The Christian sects;
Continuing my mini series on what was happening to the “christian” faith and the various political struggles between the sects, cults and claimants of the “truth” in the 1st to 5th centuries. Contrary to the current evangelist views there was not an exponential growth of just any one sect. Even in Rome there were schisms, sects and cults in the early 1st century, all claiming to have the “truth” much to to the chagrin and annoyance of the orthodox Roman Churchites who were just one (albeit very influential) of the many cults in town.
I have already explored the Ebionites and the Marcionites on these forums so lets go to another big one now: The Valentinians or followers of Valentinus.
Valentinus was born in about 100CE, in Egypt, he died in 180CE, a good age! and started his ministry quite young. Like the majority of ‘Christians’ at the time he was an ardent follower of Paul and a Gnostic. He went to Rome, an educated and erudite young man. He was in line for a Bishopric but was passed over.
He appeared to be trying a combination of the philosophy of both Plato and Philo ;The Valentinian philosophy* posited that in the beginning there was a Pleroma, ( literally a fullness*),* that the Jesus figure was not “God” but as the “logos” (Word) which was emitted by “the Father” to create the Universe.
Even by his critics (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Tertullian, and friends such as Marcellus of Acyra and) he was acknowledged to be a prolific writer and an engaging and personable character.
Irenaeus in particular loathed his work and attacked him refuting his arguments…which is where we had the most idea of Valentinus’s writing until the late 20th century.
About the 5th Century CE, Valentinus’s teachings had split into an Eastern and Western School, but his temples and philosophy was spread throughout the Empire and beyond, much like the Marcionites. Together they dwarfed the nascent ‘Orthodox’ Roman and Eastern Churches.
Valentinus was also, reputedly, a fan of Paul’s 'secret teachings ’ (see Corinthians 4.1). Valentinus did not consider himself heretic although many others in the Roman Church did indeed consider him such. He was not formally declared heretic until the late 4th century…
He and his teachings were finally declared heretic in 380CE under Theodosius , and in 428 CE Valentinians were forbidden to congregate on pain of death, and all the books and practices of the Valentinans declared anathema, and once again this sentence was repeated by the Bishop of Rome in 492CE. All the complete texts were thought to have been destroyed until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi trove.
428CE saw the decline of Valentiniasm, like the Marcionites and all the others. Death was not an attractive alternative I would think. Valentinianism probably continued much later, like Marcionism well in to the 10th Century.
A Coptic copy of “The Gospel in Truth”** from the Nag Hammadi Library is arguably by Valentinus and some other writings by him and his followers have been collated in a book :
If you have a look at @sherlocks maunderings I think he may have been trying to express Valentinian thoughts, but without the actual knowledge that he was utterly unoriginal.
Edited spelling and grammar