Who’s on First–The Sethians or the Valentinians?

Moreover, think about this fact: Irenaeus spends much time specifically disparaging the Valentinians in Against Heresies, Book I, Chapters 29 & 30. However, much of his criticism focuses not on works associated with this school of thought, but rather Sethianism, and specifically the Barbeloite (“Barbelognostic”) branch. He directly discusses, at length in Chapter 30, The Apocryphon of John so much that a prominent modern scholar, Alastair Logan, actually uses his material as a compare/contrast source when he attempts to trace ApJohn back to the original text, clearly a generation or so ahead of ~CE180 when Irenaeus wrote his many volumes. TriProt is dated by Logan to have been written ~CE180, though some scholars go as far back as ~CE120 (and this timing makes sense given its relative proximity to the intra-group the Johannine Epistles refer to as the secessionists, or as their author(s) likes to believe–the “antichrists,”) and we know from the scholarly community in general GosJohn was written ~CE90. The common link is clear once one really conceptualizes this notion.

Irenaeus almost solely focuses on the creation of this aeon, or lesser ogdoad, and even confuses this aspect with the creation of the Pleroma (the Heavens) itself. He addresses the notion (in Book I, Chapter 30, v. 13-14) that ApJohn is in accordance with GosJohn, but it is presented as a falsehood. He summarizes in Book III, Chapter 11, v.8: “For that according to John relates His original, effectual, and glorious generation from the Father, thus declaring, ‘In the beginning was Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word is God.’ John 1:1, ‘Also, all things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made.’ For this reason, too, is that the Gospel is full of all confidence, for such is His person.” I will be addressing the Johannine Prologue in a later section.

I must say that I appreciate Alastair Logan’s comment in Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy: “this ‘hypostasis’ of the [Sethians] surely annoyed Irenaeus!” He too posits a great question, one not addressed virtually anywhere else: “Are Hypostases the same things as Aeons?” My opinion is the character or concept is the greater of the two, thus the Hypostasis, and as seen with the Valentinians, Aeons come and go ad hoc! Mr. Logan further tweaks my funny bone by jesting about the Illuminators and their Aeons: “they are no longer Aeons themselves, as there are only twelve attributable qualities—and the Angels themselves seem to have been left out!” There could actually be thirteen, as somehow Prudence is dangling in the text. In the Refinement Section, as part of the first Direct Revelation, I reassign this Aeon to Armozel.

Irenaeus’ Against Heresies further enabled the hostile takeover the eventual Catholic Church performed on the Johannine Sect, a tactic that was started by the Johannine Epistles. To think that GosJohn is purely Johannine, along with ApJohn and TriProt, is enough to get one righteously indignant. Irenaeus’ strategy seemed to have been to write—and further write—his way onto center stage. Unfortunately his work is seriously flawed. The secessionists didn’t care (or conversely they wanted his head!) They thought he was obtuse. Of course the Valentinians did care, as they were Irenaeus’ primary target.

Furthermore, Against Heresies was a quite confused, yet long, work. Not many people read it back in the second century, as it was before the days of the printing press. However, church leaders did, and look at the mess that was created. Technically, they interpreted many of the primary tenets of Original Christianity incorrectly.

Epinoia is quite an important concept–that is divine revelation–and it helps in figuring out the nuances seen in the first few centuries’ commentaries. Sometimes Epinoia is stronger than any written word every could be. Accordingly, GosTruth 19 says the following: “There came the men wise in their own estimation, putting him to the test. But he confounded them because they were foolish. They hate him because they were not really wise.”

As mentioned, TriProt is a book attributed to the Father, and GosTruth seems to have been attributed to Christ. The verbiage in both is authoritative, and it speaks to the Immovable Race:

GosTruth 28 “I do not say, then, that they are nothing (at all) who have not yet come into existence, but they are in him who will wish that they come into existence when he wishes, like the time that is to come. Before all things appear, he knows what he will produce. But the fruit which is not yet manifest does not know anything, nor does it do anything. Thus, also every space which is itself in the Father is from the one who exists who established it from what does not exist. For he who has no root has no fruit either, but though he thinks to himself, “I have come into being,” yet he will perish by himself. For this reason, he who did not exist at all will never come into existence. What, then, did he wish him to think of himself? This: ‘I have come into being like the shadows and phantoms of the night.’ When the light shines on the terror which that person had experienced, he knows that it is nothing.”

GosPhil [The Gospel of Philip] (as referenced in a later Section of this work) has much to offer the Johannine secessionists, similar to GosTruth; however, both treatises in their entirety do not fall within the bounds of the Protennoia Johannine Secessionist Canon. Rather, one must choose the salient Verses to include. There are several that fall inline more with Valentinian beliefs, and these should be glossed over. The Immovable Race will be able to determine those that are appropriate.