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The Valentinians: Ancient Christian Gnostics?

Updated: May 5, 2022

"Valentinianism was a prominent variety of early Christianity starting in the 2nd century CE. Some call it a form of Gnosticism. But what is Valentinianism all about?

Further reading: Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, "Valentinus’ Legacy and Polyphony of Voices" [2022] Geoffrey Smith, "Valentinian Christianity" [2020] Ismo Dunderberg, "Beyond Gnosticism" [2008]" from video introduction.

Who was Valentinus? What was Valentinianism?

Valentinus (AD 100—160) was an early Gnostic theologian. Valentinus was born in Phrebonis, Egypt, but moved to Alexandria as a child. He was given a Greek education and supposedly became a student of Theudas, who had studied with the apostle Paul.

History says Valentinus became an eloquent, well-known teacher in Rome. In 157 his fame made him a contender for the bishop of Rome, a position he lost to Anicetus. At that point, Valentinus left Rome, re-emerged as a proponent of Gnosticism, and developed teachings that have come to be known as Valentinianism.

Valentinus attempted to support his false teachings with the assertion that they were secret doctrines of Paul handed down to him; however, his dogmas stand in stark contrast to Scripture. For example, Valentinian cosmogony starts with a primal being, called Bythos, who in turn produced spiritual beings, the Aeons, in a higher realm. As is found in other Gnostic teachings, one of these beings made a mistake by creating the physical world, in which humanity is trapped.

For Valentinus and other Gnostics, there was no mixing of the spiritual world with the physical. Thus, they rejected the incarnation, crucifixion, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.." from the article: Who was Valentinus? What was Valentinianism?

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