Valentinian Reinterpretation

In effect, Valentinianism really tried hard to soften the blow of the reality of Sophia’s rupture due to her wanton behavior that’s reported accurately in ApJohn. Oddly enough, the school does not have a Pronoia/Barbelo figure, but it chose to rescue Sophia.

As we know, there were two branches of the Valentinian School, East & West, or Oriental & Roman. The former branch holds the mystical treatises, such as the extraordinarily wordy TriTrac, whereas the Western branch seems to have been more inline with the Orthodox Church fathers. Then there’s the Pistis Sophia. In the East, Sophia remains in the ‘ogdoad’ (though in the 8th, not the 9th,) and I believe interestingly that she seems to have begotten the Christ figure according to this source! Additionally, the treatise claims there are thirty Aeons. This is outrageously different from ApJohn. Furthermore, they went through back-flips to present the Demiurge in a more positive light in TriTract. Suffice to say, their attempt was not only ineffective, it was wrong. They did not attempt to build upon ApJohn as Sethian works such as The Hypostasis of the Archons did; the Eastern Valentinians rewrote the Apocryphon entirely.

In the West, Sophia’s “better half” went back to the Pleroma, and in this aeon/Realm her other half repented endlessly, and I’m not quite sure if she is fully split or if after repenting the other half went back to the Valentinian Pleroma (certainly not the Pleroma!) However, it’s rather unclear as there aren’t many Western Valentinian sources, inline with Hurtado’s & Layton’s observation that the Western group relied fundamentally on those treatises included in The New Testament (NT.) GosTruth is one theoretical exception, though it does not discuss Sophia’s Providence, and it augments ApJohn--not rewrites.

All in all, what we have here is a clear case of the Sethian/Barbeloite superiority, and the Valentinian attempt to better position baseline Sethian concepts. That’s one thing Irenaeus actually got partially right. Sophia is not the representative of the Holy Spirit. The Valentinians of course were quite unsuccessful, as those in this school were no match for Irenaeus. However, perhaps it was best that this all went down as such as the Sethians most likely wanted no part in canonizing the Apocryphon–and they wanted nothing to do with the proto-orthodox (and certainly not Irenaeus!) They most certainly valued NT treatises such as GosJohn; I believe they wrote it (yes–I believe the evangelist was the first secessionist.) According to many believers at the time (and by extension some believers today,) Sethianism really could have been construed as Original Christianity (I tend to side with The University of Exeter’s Alastair Logan and Harvard University’s Karen King that the Sethian works must have been Christian–quite unlike The University of Nebraska’s John Douglas Turner–as discussed further in the next Section.)

However, the Valentinians tried, and they further tried, to include themselves within the Orthodox Church. Valentinus himself was almost named the Bishop of Rome. However, after Irenaeus’ work, they tried to rewrite much of Sethianism in order to accommodate his criticism. They failed.

TriTract just simply is an inferior work to ApJohn, even though it seems clear that the drafter(s) of the treatise tried to remove the mythology. However, ApJohn’s mythologoumena is there for a reason: it teaches. The Valentinians too dropped the Five Seals, perhaps replacing it with The Gospel of Philip’s (GosPhil) Bridal Chamber (though as I posit in the GosPhil Section, this treatise could go either way.) They too got rid of the Illuminators, even though they’re technically angel-like and not necessarily mythological, but so be it. However, I’ll point out an interesting excerpt from Harvard’s Karen King’s Secret Revelation of John (ApJohn,) p. 149: “Baptismal Sealing brings the power of the Spirit into the soul to strengthen it in its battle against the passions and the power of the counterfeit spirit.”