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The Valentinianism is by the students of the Gnostic Valentinus represented Gnostic-Christian doctrine. Their following was one of the most widespread movements of ancient gnosis.


Valentinianism developed in an Italian and an Eastern ("Anatolian") form. The Western school traditionally includes the Valentine teachers Alexander, Florinus, Herakleon , Ptolemy , Secundus and Theotimus, the Eastern Axionicus (Axionikos), Markos the magician and Theodotus of Byzantium . It is possible that Bardesanes also belonged to the eastern currents of Valentinianism.

Recent research emphasizes the theological independence of the Valentine teachers. Accordingly, one can only speak of a “school” to a limited extent. Origen adopted and developed some of the basic elements of Valentinian theology .

According to Ambrose of Milan , Valentinians disturbed a procession of monks near Kallinikos in Syria in 388 , whereupon the monks burned down the temple of the Valentinians in a village. Emperor Theodosius I ordered the monks to be punished, and Ambrosius stood up for them. For the last time the existence of contemporary Valentinians is attested in the year 692 in the decisions of the second council of Trullo. However, after the middle of the 5th century they no longer seem to have represented any real size.


Valentinianism is a syncretistic religious movement and is strongly influenced by Christianity. According to Hans Jonas, it forms the intellectual climax of the Syrian-Egyptian type of Gnosticism. According to Jonas, the system is highly differentiated and coherent. The Valentinians therefore regarded themselves with a proud feeling as specially chosen, as the elite of Gnosticism, so to speak.

Since a good creator god is assumed, Valentinos asks himself the question of the origin of misery in the world. The answer is given in a mythical tale, the Sophia myth. Sophia embodies the fall of the divine and knowledge into the material and ignorance. This results in a dualistic worldview, one of the characteristics of Gnostic systems: on the one hand the darkness of the material world, on the other a spiritual world of light.

The origin of darkness and the bad material is located in the deity himself. That is the Valentine specific. Darkness and materiality are the result of the error and failure of the purely spiritual divine. So there was a fall of the divine itself before creation, through which the material world came into being. The material world is the lowest point and the end product of a process of failure of the divine. It is the darkened and self-alienated form of the divine. The principle on which it is based is ignorance, the darkened mode of its opposite, knowledge.

Knowledge is the original state of the divine, while ignorance is a disorder that affects a part of the divine and is ultimately reflected in matter. The material as materialization of ignorance is a loss of the absolute. But this state can be reversed again through knowledge. Each individual enlightenment through knowledge contributes to the restoration of the affected deity. Every private act of knowledge moves the divine, the objective ground of being. Irenaeus quotes the Valentinians: “Perfect redemption is precisely the knowledge of inexpressible 'greatness'. Indeed, while ignorance creates want and suffering, knowledge dissolves the whole condition caused by ignorance. [...] So the knowledge of the universal being is enough for us: That should be the true salvation. ”This is the“ pneumatic equation of Valentine’s thinking ”, which Jonas describes as“ great ”: The human-individual knowledge is the reverse equivalent of the pre-cosmic universal occurrences of divine ignorance and, as far as their redeeming effect is concerned, has the same ontological rank. The knowledge of the individual is at the same time an act within the divine. Nevertheless, Jesus is needed as the redeemer figure, because he first brings the knowledge (gnosis) that the Father is not recognizable: "For what could the universe lack apart from the knowledge of the Father?"

Valentinianism speaks of the first, uppermost eight eons or ( spiritual ) eternal world principles. They form four male-female pairs (syzygies). Bythos (Greek βυθός), the male side of the Godhead, is the inexhaustible, unfathomable ground of all being, the invisible, incomprehensible, ineffable very beginning, the perfect Aion (αἰών), of which the world has taken its origin. Bythos connects with his female half, the Ennoia (έννοια), the first thought or the first thinking power of God, which is called Sigē , the silence. From this arise Nous (νοῦς), the innate reason, and Aletheia (ἀλήθεια), the truth. Both together bring forth the Logos (λόγος), the Word, and the Zoē ( ζωή ), the life, from which in the end Anthropos (ἄνθρωπος), the human being, and Ecclesia (ἐκκλησία), the spiritual community, spring. The following pairings lead to the eight eons:

"male" "Female"
Bythos (βυθός) Ennoia (έννοια) or Sige (έννοια)
Nous (νοῦς) Aletheia (ἀλήθεια)
Logos (λόγος) Zoe (ζωή)
Anthropos (ἄνθρωπος) Ecclesia (ἐκκλησία)

These Ogdoas (ογδοάς, eighthhood) are followed by a decas (δεκας, tenhood) and then a dodecas (δωδεκας, twelvehood) of aeons, the last of which is Sophia (σοφíα, wisdom). Thus the Valentinian system spans 8 + 10 + 12 = 30 aeons.

Arising from the Logos and Zoe Deka :

"male" "Female"
Bythos Mixis
Ageratos (immortality) Henosis (oneness, union)
Autophyes Hedone enjoyment
Akinetos (the unmoved) Synkrasis
Monogenes Makaria (joy)

The Anthropos and the Ecclesia become the Dodecas :

"male" "Female"
Parakletos Pistis (belief)
Patriko's immortality Elpis (hope)
Metrics Agape
Aeinous the unmoved Synesis
Ekklesiastikos Makariotes
Theletus Sophia

The Sophia is also the Holy Spirit equated. In many cases it appears as the lowest of the aeons emanated by the deity , which in their entirety form the pleroma , and as the cause of the creation of the material world. A distinction is often made between a higher and lower aspect of Sophia . The lower or lower Sophia, who dwells outside the pleroma , is then also referred to by the Valentinians as Achamoth (Ἀχαμώθ).


Overview representations in manuals

Overall presentations and investigations

  • Hans Jonas : Gnosis. The message of the strange god. Verlag der Welteligionen, Frankfurt / Leipzig 2008, ISBN 978-3-458-72008-9
  • Christoph Markschies: Valentinus Gnosticus? Investigations on Valentine Gnosis, with a commentary on the Fragments of Valentine. Mohr, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 3-16-145993-8
  • Christoph Markschies: The Valentine Gnosis and Marcion - some new perspectives . In: Gerhard May , Katharina Greschat , Martin Meiser (eds.): Marcion and its effect on the history of the church. Marcion and His Impact on Church History. Lectures of the International Conference on Marcion, held from 15. – 18. August 2001 in Mainz. De Gruyter, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-11-017599-1 , pp. 159-175 Google Booksearch
  • Everett Procter: Christian Controversy in Alexandria. Clement's Polemic against the Basilideans and Valentinians (= American University Studies 7/172). Lang, New York et al. a. 1995, ISBN 0-8204-2378-5
  • Holger Strutwolf: Gnosis as a system. On the reception of the Valentine Gnosis in Origen (= research on the history of the church and dogma 56). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1993, ISBN 3-525-55164-9
  • Einar Thomassen: The Spiritual Seed. The Church of the “Valentinians” (= Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies , Volume 60). Brill, Leiden 2006, ISBN 90-04-14802-7
  • Philip L. Tite: Valentinian Ethics and Paraenetic Discourse. Determining the Social Function of Moral Exhortation in Valentinian Christianity . Brill, Leiden 2009, ISBN 978-90-04-17507-5
  • Friedrich Georg Heinrici : The Valentinianic Gnosis and the Holy Scriptures: A Study. Wiegandt and Grieben, Berlin 1871, p. 26 [1]

Source collection

  • Niclas Förster: Marcus Magus: Cult, teaching and community life of a Valentine Gnostic group. Collection of sources and commentary . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-16-147053-2


  1. ^ Christoph Markschies: Valentin / Valentinianer. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Volume 34, Berlin / New York 2002, pp. 495–500, here: 498.
  2. ^ Christoph Markschies: Valentin / Valentinianer. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Volume 34, Berlin / New York 2002, pp. 495–500, here: 495.
  3. ^ Klaus-Gunther Wesseling: Valentinos. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon , Volume 12, Herzberg 1997, Sp. 1067-1084, here: 1071.
  4. Ambrose of Milan, Letter 40.
  5. Canon 95 of the Second Council of Trullo .
  6. ^ Christoph Markschies: Valentin / Valentinianer. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Volume 34, Berlin / New York 2002, pp. 495–500, here: 498.
  7. Irenäus , Adversus haereses 1,21,4.
  8. Gospel of Truth 19:15 f.
  9. Konrad Dietzfelbinger : Redemption through knowledge. The Gnosis. Königsdorf 2008, p. 52 f.