no longer be [shut up] in the body.

5. And thus, if ungodly, unlawful, and forbidden actions are committed among them, I can no longer find ground for believing them to be such. [2953] And in their writings we read as follows, the interpretation which they give [of their views], declaring that Jesus spoke in a mystery to His disciples and apostles privately, and that they requested and obtained permission to hand down the things thus taught them, to others who should be worthy and believing. We are saved, indeed, by means of faith and love; but all other things, while in their nature indifferent, are reckoned by the opinion of men–some good and some evil, there being nothing really evil by nature. 6. Others of them employ outward marks, branding their disciples inside the lobe of the right ear. From among these also arose Marcellina, who came to Rome under [the episcopate of] Anicetus, and, holding these doctrines, she led multitudes astray. They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. [2954] They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles.


[2945] [I note again this “Americanism.”]

[2946] Such seems to be the meaning of the Latin, but the original text is conjectural.

[2947] [See cap. xxvii. 3.]

[2948] The text is here defective, but the above meaning seems to be indicated by Epiphanius.

[2949] Rom. iii. 8.

[2950] [Isa. v. 20. Horne Tooke derives our word Truth from what any one troweth.]

[2951] The text here has greatly puzzled the editors. We follow the simple emendation proposed by Harvey.

[2952] Matt. v. 25, 26; Luke xii. 58, 59.

[2953] The meaning is here very doubtful, but Tertullian understood the words as above. If sinning were a necessity, then it could no longer be regarded as evil.

[2954] [This censure of images as a Gnostic peculiarity, and as a heathenish corruption, should be noted.]


Chapter XXVI.

Doctrines of Cerinthus, the Ebionites, and Nicolaitanes.

1. Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated [2955] in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.

2. Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God.

3. The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. [2956] They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” [2957]


[2955] We here follow the text as preserved by Hippolytus. The Latin has, “a certain man in Asia.”

[2956] [This is disputed by other primitive authorities.]

[2957] Rev. ii. 6.


Chapter XXVII.

Doctrines of Cerdo and Marcion.

1. Cerdo was one who took his system from the followers of Simon, and came to live at Rome in the time of Hyginus, who held the ninth place in the episcopal succession from the apostles downwards. He taught that the God proclaimed by the law and the prophets was not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the former was known, but the latter unknown; while the one also was righteous, but the other benevolent.

2. Marcion of Pontus succeeded him, and developed his doctrine. In so doing, he advanced the most daring blasphemy against Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the prophets, declaring Him to be the author of evils, to take delight in war, to be infirm of purpose, and even to be contrary to Himself. But Jesus being derived from that father who is above the God that made the world, and coming into Judaea in the times of Pontius Pilate the governor, who was the procurator of Tiberius Caesar, was manifested in the form of a man to those who were in Judaea, abolishing the prophets and the law, and all the works of that God who made the world, whom also he calls Cosmocrator. Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most dearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a fragment of it. In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul, removing all that is said by the apostle respecting that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes, in order to teach us that they announced beforehand the coming of the Lord.

3. Salvation will be the attainment only of those souls which had learned his doctrine; while the body, as having been taken from the earth, is incapable of sharing in salvation. In addition to his blasphemy against God Himself, he advanced this also, truly speaking as with the mouth of the devil, and saying all things in direct opposition to the truth,–that Cain, and those like him, and the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, and others like them, and, in fine, all the nations who walked in all sorts of abomination, were saved by the Lord, on His descending into Hades, and on their running unto Him, and that they welcomed Him into their kingdom. But the serpent [2958] which was in Marcion declared that Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and those other righteous men who sprang [2959] from the patriarch Abraham, with all the prophets, and those who were pleasing to God, did not partake in salvation. For since these men, he says, knew that their God was constantly tempting them, so now they suspected that He was tempting them, and did not run to Jesus, or believe His announcement: and for this reason he declared that their souls remained in Hades.

4. But since this man is the only one who has dared openly to mutilate the Scriptures, and unblushingly above all others to inveigh against God, I purpose specially to refute him, convicting him out of his own writings; and, with the help of God, I shall overthrow him out of those [2960] discourses of the Lord and the apostles, which are of authority with him, and of which he makes use. At present, however, I have simply been led to mention him, that thou mightest know that all those who in any way corrupt the truth, and injuriously affect the preaching of the Church, are the disciples and successors of Simon Magus of Samaria. Although they do not confess the name of their master, in order all the more to seduce others, yet they do teach his doctrines. They set forth, indeed, the name of Christ Jesus as a sort of lure, but in various ways they introduce the impieties of Simon; and thus they destroy multitudes, wickedly disseminating their own doctrines by the use of a good name, and, through means of its sweetness and beauty, extending to their hearers the bitter and malignant poison of the serpent, the great author of apostasy. [2961]


[2958] [Comp. cap. xxv. 3.]

[2959] We here follow the amended version proposed by the Benedictine editor.

[2960] A promise never fulfilled: comp. book iii. 12, and Euseb., Hist. Eccl., v. 8.

[2961] [Rev. xii. 9.]


Chapter XXVIII.

Doctrines of Tatian, the Encratites, and others.

1. Many offshoots of numerous heresies have already been formed from those heretics we have described. This arises from the fact that numbers of them–indeed, we may say all–desire themselves to be teachers, and to break off from the particular heresy in which they have been involved. Forming one set of doctrines out of a totally different system of opinions, and then again others from others, they insist upon teaching something new, declaring themselves the inventors of any sort of opinion which they may have been able to call into existence. To give an example: Springing from Saturninus and Marcion, those who are called Encratites (self-controlled) preached against marriage, thus setting aside the original creation of God, and indirectly blaming Him who made the male and female for the propagation of the human race. Some of those reckoned among them have also introduced abstinence from animal food, thus proving themselves ungrateful to God, who formed all things. They deny, too, the salvation of him who was first created. It is but lately, however, that this opinion has been invented among them. A certain man named Tatian first introduced the blasphemy. He was a hearer of Justin’s, and as long as he continued with him he expressed no such views; but after his martyrdom he separated from the Church, and, excited and puffed up by the thought of being a teacher, as if he were superior to others, he composed his own peculiar type of doctrine. He invented a system of certain invisible AEons, like the followers of Valentinus; while, like Marcion and Saturninus, he declared that marriage was nothing else than corruption and fornication. [2962] But his denial of Adam’s salvation was an opinion due entirely to himself.

2. Others, again, following upon Basilides and Carpocrates, have introduced promiscuous intercourse and a plurality of wives, and are indifferent about eating meats sacrificed to idols, maintaining that God does not greatly regard such matters. But why continue? For it is an impracticable attempt to mention all those who, in one way or another, have fallen away from the truth.


[2962] [The whole casuistical system of the Trent divines, De Matrimonio, proceeds on this principle: marriage is licensed evil.]


Chapter XXIX.

Doctrines of various other Gnostic sects, and especially of the Barbeliotes or Borborians.

1. Besides those, however, among these heretics who are Simonians, and of whom we have already spoken, a multitude of Gnostics have sprung up, and have been manifested like mushrooms growing out of the ground. I now proceed to describe the principal opinions held by them. Some of them, then, set forth a certain AEon who never grows old, and exists in a virgin spirit: him they style Barbelos. [2963] They declare that somewhere or other there exists a certain father who cannot be named, and that he was desirous to reveal himself to this Barbelos. Then this Ennoea went forward, stood before his face, and demanded from him Prognosis (prescience). But when Prognosis had, [as was requested,] come forth, these two asked for Aphtharsia (incorruption), which also came forth, and after that Zoe Aionios (eternal life). Barbelos, glorying in these, and contemplating their greatness, and in conception [2964] [thus formed], rejoicing in this greatness, generated light similar to it. They declare that this was the beginning both of light and of the generation of all things; and that the Father, beholding this light, anointed it with his own benignity, that it might be rendered perfect. Moreover, they maintain that this was Christ, who again, according to them, requested that Nous should be given him as an assistant; and Nous came forth accordingly. Besides these, the Father sent forth Logos. The conjunctions of Ennoea and Logos, and of Aphtharsia and Christ, will thus be formed; while Zoe Aionios was united to Thelema, and Nous to Prognosis. These, then, magnified the great light and Barbelos.

2. They also affirm that Autogenes was afterwards sent forth from Ennoea and Logos, to be a representation of the great light, and that he was greatly honoured, all things being rendered subject unto him. Along with him was sent forth Aletheia, and a conjunction was formed between Autogenes and Aletheia. But they declare that from the Light, which is Christ, and from Aphtharsia, four luminaries were sent forth to surround Autogenes; and again from Thelema and Zoe Aionios four other emissions took place, to wait upon these four luminaries; and these they name Charis (grace), Thelesis (will), Synesis (understanding), and Phronesis (prudence). Of these, Charis is connected with the great and first luminary: him they represent as Soter (Saviour), and style Armogenes. [2965] Thelesis, again, is united to the second luminary, whom they also name Raguel; Synesis to the third, whom they call David; and Phronesis to the fourth, whom they name Eleleth.

3. All these, then, being thus settled, Autogenes moreover produces a perfect and true man, whom they also call Adamas, inasmuch as neither has he himself ever been conquered, nor have those from whom he sprang; he also was, along with the first light, severed from Armogenes. Moreover, perfect knowledge was sent forth by Autogenes along with man, and was united to him; hence he attained to the knowledge of him that is above all. Invincible power was also conferred on him by the virgin spirit; and all things then rested in him, to sing praises to the great AEon. Hence also they declare were manifested the mother, the father, the son; while from Anthropos and Gnosis that Tree was produced which they also style Gnosis itself.

4. Next they maintain, that from the first angel, who stands by the side of Monogenes, the Holy Spirit has been sent forth, whom they also term Sophia and Prunicus. [2966] He then, perceiving that all the others had consorts, while he himself was destitute of one, searched after a being to whom he might be united; and not finding one, he exerted and extended himself to the uttermost and looked down into the lower regions, in the expectation of there finding a consort; and still not meeting with one, he leaped forth [from his place] in a state of great impatience, [which had come upon him] because he had made his attempt without the good-will of his father. Afterwards, under the influence of simplicity and kindness, he produced a work in which were to be found ignorance and audacity. This work of his they declare to be Protarchontes, the former of this [lower] creation. But they relate that a mighty power carried him away from his mother, and that he settled far away from her in the lower regions, and formed the firmament of heaven, in which also they affirm that he dwells. And in his ignorance he formed those powers which are inferior to himself–angels, and firmaments, and all things earthly. They affirm that he, being united to Authadia (audacity), produced Kakia (wickedness), Zelos (emulation), Phthonos (envy), Erinnys (fury), and Epithymia (lust). When these were generated, the mother Sophia deeply grieved, fled away, departed into the upper regions, and became the last of the Ogdoad, reckoning it downwards. On her thus departing, he imagined he was the only being in existence; and on this account declared, “I am a jealous God, and besides me there is no one.” [2967] Such are the falsehoods which these people invent.


[2963] Harvey supposes this name to be derived from two Syriac words, meaning “God in a Tetrad.” Matter again derives it from two Hebrew words, denoting “Daughter of the Lord.” [2964] Both the text and meaning are here altogether doubtful. [2965] Harvey refers to the cabbalistic books in explanation of this and the following names, but their meanings are very uncertain. [2966] Various explanations of this word have been proposed, but its signification remains altogether doubtful. [2967] Ex. xx. 5; Isa. xlv. 5, 6.


Chapter XXX.

Doctrines of the Ophites and Sethians.

1. Others, again, portentously declare that there exists, in the power of Bythus, a certain primary light, blessed, incorruptible, and infinite: this is the Father of all, and is styled the first man. They also maintain that his Ennoea, going forth from him, produced a son, and that this is the son of man–the second man. Below these, again, is the Holy Spirit, and under this superior spirit the elements were separated from each other, viz., water, darkness, the abyss, chaos, above which they declare the Spirit was borne, calling him the first woman. Afterwards, they maintain, the first man, with his son, delighting over the beauty of the Spirit–that is, of the woman–and shedding light upon her, begat by her an incorruptible light, the third male, whom they call Christ,–the son of the first and second man, and of the Holy Spirit, the first woman.

2. The father and son thus both had intercourse with the woman (whom they also call the mother of the living). When, however, [2968] she could not bear nor receive into herself the greatness of the lights, they declare that she was filled to repletion, and became ebullient on the left side; and that thus their only son Christ, as belonging to the right side, and ever tending to what was higher, was immediately caught up with his mother to form an incorruptible AEon. This constitutes the true and holy Church, which has become the appellation, the meeting together, and the union of the father of all, of the first man, of the son, of the second man, of Christ their son, and of the woman who has been mentioned.

3. They teach, however, that the power which proceeded from the woman by ebullition, being besprinkled with light, fell downward from the place occupied by its progenitors, yet possessing by its own will that besprinkling of light; and it they call Sinistra, Prunicus, and Sophia, as well as masculo-feminine. This being, in its simplicity, descended into the waters while they were yet in a state of immobility, and imparted motion to them also, wantonly acting upon them even to their lowest depths, and assumed from them a body. For they affirm that all things rushed towards and clung to that sprinkling of light, and begin it all round. Unless it had possessed that, it would perhaps have been totally absorbed in, and overwhelmed by, material substance. Being therefore bound down by a body which was composed of matter, and greatly burdened by it, this power regretted the course it had followed, and made an attempt to escape from the waters and ascend to its mother: it could not effect this, however, on account of the weight of the body lying over and around it. But feeling very ill at ease, it endeavoured at least to conceal that light which came from above, fearing lest it too might be injured by the inferior elements, as had happened to itself. And when it had received power from that besprinkling of light which it possessed, it sprang back again, and was borne aloft; and being on high, it extended itself, covered [a portion of space], and formed this visible heaven out of its body; yet remained under the heaven which it made, as still possessing the form of a watery body. But when it had conceived a desire for the light above, and had received power by all things, it laid down this body, and was freed from it. This body which they speak of that power as having thrown off, they call a female from a female.

4. They declare, moreover, that her son had also himself a certain breath of incorruption left him by his mother, and that through means of it he works; and becoming powerful, he himself, as they affirm, also sent forth from the waters a son without a mother; for they do not allow him either to have known a mother. His son, again, after the example of his father, sent forth another son. This third one, too, generated a fourth; the fourth also generated a son: they maintain that again a son was generated by the fifth; and the sixth, too, generated a seventh. Thus was the Hebdomad, according to them, completed, the mother possessing the eighth place; and as in the case of their generations, so also in regard to dignities and powers, they precede each other in turn.

5. They have also given names to [the several persons] in their system of falsehood, such as the following: he who was the first descendant of the mother is called Ialdabaoth; [2969] he, again, descended from him, is named Iao; he, from this one, is called Sabaoth; the fourth is named Adoneus; the fifth, Eloeus; the sixth, Oreus; and the seventh and last of all, Astanphaeus. Moreover, they represent these heavens, potentates, powers, angels, and creators, as sitting in their proper order in heaven, according to their generation, and as invisibly ruling over things celestial and terrestrial. The first of them, namely Ialdabaoth, holds his mother in contempt, inasmuch as he produced sons and grandsons without the permission of any one, yea, even angels, archangels, powers, potentates, and dominions. After these things had been done, his sons turned to strive and quarrel with him about the supreme power,–conduct which deeply grieved Ialdabaoth, and drove him to despair. In these circumstances, he cast his eyes upon the subjacent dregs of matter, and fixed his desire upon it, to which they declare his son owes his origin. This son is Nous himself, twisted into the form of a serpent; [2970] and hence were derived the spirit, the soul, and all mundane things: from this too were generated all oblivion, wickedness, emulation, envy, and death. They declare that the father imparted [2971] still greater crookedness to this serpent-like and contorted Nous of theirs, when he was with their father in heaven and Paradise.

6. On this account, Ialdabaoth, becoming uplifted in spirit, boasted himself over all those things that were below him, and exclaimed, “I am father, and God, and above me there is no one.” But his mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out against him, “Do not lie, Ialdabaoth: for the father of all, the first Anthropos (man), is above thee; and so is Anthropos the son of Anthropos.” Then, as all were disturbed by this new voice, and by the unexpected proclamation, and as they were inquiring whence the noise proceeded, in order to lead them away and attract them to himself, they affirm that Ialdabaoth exclaimed, “Come, let us make man after our image.” [2972] The six powers, on hearing this, and their mother furnishing them with the idea of a man (in order that by means of him she might empty them of their original power), jointly formed a man of immense size, both in regard to breadth and length. But as he could merely writhe along the ground, they carried him to their father; Sophia so labouring in this matter, that she might empty him (Ialdabaoth) of the light with which he had been sprinkled, so that he might no longer, though still powerful, be able to lift up himself against the powers above. They declare, then, that by breathing into man the spirit of life, he was secretly emptied of his power; that hence man became a possessor of nous (intelligence) and enthymesis (thought); and they affirm that these are the faculties which partake in salvation. He [they further assert] at once gave thanks to the first Anthropos (man), forsaking those who had created him.

7. But Ialdabaoth, feeling envious at this, was pleased to form the design of again emptying man by means of woman, and produced a woman from his own enthymesis, whom that Prunicus [above mentioned] laying hold of, imperceptibly emptied her of power. But the others coming and admiring her beauty, named her Eve, and falling in love with her, begat sons by her, whom they also declare to be the angels. But their mother (Sophia) cunningly devised a scheme to seduce Eve and Adam, by means of the serpent, to transgress the command of Ialdabaoth. Eve listened to this as if it had proceeded from a son of God, and yielded an easy belief. She also persuaded Adam to eat of the tree regarding which God had said that they should not eat of it. They then declare that, on their thus eating, they attained to the knowledge of that power which is above all, and departed from those who had created them. [2973] When Prunicus perceived that the powers were thus baffled by their own creature, she greatly rejoiced, and again cried out, that since the father was incorruptible, he (Ialdabaoth) who formerly called himself the father was a liar; and that, while Anthropos and the first woman (the Spirit) existed previously, this one (Eve) sinned by committing adultery.

8. Ialdabaoth, however, through that oblivion in which he was involved, and not paying any regard to these things, cast Adam and Eve out of Paradise, because they had transgressed his commandment. For he had a desire to beget sons by Eve, but did not accomplish his wish, because his mother opposed him in every point, and secretly emptied Adam and Eve of the light with which they had been sprinkled, in order that that spirit which proceeded from the supreme power might participate neither in the curse nor opprobrium [caused by transgression]. They also teach that, thus being emptied of the divine substance, they were cursed by him, and cast down from heaven to this world. [2974] But the serpent also, who was acting against the father, was cast down by him into this lower world; he reduced, however, under his power the angels here, and begat six sons, he himself forming the seventh person, after the example of that Hebdomad which surrounds the father. They further declare that these are the seven mundane demons, who always oppose and resist the human race, because it was on their account that their father was cast down to this lower world.

9. Adam and Eve previously had light, and clear, and as it were spiritual bodies, such as they were at their creation; but when they came to this world, these changed into bodies more opaque, and gross, and sluggish. Their soul also was feeble and languid, inasmuch as they had received from their creator a merely mundane inspiration. This continued until Prunicus, moved with compassion towards them, restored to them the sweet savour of the besprinkling of light, by means of which they came to a remembrance of themselves, and knew that they were naked, as well as that the body was a material substance, and thus recognised that they bore death about with them. They thereupon became patient, knowing that only for a time they would be enveloped in the body. They also found out food, through the guidance of Sophia; and when they were satisfied, they had carnal knowledge of each other, and begat Cain, whom the serpent, that had been cast down along with his sons, immediately laid hold of and destroyed by filling him with mundane oblivion, and urging into folly and audacity, so that, by slaying his brother Abel, he was the first to bring to light envy and death. After these, they affirm that, by the forethought of Prunicus, Seth was begotten, and then Norea, [2975] from whom they represent all the rest of mankind as being descended. They were urged on to all kinds of wickedness by the inferior Hebdomad, and to apostasy, idolatry, and a general contempt for everything by the superior holy Hebdomad, [2976] since the mother was always secretly opposed to them, and carefully preserved what was peculiarly her own, that is, the besprinkling of light. They maintain, moreover, that the holy Hebdomad is the seven stars which they call planets; and they affirm that the serpent cast down has two names, Michael and Samael.

10. Ialdabaoth, again, being incensed with men, because they did not worship or honour him as father and God, sent forth a deluge upon them, that he might at once destroy them all. But Sophia opposed him in this point also, and Noah and his family were saved in the ark by means of the besprinkling of that light which proceeded from her, and through it the world was again filled with mankind. Ialdabaoth himself chose a certain man named Abraham from among these, and made a covenant with him, to the effect that, if his seed continued to serve him, he would give to them the earth for an inheritance. Afterwards, by means of Moses, he brought forth Abraham’s descendants from Egypt, and gave them the law, and made them the Jews. Among that people he chose seven days, [2977] which they also call the holy Hebdomad. Each of these receives his own herald for the purpose of glorifying and proclaiming God; so that, when the rest hear these praises, they too may serve those who are announced as gods by the prophets.

11. Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner: Moses, and Joshua the son of Nun, and Amos, and Habakkuk, belonged to Ialdabaoth; Samuel, and Nathan, and Jonah, and Micah, to Iao; Elijah, Joel, and Zechariah to Sabaoth; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to Adonai; Tobias and Haggai to Eloi; Michaiah and Nahum to Oreus; Esdras and Zephaniah to Astanphaeus. Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), [2978] and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ. The [other] powers being terrified by these things, and marvelling at the novelty of those things which were announced by the prophets, Prunicus brought it about by means of Ialdabaoth (who knew not what he did), that emissions of two men took place, the one from the barren Elizabeth, and the other from the Virgin Mary.

12. And since she herself had no rest either in heaven or on earth, she invoked her mother to assist her in her distress. Upon this, her mother, the first woman, was moved with compassion towards her daughter, on her repentance, and begged from the first man that Christ should be sent to her assistance, who, being sent forth, descended to his sister, and to the besprinkling of light. When he recognised her (that is, the Sophia below), her brother descended to her, and announced his advent through means of John, and prepared the baptism of repentance, and adopted Jesus beforehand, in order that on Christ descending he might find a pure vessel, and that by the son of that Ialdabaoth the woman might be announced by Christ. They further declare that he descended through the seven heavens, having assumed the likeness of their sons, and gradually emptied them of their power. For they maintain that the whole besprinkling of light rushed to him, and that Christ, descending to this world, first clothed his sister Sophia [with it], and that then both exulted in the mutual refreshment they felt in each other’s society: this scene they describe as relating to bridegroom and bride. But Jesus, inasmuch as he was begotten of the Virgin through the agency of God, was wiser, purer, and more righteous than all other men: Christ united to Sophia descended into him, and thus Jesus Christ was produced.

13. They affirm that many of his disciples were not aware of the descent of Christ into him; but that, when Christ did descend on Jesus, he then began to work miracles, and heal, and announce the unknown Father, and openly to confess himself the son of the first man. The powers and the father of Jesus were angry at these proceedings, and laboured to destroy him; and when he was being led away for this purpose, they say that Christ himself, along with Sophia, departed from him into the state of an incorruptible AEon, while Jesus was crucified. Christ, however, was not forgetful of his Jesus, but sent down a certain energy into him from above, which raised him up again in the body, which they call both animal and spiritual; for he sent the mundane parts back again into the world. When his disciples saw that he had risen, they did not recognise him–no, not even Jesus himself, by whom he rose again from the dead. And they assert that this very great error prevailed among his disciples, that they imagined he had risen in a mundane body, not knowing that “flesh [2979] and blood do not attain to the kingdom of God.”

14. They strove to establish the descent and ascent of Christ, by the fact that neither before his baptism, nor after his resurrection from the dead, do his disciples state that he did any mighty works, not being aware that Jesus was united to Christ, and the incorruptible AEon to the Hebdomad; and they declare his mundane body to be of the same nature as that of animals. But after his resurrection he tarried [on earth] eighteen months; and knowledge descending into him from above, he taught what was clear. He instructed a few of his disciples, whom he knew to be capable of understanding so great mysteries, in these things, and was then received up into heaven, Christ sitting down at the right hand of his father Ialdabaoth, that he may receive to himself the souls of those who have known them, [2980] after they have laid aside their mundane flesh, thus enriching himself without the knowledge or perception of his father; so that, in proportion as Jesus enriches himself with holy souls, to such an extent does his father suffer loss and is diminished, being emptied of his own power by these souls. For he will not now possess holy souls to send them down again into the world, except those only which are of his substance, that is, those into which he has breathed. But the consummation [of all things] will take place, when the whole besprinkling of the spirit of light is gathered together, and is carried off to form an incorruptible AEon.

15. Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernaean hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus. For some of them assert that Sophia herself became the serpent; on which account she was hostile to the creator of Adam, and implanted knowledge in men, for which reason the serpent was called wiser than all others. Moreover, by the position of our intestines, through which the food is conveyed, and by the fact that they possess such a figure, our internal configuration [2981] in the form of a serpent reveals our hidden generatrix.


[2968] The punctuation is here difficult and doubtful.

[2969] The probable meaning of this and the following names is thus given by Harvey: Ialdabaoth, Lord God of the Fathers; Iao, Jehovah; Oreus, Light; Astanphaeus, Crown; Sabaoth, of course, means Hosts; Adoneus, Lord; and Eloeus, God. All the names are derived from the cabbalistic theology of the Jews.

[2970] Hence their name of Ophites, from ophis, a serpent.

[2971] The Latin has evertisse, implying that thus Nous was more degraded.

[2972] Gen. i. 26.

[2973] That is, from Ialdabaoth, etc. [Philastr. (ut supra), Oehler, i. p. 38.]

[2974] There is constant reference in this section to rabbinical conceits and follies.

[2975] A name probably derived from the Hebrew nrh, girl, but of the person referred to we know nothing.

[2976] We here follow the emendation of Grabe: the defection of Prunicus is intended.

[2977] The Latin here is “ex quibus,” and the meaning is exceedingly obscure. Harvey thinks it is the representative ex on (chronon) in the Greek, but we prefer to refer it to “Judaeos,” as above. The next sentence seems unintelligible: but, according to Harvey, “each deified day of the week had his ministering prophets.”

[2978] The common text inserts “et incorruptibili AEone,” but this seems better rejected as a glossarial interpolation.

[2979] 1 Cor. xv. 50. The Latin text reads “apprehendunt,” which can scarcely be the translation of kleronomesai in the Greek text of the New Testament.

[2980] That is, Christ and Jesus.

[2981] The text of this sentence is hopelessly corrupt, but the meaning is as given above.


Chapter XXXI.

Doctrines of the Cainites.

1. Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

2. I have also made a collection of their writings in which they advocate the abolition of the doings of Hystera. [2982] Moreover, they call this Hystera the creator of heaven and earth. They also hold, like Carpocrates, that men cannot be saved until they have gone through all kinds of experience. An angel, they maintain, attends them in every one of their sinful and abominable actions, and urges them to venture on audacity and incur pollution. Whatever may be the nature [2983] of the action, they declare that they do it in the name of the angel, saying, “O thou angel, I use thy work; O thou power, I accomplish thy operation!” And they maintain that this is “perfect knowledge,” without shrinking to rush into such actions as it is not lawful even to name.

3. It was necessary clearly to prove, that, as their very opinions and regulations exhibit them, those who are of the school of Valentinus derive their origin from such mothers, fathers, and ancestors, and also to bring forward their doctrines, with the hope that perchance some of them, exercising repentance and returning to the only Creator, and God the Former of the universe, may obtain salvation, and that others may not henceforth be drawn away by their wicked, although plausible, persuasions, imagining that they will obtain from them the knowledge of some greater and more sublime mysteries. But let them rather, learning to good effect from us the wicked tenets of these men, look with contempt upon their doctrines, while at the same time they pity those who, still cleaving to these miserable and baseless fables, have reached such a pitch of arrogance as to reckon themselves superior to all others on account of such knowledge, or, as it should rather be called, ignorance. They have now been fully exposed; and simply to exhibit their sentiments, is to obtain a victory over them.

4. Wherefore I have laboured to bring forward, and make clearly manifest, the utterly ill-conditioned carcase of this miserable little fox. [2984] For there will not now be need of many words to overturn their system of doctrine, when it has been made manifest to all. It is as when, on a beast hiding itself in a wood, and by rushing forth from it is in the habit of destroying multitudes, one who beats round the wood and thoroughly explores it, so as to compel the animal to break cover, does not strive to capture it, seeing that it is truly a ferocious beast; but those present can then watch and avoid its assaults, and can cast darts at it from all sides, and wound it, and finally slay that destructive brute. So, in our case, since we have brought their hidden mysteries, which they keep in silence among themselves, to the light, it will not now be necessary to use many words in destroying their system of opinions. For it is now in thy power, and in the power of all thy associates, to familiarize yourselves with what has been said, to overthrow their wicked and undigested doctrines, and to set forth doctrines agreeable to the truth. Since then the case is so, I shall, according to promise, and as my ability serves, labour to overthrow them, by refuting them all in the following book. Even to give an account of them is a tedious affair, as thou seest. [2985] But I shall furnish means for overthrowing them, by meeting all their opinions in the order in which they have been described, that I may not only expose the wild beast to view, but may inflict wounds upon it from every side.


[2982] According to Harvey, Hystera corresponds to the “passions” of Achamoth. [Note the “Americanism,” advocate used as a verb.]

[2983] The text is here imperfect, and the translation only conjectural.

[2984] [Cant. ii. 15; St. Luke xiii. 32.]

[2985] [Let the reader bear in mind that the Greek of this original and very precious author exists only in fragments. We are reading the translation of a translation; the Latin very rude, and the subject itself full of difficulties. It may yet be discovered that some of the faults of the work are not chargeable to Irenaeus.]