Irenaeus, Irenæus - Against Heresies: Book II

Irenaeus, Irenæus

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Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional introductionary material and notes provided for the American edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.


1. In the first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing "knowledge falsely so called," [2986] I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless. I also set forth the tenets of their predecessors, proving that they not only differed among themselves, but had long previously swerved from the truth itself. I further explained, with all diligence, the doctrine as well as practice of Marcus the magician, since he, too, belongs to these persons; and I carefully noticed [2987] the passages which they garble from the Scriptures, with the view of adapting them to their own fictions. Moreover, I minutely narrated the manner in which, by means of numbers, and by the twenty-four letters of the alphabet, they boldly endeavour to establish [what they regard as] truth. I have also related how they think and teach that creation at large was formed after the image of their invisible Pleroma, and what they hold respecting the Demiurge, declaring at the same time the doctrine of Simon Magus of Samaria, their progenitor, and of all those who succeeded him. I mentioned, too, the multitude of those Gnostics who are sprung from him, and noticed [2988] the points of difference between them, their several doctrines, and the order of their succession, while I set forth all those heresies which have been originated by them. I showed, moreover, that all these heretics, taking their rise from Simon, have introduced impious and irreligious doctrines into this life; and I explained the nature of their "redemption," and their method of initiating those who are rendered "perfect," along with their invocations and their mysteries. I proved also that there is one God, the Creator, and that He is not the fruit of any defect, nor is there anything either above Him, or after Him.2. In the present book, I shall establish those points which fit in with my design, so far as time permits, and overthrow, by means of lengthened treatment under distinct heads, their whole system; for which reason, since it is an exposure and subversion of their opinions, I have so entitled the composition of this work. For it is fitting, by a plain revelation and overthrow of their conjunctions, to put an end to these hidden alliances, [2989] and to Bythus himself, and thus to obtain a demonstration that he never existed at any previous time, nor now has any existence.

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[2986] 1 Tim. vi. 20. [2987] [Note this "Americanism."] [2988] [Note this "Americanism."] [2989] This passage is very obscure: we have supplied "et," which, as Harvey conjectures, may have dropped out of the text.

Chapter I. There is but one God: the impossibility of its being otherwise.

1. It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein (whom these men blasphemously style the fruit of a defect), and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence.

2. For how can there be any other Fulness, or Principle, or Power, or God, above Him, since it is matter of necessity that God, the Pleroma (Fulness) of all these, should contain all things in His immensity, and should be contained by no one? But if there is anything beyond Him, He is not then the Pleroma of all, nor does He contain all. For that which they declare to be beyond Him will be wanting to the Pleroma, or, [in other words,] to that God who is above all things. But that which is wanting, and falls in any way short, is not the Pleroma of all things. In such a case, He would have both beginning, middle, and end, with respect to those who are beyond Him. And if He has an end in regard to those things which are below, He has also a beginning with respect to those things which are above. In like manner, there is an absolute necessity that He should experience the very same thing at all other points, and should be held in, bounded, and enclosed by those existences that are outside of Him. For that being who is the end downwards, necessarily circumscribes and surrounds him who finds his end in it. And thus, according to them, the Father of all (that is, He whom they call Proön and Proarche), with their Pleroma, and the good God of Marcion, is established and enclosed in some other, and is surrounded from without by another mighty Being, who must of necessity be greater, inasmuch as that which contains is greater than that which is contained. But then that which is greater is also stronger, and in a greater degree Lord; and that which is greater, and stronger, and in a greater degree Lord must be God.

3. Now, since there exists, according to them, also something else which they declare to be outside of the Pleroma, into which they further hold there descended that higher power who went astray, it is in every way necessary that the Pleroma either contains that which is beyond, yet is contained (for otherwise, it will not be beyond the Pleroma; for if there is anything beyond the Pleroma, there will be a Pleroma within this very Pleroma which they declare to be outside of the Pleroma, and the Pleroma will be contained by that which is beyond: and with the Pleroma is understood also the first God); or, again, they must be an infinite distance separated from each other the Pleroma [I mean], and that which is beyond it. But if they maintain this, there will then be a third kind of existence, which separates by immensity the Pleroma and that which is beyond it. This third kind of existence will therefore bound and contain both the others, and will be greater both than the Pleroma, and than that which is beyond it, inasmuch as it contains both in its bosom. In this way, talk might go on for ever concerning those things which are contained, and those which contain. For if this third existence has its beginning above, and its end beneath, there is an absolute necessity that it be also bounded on the sides, either beginning or ceasing at certain other points, [where new existences begin.] These, again, and others which are above and below, will have their beginnings at certain other points, and so on ad infinitum; so that their thoughts would never rest in one God, but, in consequence of seeking after more than exists, would wander away to that which has no existence, and depart from the true God.

4. These remarks are, in like manner, applicable against the followers of Marcion. For his two gods will also be contained and circumscribed by an immense interval which separates them from one another. But then there is a necessity to suppose a multitude of gods separated by an immense distance from each other on every side, beginning with one another, and ending in one another. Thus, by that very process of reasoning on which they depend for teaching that there is a certain Pleroma or God above the Creator of heaven and earth, any one who chooses to employ it may maintain that there is another Pleroma above the Pleroma, above that again another, and above Bythus another ocean of Deity, while in like manner the same successions hold with respect to the sides; and thus, their doctrine flowing out into immensity, there will always be a necessity to conceive of other Pleroma, and other Bythi, so as never at any time to stop, but always to continue seeking for others besides those already mentioned. Moreover, it will be uncertain whether these which we conceive of are below, or are, in fact, themselves the things which are above; and, in like manner, [it will be doubtful] respecting those things which are said by them to be above, whether they are really above or below; and thus our opinions will have no fixed conclusion or certainty, but will of necessity wander forth after worlds without limits, and gods that cannot be numbered.

5. These things, then, being so, each deity will be contented with his own possessions, and will not be moved with any curiosity respecting the affairs of others; otherwise he would be unjust, and rapacious, and would cease to be what God is. Each creation, too, will glorify its own maker, and will be contented with him, not knowing any other; otherwise it would most justly be deemed an apostate by all the others, and would receive a richly-deserved punishment. For it must be either that there is one Being who contains all things, and formed in His own territory all those things which have been created, according to His own will; or, again, that there are numerous unlimited creators and gods, who begin from each other, and end in each other on every side; and it will then be necessary to allow that all the rest are contained from without by some one who is greater, and that they are each of them shut up within their own territory, and remain in it. No one of them all, therefore, is God. For there will be [much] wanting to every one of them, possessing [as he will do] only a very small part when compared with all the rest. The name of the Omnipotent will thus be brought to an end, and such an opinion will of necessity fall to impiety.

Chapter II. The world was not formed by angels, or by any other being, contrary to the will of the most high God, but was made by the Father through the Word. [2990]

1. Those, moreover, who say that the world was formed by angels, or by any other maker of it, contrary to the will of Him who is the Supreme Father, err first of all in this very point, that they maintain that angels formed such and so mighty a creation, contrary to the will of the Most High God. This would imply that angels were more powerful than God; or if not so, that He was either careless, or inferior, or paid no regard to those things which took place among His own possessions, whether they turned out ill or well, so that He might drive away and prevent the one, while He praised and rejoiced over the other. But if one would not ascribe such conduct even to a man of any ability, how much less to God

2. Next let them tell us whether these things have been formed within the limits which are contained by Him, and in His proper territory, or in regions belonging to others, and lying beyond Him? But if they say [that these things were done] beyond Him, then all the absurdities already mentioned will face them, and the Supreme God will be enclosed by that which is beyond Him, in which also it will be necessary that He should find His end. If, on the other hand, [these things were done] within His own proper territory, it will be very idle to say that the world was thus formed within His proper territory against His will by angels who are themselves under His power, or by any other being, as if either He Himself did not behold all things which take place among His own possessions, or [2991] was not aware of the things to be done by angels.

3. If, however, [the things referred to were done] not against His will, but with His concurrence and knowledge, as some [of these men] think, the angels, or the Former of the world [whoever that may have been], will no longer be the causes of that formation, but the will of God. For if He is the Former of the world, He too made the angels, or at least was the cause of their creation; and He will be regarded as having made the world who prepared the causes of its formation. Although they maintain that the angels were made by a long succession downwards, or that the Former of the world [sprang] from the Supreme Father, as Basilides asserts; nevertheless that which is the cause of those things which have been made will still be traced to Him who was the Author of such a succession. [The case stands] just as regards success in war, which is ascribed to the king who prepared those things which are the cause of victory; and, in like manner, the creation of any state, or of any work, is referred to him who prepared materials for the accomplishment of those results which were afterwards brought about. Wherefore, we do not say that it was the axe which cut the wood, or the saw which divided it; but one would very properly say that the man cut and divided it who formed the axe and the saw for this purpose, and [who also formed] at a much earlier date all the tools by which the axe and the saw themselves were formed. With justice, therefore, according to an analogous process of reasoning, the Father of all will be declared the Former of this world, and not the angels, nor any other [so-called] former of the world, other than He who was its Author, and had formerly [2992] been the cause of the preparation for a creation of this kind.

4. This manner of speech may perhaps be plausible or persuasive to those who know not God, and who liken Him to needy human beings, and to those who cannot immediately and without assistance form anything, but require many instrumentalities to produce what they intend. But it will not be regarded as at all probable by those who know that God stands in need of nothing, and that He created and made all things by His Word, while He neither required angels to assist Him in the production of those things which are made, nor of any power greatly inferior to Himself, and ignorant of the Father, nor of any defect or ignorance, in order that he who should know Him might become man. [2993] But He Himself in Himself, after a fashion which we can neither describe nor conceive, predestinating all things, formed them as He pleased, bestowing harmony on all things, and assigning them their own place, and the beginning of their creation. In this way He conferred on spiritual things a spiritual and invisible nature, on super-celestial things a celestial, on angels an angelical, on animals an animal, on beings that swim a nature suited to the water, and on those that live on the land one fitted for the land on all, in short, a nature suitable to the character of the life assigned them while He formed all things that were made by His Word that never wearies.

5. For this is a peculiarity of the pre-eminence of God, not to stand in need of other instruments for the creation of those things which are summoned into existence. His own Word is both suitable and sufficient for the formation of all things, even as John, the disciple of the Lord, declares regarding Him: "All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made." [2994] Now, among the "all things" our world must be embraced. It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis that He made all things connected with our world by His Word. David also expresses the same truth [when he says] "For He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." [2995] Whom, therefore, shall we believe as to the creation of the world these heretics who have been mentioned that prate so foolishly and inconsistently on the subject, or the disciples of the Lord, and Moses, who was both a faithful servant of God and a prophet? He at first narrated the formation of the world in these words: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," [2996] and all other things in succession; but neither gods nor angels [had any share in the work].

Now, that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, [saying,] "There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all." [2997] I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord. For what sort of conduct would it be, were we to forsake the utterances of the prophets, of the Lord, and of the apostles, that we might give heed to these persons, who speak not a word of sense?


[2990] [This noble chapter is a sort of homily on Heb. i.] [2991] The common text has "ut:" we prefer to read "aut" with Erasmus and others. [2992] Vossius and others read "primus" instead of "prius," but on defective ms. authority. [2993] Harvey here observes: "Grabe misses the meaning by applying to the redeemed that which the author says of the Redeemer;" but it may be doubted if this is really the case. Perhaps Massuet's rendering of the clause, "that that man might be formed who should know Him," is, after all, preferable to that given above. [2994] John i. 3. [2995] Ps. xxxiii. 9, Ps. cxlviii. 5. [2996] Gen. i. 1. [2997] Eph. iv. 6, differing somewhat from Text. Rec. of New Testament.

Chapter III. The Bythus and Pleroma of the Valentinians, as well as the God of Marcion, shown to be absurd; the world was actually created by the same Being who had conceived the idea of it, and was not the fruit of defect or ignorance.

1. The Bythus, therefore, whom they conceive of with his Pleroma, and the God of Marcion, are inconsistent. If indeed, as they affirm, he has something subjacent and beyond himself, which they style vacuity and shadow, this vacuum is then proved to be greater than their Pleroma. But it is inconsistent even to make this statement, that while he contains all things within himself, the creation was formed by some other. For it is absolutely necessary that they acknowledge a certain void and chaotic kind of existence (below the spiritual Pleroma) in which this universe was formed, and that the Propator purposely left this chaos as it was, [2998] either knowing beforehand what things were to happen in it, or being ignorant of them. If he was really ignorant, then God will not be prescient of all things. But they will not even [in that case] be able to assign a reason on what account He thus left this place void during so long a period of time. If, again, He is prescient, and contemplated mentally that creation which was about to have a being in that place, then He Himself created it who also formed it beforehand [ideally] in Himself.

2. Let them cease, therefore, to affirm that the world was made by any other; for as soon as God formed a conception in His mind, that was also done which He had thus mentally conceived. For it was not possible that one Being should mentally form the conception, and another actually produce the things which had been conceived by Him in His mind. But God, according to these heretics, mentally conceived either an eternal world or a temporal one, both of which suppositions cannot be true. Yet if He had mentally conceived of it as eternal, spiritual, [2999] and visible, it would also have been formed such. But if it was formed such as it really is, then He made it such who had mentally conceived of it as such; or He willed it to exist in the ideality [3000] of the Father, according to the conception of His mind, such as it now is, compound, mutable, and transient. Since, then, it is just such as the Father had [ideally] formed in counsel with Himself, it must be worthy of the Father. But to affirm that what was mentally conceived and pre-created by the Father of all, just as it has been actually formed, is the fruit of defect, and the production of ignorance, is to be guilty of great blasphemy. For, according to them, the Father of all will thus be [regarded as] generating in His breast, according to His own mental conception, the emanations of defect and the fruits of ignorance, since the things which He had conceived in His mind have actually been produced.


[2998] In the barbarous Latin version, we here find utrum an as the translation of ē ē instead of aut aut. [2999] We have translated the text as it here stands in the mss. Grabe omits spiritalem et; Massuet proposes to read et invisibilem, and Stieren invisibilem. [3000] In præsentia: Grabe proposes in præscientia, but without ms. authority. "The reader," says Harvey, "will observe that there are three suppositions advanced by the author: that the world, as some heretics asserted, was eternal; that it was created in time, with no previous idea of it in the divine mind; or that it existed as a portion of the divine counsels from all eternity, though with no temporal subsistence until the time of its creation, and of this the author now speaks." The whole passage is most obscurely expressed.

Chapter IV. The absurdity of the supposed vacuum and defect of the heretics is demonstrated.

1. The cause, then, of such a dispensation on the part of God, is to be inquired after; but the formation of the world is not to be ascribed to any other. And all things are to be spoken of as having been so prepared by God beforehand, that they should be made as they have been made; but shadow and vacuity are not to be conjured into existence. But whence, let me ask, came this vacuity [of which they speak]? If it was indeed produced by Him who, according to them, is the Father and Author of all things, then it is both equal in honour and related to the rest of the Æons, perchance even more ancient than they are. Moreover, if it proceeded from the same source [as they did], it must be similar in nature to Him who produced it, as well as to those along with whom it was produced. There will therefore be an absolute necessity, both that the Bythus of whom they speak, along with Sige, be similar in nature to a vacuum, that is, that He really is a vacuum; and that the rest of the Æons, since they are the brothers of vacuity, should also be devoid [3001] of substance. If, on the other hand, it has not been thus produced, it must have sprang from and been generated by itself, and in that case it will be equal in point of age to that Bythus who is, according to them, the Father of all; and thus vacuity will be of the same nature and of the same honour with Him who is, according to them, the universal Father. For it must of necessity have been either produced by some one, or generated by itself, and sprung from itself. But if, in truth, vacuity was produced, then its producer Valentinus is also a vacuum, as are likewise his followers. If, again, it was not produced, but was generated by itself, then that which is really a vacuum is similar to, and the brother of, and of the same honour with, that Father who has been proclaimed by Valentinus; while it is more ancient, and dating its existence from a period greatly anterior, and more exalted in honour than the remaining Æons of Ptolemy himself, and Heracleon, and all the rest [3002] who hold the same opinions.

2. But if, driven to despair in regard to these points, they confess that the Father of all contains all things, and that there is nothing whatever outside of the Pleroma (for it is an absolute necessity that, [if there be anything outside of it,] it should be bounded and circumscribed by something greater than itself), and that they speak of what is without and what within in reference to knowledge and ignorance, and not with respect to local distance; but that, in the Pleroma, or in those things which are contained by the Father, the whole creation which we know to have been formed, having been made by the Demiurge, or by the angels, is contained by the unspeakable greatness, as the centre is in a circle, or as a spot is in a garment, then, in the first place, what sort of a being must that Bythus be, who allows a stain to have place in His own bosom, and permits another one to create or produce within His territory, contrary to His own will? Such a mode of acting would truly entail [the charge of] degeneracy upon the entire Pleroma, since it might from the first have cut off that defect, and those emanations which derived their origin from it, [3003] and not have agreed to permit the formation of creation either in ignorance, or passion, or in defect. For he who can afterwards rectify a defect, and does, as it were, wash away a stain, [3004] could at a much earlier date have taken care that no such stain should, even at first, be found among his possessions. Or if at the first he allowed that the things which were made [should be as they are], since they could not, in fact, be formed otherwise, then it follows that they must always continue in the same condition. For how is it possible, that those things which cannot at the first obtain rectification, should subsequently receive it? Or how can men say that they are called to perfection, when those very beings who are the causes from which men derive their origin either the Demiurge himself, or the angels are declared to exist in defect? And if, as is maintained, [the Supreme Being,] inasmuch as He is benignant, did at last take pity upon men, and bestow on them perfection, He ought at first to have pitied those who were the creators of man, and to have conferred on them perfection. In this way, men too would verily have shared in His compassion, being formed perfect by those that were perfect. For if He pitied the work of these beings, He ought long before to have pitied themselves, and not to have allowed them to fall into such awful blindness.

3. Their talk also about shadow and vacuity, in which they maintain that the creation with which we are concerned was formed, will be brought to nothing, if the things referred to were created within the territory which is contained by the Father. For if they hold that the light of their Father is such that it fills all things which are inside of Him, and illuminates them all, how can any vacuum or shadow possibly exist within that territory which is contained by the Pleroma, and by the light of the Father? For, in that case, it behoves them to point out some place within the Propator, or within the Pleroma, which is not illuminated, nor kept possession of by any one, and in which either the angels or the Demiurge formed whatever they pleased. Nor will it be a small amount of space in which such and so great a creation can be conceived of as having been formed. There will therefore be an absolute necessity that, within the Pleroma, or within the Father of whom they speak, they should conceive [3005] of some place, void, formless, and full of darkness, in which those things were formed which have been formed. By such a supposition, however, the light of their Father would incur a reproach, as if He could not illuminate and fill those things which are within Himself. Thus, then, when they maintain that these things were the fruit of defect and the work of error, they do moreover introduce defect and error within the Pleroma, and into the bosom of the Father.


[3001] Literally, "should also possess a vacant substance" [3002] The text has "reliquis omnibus," which would refer to the Æons; but we follow the emendation proposed by Massuet, "reliquorum omnium," as the reference manifestly is to other heretics. [3003] "Ab eo:" some refer "eo" to the Demiurge, but it is not unusual for the Latin translator to follow the Greek gender, although different from that of the Latin word which he has himself employed. We may therefore here "eo" to "labem," which is the translation of the neuter noun husterēma. [3004] Labem is here repeated, probably by mistake. [3005] The Latin is fieri eos: Massuet conjectures that the Greek had been poieisthai autous, and that the translator rendered poieisthai as a passive instead of a middle verb, fieri for facere.

Chapter V. This world was not formed by any other beings within the territory which is contained by the Father.

1. The remarks, therefore, which I made a little while ago [3006] are suitable in answer to those who assert that this world was formed outside of the Pleroma, or under a "good God;" and such persons, with the Father they speak of, will be quite cut off from that which is outside the Pleroma, in which, at the same time, it is necessary that they should finally rest. [3007] In answer to those, again, who maintain that this world was formed by certain other beings within that territory which is contained by the Father, all those points which have now [3008] been noticed will present themselves [as exhibiting their] absurdities and incoherencies; and they will be compelled either to acknowledge all those things which are within the Father, lucid, full, and energetic, or to accuse the light of the Father as if He could not illuminate all things; or, as a portion of their Pleroma [is so described], the whole of it must be confessed to be void, chaotic, and full of darkness. And they accuse all other created things as if these were merely temporal, or [at the best], if eternal, [3009] yet material. But [3010] these (the Æons) ought to be regarded as beyond the reach of such accusations, since they are within the Pleroma, or the charges in question will equally fall against the entire Pleroma; and thus the Christ of whom they speak is discovered to be the author of ignorance. For, according to their statements, when He had given a form so far as substance was concerned to the Mother they conceive of, He cast her outside of the Pleroma; that is, He cut her off from knowledge. He, therefore, who separated her from knowledge, did in reality produce ignorance in her. How then could the very same person bestow the gift of knowledge on the rest of the Æons, those who were anterior to Him [in production], and yet be the author of ignorance to His Mother? For He placed her beyond the pale of knowledge, when He cast her outside of the Pleroma.

2. Moreover, if they explain being within and without the Pleroma as implying knowledge and ignorance respectively, as certain of them do (since he who has knowledge is within that which knows), then they must of necessity grant that the Saviour Himself (whom they designate All Things) was in a state of ignorance. For they maintain that, on His coming forth outside of the Pleroma, He imparted form to their Mother [Achamoth]. If, then, they assert that whatever is outside [the Pleroma] is ignorant of all things, and if the Saviour went forth to impart form to their Mother, then He was situated beyond the pale of the knowledge of all things; that is, He was in ignorance. How then could He communicate knowledge to her, when He Himself was beyond the pale of knowledge? For we, too, they declare to be outside the Pleroma, inasmuch as we are outside of the knowledge which they possess. And once more: If the Saviour really went forth beyond the Pleroma to seek after the sheep which was lost, but the Pleroma is [co-extensive with] knowledge, then He placed Himself beyond the pale of knowledge, that is, in ignorance. For it is necessary either that they grant that what is outside the Pleroma is so in a local sense, in which case all the remarks formerly made will rise up against them; or if they speak of that which is within in regard to knowledge, and of that which is without in respect to ignorance, then their Saviour, and Christ long before Him, must have been formed in ignorance, inasmuch as they went forth beyond the Pleroma, that is, beyond the pale of knowledge, in order to impart form to their Mother.

3. These arguments may, in like manner, be adapted to meet the case of all those who, in any way, maintain that the world was formed either by angels or by any other one than the true God. For the charges which they bring against the Demiurge, and those things which were made material and temporal, will in truth fall back on the Father; if indeed the [3011] very things which were formed in the bosom of the Pleroma began by and by in fact to be dissolved, in accordance with the permission and good-will of the Father. The [immediate] Creator, then, is not the [real] Author of this work, thinking, as He did, that He formed it very good, but He who allows and approves of the productions of defect, and the works of error having a place among his own possessions, and that temporal things should be mixed up with eternal, corruptible with incorruptible, and those which partake of error with those which belong to truth. If, however, these things were formed without the permission or approbation of the Father of all, then that Being must be more powerful, stronger, and more kingly, who made these things within a territory which properly belongs to Him (the Father), and did so without His permission. If again, as some say, their Father permitted these things without approving of them, then He gave the permission on account of some necessity, being either able to prevent [such procedure], or not able. But if indeed He could not [hinder it], then He is weak and powerless; while, if He could, He is a seducer, a hypocrite, and a slave of necessity, inasmuch as He does not consent [to such a course], and yet allows it as if He did consent. And allowing error to arise at the first, and to go on increasing, He endeavours in later times to destroy it, when already many have miserably perished on account of the [original] defect.

4. It is not seemly, however, to say of Him who is God over all, since He is free and independent, that He was a slave to necessity, or that anything takes place with His permission, yet against His desire; otherwise they will make necessity greater and more kingly than God, since that which has the most power is superior [3012] to all [others]. And He ought at the very beginning to have cut off the causes of [the fancied] necessity, and not to have allowed Himself to be shut up to yielding to that necessity, by permitting anything besides that which became Him. For it would have been much better, more consistent, and more God-like, to cut off at the beginning the principle of this kind of necessity, than afterwards, as if moved by repentance, to endeavour to extirpate the results of necessity when they had reached such a development. And if the Father of all be a slave to necessity, and must yield to fate, while He unwillingly tolerates the things which are done, but is at the same time powerless to do anything in opposition to necessity and fate (like the Homeric Jupiter, who says of necessity, "I have willingly given thee, yet with unwilling mind"), then, according to this reasoning, the Bythus of whom they speak will be found to be the slave of necessity and fate.


[3006] See above, chap. i. [3007] The Latin text here is, "et concludentur tales cum patre suo ab eo qui est extra Pleroma, in quo etiam et desinere eos necesse est." None of the editors notice the difficulty or obscurity of the clause, but it appears to us absolutely untranslateable. We have rendered it as if the reading were "ab eo quod," though, if the strict grammatical construction be followed, the translation must be, "from Him who." But then to what does "in quo," which follows, refer? It may be ascribed either to the immediate antecedent Pleroma, or to Him who is described as being beyond it. [3008] Chap. ii., iii., iv. [3009] This is an extremely difficult passage. We follow the reading æternochoica adopted by Massuet, but Harvey reads æterna choica, and renders, "They charge all other substance (i.e., spiritual) with the imperfections of the material creation, as though Æon substance were equally ephemeral and choic." [3010] The common reading is "aut;" we adopt Harvey's conjectural emendation of "at." [3011] The above clause is very obscure; Massuet reads it interrogatively. [3012] The text has "antiquius," literally "more ancient," but it may here be rendered as above.

Chapter VI. The angels and the Creator of the world could not have been ignorant of the Supreme God.

1. How, again, could either the angels, or the Creator of the world, have been ignorant of the Supreme God, seeing they were His property, and His creatures, and were contained by Him? He might indeed have been invisible to them on account of His superiority, but He could by no means have been unknown to them on account of His providence. For though it is true, as they declare, that they were very far separated from Him through their inferiority [of nature], yet, as His dominion extended over all of them, it behoved them to know their Ruler, and to be aware of this in particular, that He who created them is Lord of all. For since His invisible essence is mighty, it confers on all a profound mental intuition and perception of His most powerful, yea, omnipotent greatness. Wherefore, although "no one knows the Father, except the Son, nor the Son except the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal Him," [3013] yet all [beings] do know this one fact at least, because reason, implanted in their minds, moves them, and reveals to them [the truth] that there is one God, the Lord of all.

2. And on this account all things have been [by general consent] placed under the sway of Him who is styled the Most High, and the Almighty. By calling upon Him, even before the coming of our Lord, men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power. This was the case, not as if earthly spirits or demons had seen Him, but because they knew of the existence of Him who is God over all, at whose invocation they trembled, as there does tremble every creature, and principality, and power, and every being endowed with energy under His government. By way of parallel, shall not those who live under the empire of the Romans, although they have never seen the emperor, but are far separated from him both by land and sea, know very well, as they experience his rule, who it is that possesses the principal power in the state? How then could it be, that those angels who were superior to us [in nature], or even He whom they call the Creator of the world, did not know the Almighty, when even dumb animals tremble and yield at the invocation of His name? And as, although they have not seen Him, yet all things are subject to the name of our Lord, [3014] so must they also be to His who made and established all things by His word, since it was no other than He who formed the world. And for this reason do the Jews even now put demons to flight by means of this very adjuration, inasmuch as all beings fear the invocation of Him who created them.

3. If, then, they shrink from affirming that the angels are more irrational than the dumb animals, they will find that it behoved these, although they had not seen Him who is God over all, to know His power and sovereignty. For it will appear truly ridiculous, if they maintain that they themselves indeed, who dwell upon the earth, know Him who is God over all whom they have never seen, but will not allow Him who, according to their opinion, formed them and the whole world, although He dwells in the heights and above the heavens, to know those things with which they themselves, though they dwell below, are acquainted. [This is the case], unless perchance they maintain that Bythus lives in Tartarus below the earth, and that on this account they have attained to a knowledge of Him before those angels who have their abode on high. Thus do they rush into such an abyss of madness as to pronounce the Creator of the world void of understanding. They are truly deserving of pity, since with such utter folly they affirm that He (the Creator of the world) neither knew His Mother, nor her seed, nor the Pleroma of the Æons, nor the Propator, nor what the things were which He made; but that these are images of those things which are within the Pleroma, the Saviour having secretly laboured that they should be so formed [by the unconscious Demiurge], in honour of those things which are above.


[3013] Matt. xi. 27. [3014] Massuet refers this to the Roman emperor.

Chapter VII. Created things are not the images of those Æons who are within the Pleroma.

1. While the Demiurge was thus ignorant of all things, they tell us that the Saviour conferred honour upon the Pleroma by the creation [which he summoned into existence] through means of his Mother, inasmuch as he produced similitudes and images of those things which are above. But I have already shown that it was impossible that anything should exist beyond the Pleroma (in which external region they tell us that images were made of those things which are within the Pleroma), or that this world was formed by any other one than the Supreme God. But it is a pleasant thing to overthrow them on every side, and to prove them vendors of falsehood; let us say, in opposition to them, that if these things were made by the Saviour to the honour of those which are above, after their likeness, then it behoved them always to endure, that those things which have been honoured should perpetually continue in honour. But if they do in fact pass away, what is the use of this very brief period of honour, an honour which at one time had no existence, and which shall again come to nothing? In that case I shall prove that the Saviour is rather an aspirant after vainglory, than [3015] one who honours those things which are above. For what honour can those things which are temporal confer on such as are eternal and endure for ever? or those which pass away on such as remain? or those which are corruptible on such as are incorruptible? since, even among men who are themselves mortal, there is no value attached to that honour which speedily passes away, but to that which endures as long as it possibly can. But those things which, as soon as they are made, come to an end, may justly be said rather to have been formed for the contempt of such as are thought to be honoured by them; and that that which is eternal is contumeliously treated when its image is corrupted and dissolved. But what if their Mother had not wept, and laughed, and been involved in despair? The Saviour would not then have possessed any means of honouring the Fulness, inasmuch as her last state of confusion [3016] did not have substance of its own by which it might honour the Propator.

2. Alas for the honour of vainglory which at once passes away, and no longer appears! There will be some [3017] Æon, in whose case such honour will not be thought at all to have had an existence, and then the things which are above will be unhonoured; or it will be necessary to produce once more another Mother weeping, and in despair, in order to the honour of the Pleroma. What a dissimilar, and at the same time blasphemous image! Do you tell me that an image of the Only-begotten was produced by the former [3018] of the world, whom [3019] again ye wish to be considered the Nous (mind) of the Father of all, and [yet maintain] that this image was ignorant of itself, ignorant of creation, ignorant, too, of the Mother, ignorant of everything that exists, and of those things which were made by it; and are you not ashamed while, in opposition to yourselves, you ascribe ignorance even to the Only-begotten Himself? For if these things [below] were made by the Saviour after the similitude of those which are above, while He (the Demiurge) who was made after such similitude was in so great ignorance, it necessarily follows that around Him, and in accordance with Him, after whose likeness he that is thus ignorant was formed, ignorance of the kind in question spiritually exists. For it is not possible, since both were produced spiritually, and neither fashioned nor composed, that in some the likeness was preserved, while in others the likeness of the image was spoiled, that image which was here produced that it might be according to the image of that production which is above. But if it is not similar, the charge will then attach to the Saviour, who produced a dissimilar image, of being, so to speak, an incompetent workman. For it is out of their power to affirm that the Saviour had not the faculty of production, since they style Him All Things. If, then, the image is dissimilar, he is a poor workman, and the blame lies, according to their hypothesis, with the Saviour. If, on the other hand, it is similar, then the same ignorance will be found to exist in the Nous (mind) of their Propator, that is, in the Only-begotten. The Nous of the Father, in that case, was ignorant of Himself; ignorant, too, of the Father; ignorant, moreover, of those very things which were formed by Him. But if He has knowledge, it necessarily follows also that he who was formed after his likeness by the Saviour should know the things which are like; and thus, according to their own principles, their monstrous blasphemy is overthrown.

3. Apart from this, however, how can those things which belong to creation, various, manifold, and innumerable as they are, be the images of those thirty Æons which are within the Pleroma, whose names, as these men fix them, I have set forth in the book which precedes this? And not only will they be unable to adapt the [vast] variety of creation at large to the [comparative] smallness of their Pleroma, but they cannot do this even with respect to any one part of it, whether [that possessed by] celestial or terrestrial beings, or those that live in the waters. For they themselves testify that their Pleroma consists of thirty Æons; but any one will undertake to show that, in a single department of those [created beings] which have been mentioned, they reckon that there are not thirty, but many thousands of species. How then can those things, which constitute such a multiform creation, which are opposed in nature to each other, and disagree among themselves, and destroy the one the other, be the images and likenesses of the thirty Æons of the Pleroma, if indeed, as they declare, these being possessed of one nature, are of equal and similar properties, and exhibit no differences [among themselves]? For it was incumbent, if these things are images of those Æons, inasmuch as they declare that some men are wicked by nature, and some, on the other hand, naturally good, to point out such differences also among their Æons, and to maintain that some of them were produced naturally good, while some were naturally evil, so that the supposition of the likeness of those things might harmonize with the Æons. Moreover, since there are in the world some creatures that are gentle, and others that are fierce, some that are innocuous, while others are hurtful and destroy the rest; some have their abode on the earth, others in the water, others in the air, and others in the heaven; in like manner, they are bound to show that the Æons possess such properties, if indeed the one are the images of the others. And besides; "the eternal fire which the Father has prepared for the devil and his angels," [3020] they ought to show of which of those Æons that are above it is the image; for it, too, is reckoned part of the creation.

4. If, however, they say that these things are the images of the Enthymesis of that Æon who fell into passion, then, first of all, they will act impiously against their Mother, by declaring her to be the first cause of evil and corruptible images. And then, again, how can those things which are manifold, and dissimilar, and contrary in their nature, be the images of one and the same Being? And if they say that the angels of the Pleroma are numerous, and that those things which are many are the images of these not in this way either will the account they give be satisfactory. For, in the first place, they are then bound to point out differences among the angels of the Pleroma, which are mutually opposed to each other, even as the images existing below are of a contrary nature among themselves. And then, again, since there are many, yea, innumerable angels who surround the Creator, as all the prophets acknowledge, [saying, for instance,] "Ten thousand times ten thousand stood beside Him, and many thousands of thousands ministered unto Him," [3021] then, according [3022] to them, the angels of the Pleroma will have as images the angels of the Creator, and the entire creation remains in the image of the Pleroma, but so that the thirty Æons no longer correspond to the manifold variety of the creation.

5. Still further, if these things [below] were made after the similitude of those [above], after the likeness of which again will those then be made? For if the Creator of the world did not form these things directly from His own [3023] conception, but, like an architect of no ability, or a boy receiving his first lesson, copied them from archetypes furnished by others, then whence did their Bythus obtain the forms of that creation which He at first produced? It clearly follows that He must have received the model from some other one who is above Him, and that one, in turn, from another. And none the less [for these suppositions], the talk about images, as about gods, will extend to infinity, if we do not at once fix our mind on one Artificer, and on one God, who of Himself formed those things which have been created. Or is it really the case that, in regard to mere men, one will allow that they have of themselves invented what is useful for the purposes of life, but will not grant to that God who formed the world, that of Himself He created the forms of those things which have been made, and imparted to it its orderly arrangement?

6. But, again, how can these things [below] be images of those [above], since they are really contrary to them, and can in no respect have sympathy with them? For those things which are contrary to each other may indeed be destructive of those to which they are contrary, but can by no means be their images as, for instance, water and fire; or, again, light and darkness, and other such things, can never be the images of one another. In like manner, neither can those things which are corruptible and earthly, and of a compound nature, and transitory, be the images of those which, according to these men, are spiritual; unless these very things themselves be allowed to be compound, limited in space, and of a definite shape, and thus no longer spiritual, and diffused, and spreading into vast extent, and incomprehensible. For they must of necessity be possessed of a definite figure, and confined within certain limits, that they may be true images; and then it is decided that they are not spiritual. If, however, these men maintain that they are spiritual, and diffused, and incomprehensible, how can those things which are possessed of figure, and confined within certain limits, be the images of such as are destitute of figure and incomprehensible?

7. If, again, they affirm that neither according to configuration nor formation, but according to number and the order of production, those things [above] are the images [of these below], then, in the first place, these things [below] ought not to be spoken of as images and likenesses of those Æons that are above. For how can the things which have neither the fashion nor shape of those [above] be their images? And, in the next place, they would adapt both the numbers and productions of the Æons above, so as to render them identical with and similar to those that belong to the creation [below]. But now, since they refer to only thirty Æons, and declare that the vast multitude of things which are embraced within the creation [below] are images of those that are but thirty, we may justly condemn them as utterly destitute of sense.


[3015] Harvey supposes that the translator here read ē quam instead of hē quâ (gloria); but Grabe, Massuet, and Stieren prefer to delete erit. [3016] Reference is here made to the supposed wretched state of Achamoth as lying in the region of shadow, vacuity, and, in fact, non-existence, until compassionated by the Christ above, who gave her form as respected substance. [3017] We have literally translated the above very obscure sentence. According to Massuet, the sense is: "There will some time be, or perhaps even now there is, some Æon utterly destitute of such honour, inasmuch as those things which the Saviour, for the sake of honouring it, had formed after its image, have been destroyed; and then those things which are above will remain without honour," etc. [3018] The Saviour is here referred to, as having formed all things through means of Achamoth and the Demiurge. [3019] Massuet deletes quem, and reads nūn as a genitive. [3020] Matt. xxv. 41. [3021] Dan. vii. 10, agreeing neither with the Greek nor Hebrew text. [3022] This clause is exceedingly obscure. Harvey remarks upon it as follows: "The reasoning of Irenæus seems to be this: According to the were also the archetypes of things created. But things created are heterogeneous: therefore either these Æons are heterogeneous, which is contrary to theory; or things created are homogeneous, which is contrary to fact." [3023] Literally, "from Himself."

Chapter VIII. Created things are not a shadow of the Pleroma.

1. If, again, they declare that these things [below] are a shadow of those [above], as some of them are bold enough to maintain, so that in this respect they are images, then it will be necessary for them to allow that those things which are above are possessed of bodies. For those bodies which are above do cast a shadow, but spiritual substances do not, since they can in no degree darken others. If, however, we also grant them this point (though it is, in fact, an impossibility), that there is a shadow belonging to those essences which are spiritual and lucent, into which they declare their Mother descended; yet, since those things [which are above] are eternal, and that shadow which is cast by them endures for ever, [it follows that] these things [below] are also not transitory, but endure along with those which cast their shadow over them. If, on the other hand, these things [below] are transitory, it is a necessary consequence that those [above] also, of which these are the shadow, pass away; while; if they endure, their shadow likewise endures.

2. If, however, they maintain that the shadow spoken of does not exist as being produced by the shade of [those above], but simply in this respect, that [the things below] are far separated from those [above], they will then charge the light of their Father with weakness and insufficiency, as if it cannot extend so far as these things, but fails to fill that which is empty, and to dispel the shadow, and that when no one is offering any hindrance. For, according to them, the light of their Father will be changed into darkness and buried in obscurity, and will come to an end in those places which are characterized by emptiness, since it cannot penetrate and fill all things. Let them then no longer declare that their Bythus is the fulness of all things, if indeed he has neither filled nor illuminated that which is vacuum and shadow; or, on the other hand, let them cease talking of vacuum and shadow, if the light of their Father does in truth fill all things.

3. Beyond the primary Father, then that is, the God who is over all there can neither be any Pleroma into which they declare the Enthymesis of that Æon who suffered passion, descended (so that the Pleroma itself, or the primary God, should not be limited and circumscribed by that which is beyond, and should, in fact, be contained by it); nor can vacuum or shadow have any existence, since the Father exists beforehand, so that His light cannot fail, and find end in a vacuum. It is, moreover, irrational and impious to conceive of a place in which He who is, according to them, Propator, and Proarche, and Father of all, and of this Pleroma, ceases and has an end. Nor, again, is it allowable, for the reasons [3024] already stated, to allege that some other being formed so vast a creation in the bosom of the Father, either with or without His consent. For it is equally impious and infatuated to affirm that so great a creation was [3025] formed by angels, or by some particular production ignorant of the true God in that territory which is His own. Nor is it possible that those things which are earthly and material could have been formed within their Pleroma, since that is wholly spiritual. And further, it is not even possible that those things which belong to a multiform creation, and have been formed with mutually opposite qualities [could have been created] after the image of the things above, since these (i.e., the Æons) are said to be few, and of a like formation, and homogeneous. Their talk, too, about the shadow of kenoma that is, of a vacuum has in all points turned out false. Their figment, then, [in what way soever viewed,] has been proved groundless, [3026] and their doctrines untenable. Empty, too, are those who listen to them, and are verily descending into the abyss of perdition.


[3024] See above, chap. ii. and v. [3025] The text has fabricâsse, for which, says Massuet, should be read fabricatam esse; or fabricâsse itself must be taken in a passive signification. It is possible, however, to translate, as Harvey indicates, "that He (Bythus) formed so great a creation by angels," etc., though this seems harsh and unsuitable. [3026] Literally, empty: there is a play on the words vacuum and vacui (which immediately follows), as there had been in the original Greek.

Chapter IX. There is but one Creator of the world, God the Father: this the constant belief of the Church.

1. That God is the Creator of the world is accepted even by those very persons who in many ways speak against Him, and yet acknowledge Him, styling Him the Creator, and an angel, not to mention that all the Scriptures call out [to the same effect], and the Lord teaches us of this Father [3027] who is in heaven, and no other, as I shall show in the sequel of this work. For the present, however, that proof which is derived from those who allege doctrines opposite to ours, is of itself sufficient, all men, in fact, consenting to this truth: the ancients on their part preserving with special care, from the tradition of the first-formed man, this persuasion, while they celebrate the praises of one God, the Maker of heaven and earth; others, again, after them, being reminded of this fact by the prophets of God, while the very heathen learned it from creation itself. For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles.

2. This God, then, being acknowledged, as I have said, and receiving testimony from all to the fact of His existence, that Father whom they conjure into existence is beyond doubt untenable, and has no witnesses [to his existence]. Simon Magus was the first who said that he himself was God over all, and that the world was formed by his angels. Then those who succeeded him, as I have shown in the first book, [3028] by their several opinions, still further depraved [his teaching] through their impious and irreligious doctrines against the Creator. These [heretics now referred to], [3029] being the disciples of those mentioned, render such as assent to them worse than the heathen. For the former "serve the creature rather than the Creator," [3030] and "those which are not gods," [3031] notwithstanding that they ascribe the first place in Deity to that God who was the Maker of this universe. But the latter maintain that He, [i.e., the Creator of this world,] is the fruit of a defect, and describe Him as being of an animal nature, and as not knowing that Power which is above Him, while He also exclaims, "I am God, and besides Me there is no other God." [3032] Affirming that He lies, they are themselves liars, attributing all sorts of wickedness to Him; and conceiving of one who is not above this Being as really having an existence, they are thus convicted by their own views of blasphemy against that God who really exists, while they conjure into existence a god who has no existence, to their own condemnation. And thus those who declare themselves "perfect," and as being possessed of the knowledge of all things, are found to be worse than the heathen, and to entertain more blasphemous opinions even against their own Creator.


[3027] Comp. e.g., Matt. v. 16, Matt. v. 45, Matt. vi. 9, etc. [3028] See chap xxiii. etc. [3029] Viz., the Valentinians. [3030] Rom. i. 25. [3031] Gal. iv. 8. [3032] Isa. xlvi. 9.

Chapter X. Perverse interpretations of Scripture by the heretics: God created all things out of nothing, and not from pre-existent matter.

1. It is therefore in the highest degree irrational, that we should take no account of Him who is truly God, and who receives testimony from all, while we inquire whether there is above Him that [other being] who really has no existence, and has never been proclaimed by any one. For that nothing has been clearly spoken regarding Him, they themselves furnish testimony; for since they, with wretched success, transfer to that being who has been conceived of by them, those parables [of Scripture] which, whatever the form in which they have been spoken, are sought after [for this purpose], it is manifest that they now generate another [god], who was never previously sought after. For by the fact that they thus endeavour to explain ambiguous passages of Scripture (ambiguous, however, not as if referring to another god, but as regards the dispensations of [the true] God), they have constructed another god, weaving, as I said before, ropes of sand, and affixing a more important to a less important question. For no question can be solved by means of another which itself awaits solution; nor, in the opinion of those possessed of sense, can an ambiguity be explained by means of another ambiguity, or enigmas by means of another greater enigma, but things of such character receive their solution from those which are manifest, and consistent and clear.

2. But these [heretics], while striving to explain passages of Scripture and parables, bring forward another more important, and indeed impious question, to this effect, "Whether there be really another god above that God who was the Creator of the world?" They are not in the way of solving the questions [which they propose]; for how could they find means of doing so? But they append an important question to one of less consequence, and thus insert [in their speculations] a difficulty incapable of solution. For in order that they may [3033] know "knowledge" itself (yet not learning this fact, that the Lord, when thirty years old, came to the baptism of truth), they do impiously despise that God who was the Creator, and who sent Him for the salvation of men. And that they may be deemed capable of informing us whence is the substance of matter, while they believe not that God, according to His pleasure, in the exercise of His own will and power, formed all things (so that those things which now are should have an existence) out of what did not previously exist, they have collected [a multitude of] vain discourses. They thus truly reveal their infidelity; they do not believe in that which really exists, and they have fallen away into [the belief of] that which has, in fact, no existence.

3. For, when they tell us that all moist substance proceeded from the tears of Achamoth, all lucid substance from her smile, all solid substance from her sadness, all mobile substance from her terror, and that thus they have sublime knowledge on account of which they are superior to others, how can these things fail to be regarded as worthy of contempt, and truly ridiculous? They do not believe that God (being powerful, and rich in all resources) created matter itself, inasmuch as they know not how much a spiritual and divine essence can accomplish. But they do believe that their Mother, whom they style a female from a female, produced from her passions aforesaid the so vast material substance of creation. They inquire, too, whence the substance of creation was supplied to the Creator; but they do not inquire whence [were supplied] to their Mother (whom they call the Enthymesis and impulse of the Æon that went astray) so great an amount of tears, or perspiration, or sadness, or that which produced the remainder of matter.

4. For, to attribute the substance of created things to the power and will of Him who is God of all, is worthy both of credit and acceptance. It is also agreeable [to reason], and there may be well said regarding such a belief, that "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God." [3034] While men, indeed, cannot make anything out of nothing, but only out of matter already existing, yet God is in this point pre-eminently superior to men, that He Himself called into being the substance of His creation, when previously it had no existence. But the assertion that matter was produced from the Enthymesis of an Æon going astray, and that the Æon [referred to] was far separated from her Enthymesis, and that, again, her passion and feeling, apart from herself, became matter is incredible, infatuated, impossible, and untenable.


[3033] This clause is unintelligible in the Latin text: by a conjectural restoration of the Greek we have given the above translation. [3034] Luke xviii. 27.

Chapter XI. The heretics, from their disbelief of the truth, have fallen into an abyss of error: reasons for investigating their systems.

1. They do not believe that He, who is God above all, formed by His Word, in His own territory, as He Himself pleased, the various and diversified [works of creation which exist], inasmuch as He is the former of all things, like a wise architect, and a most powerful monarch. But they believe that angels, or some power separate from God, and who was ignorant of Him, formed this universe. By this course, therefore, not yielding credit to the truth, but wallowing in falsehood, they have lost the bread of true life, and have fallen into vacuity [3035] and an abyss of shadow. They are like the dog of Æsop, which dropped the bread, and made an attempt at seizing its shadow, thus losing the [real] food. It is easy to prove from the very words of the Lord, that He acknowledges one Father and Creator of the world, and Fashioner of man, who was proclaimed by the law and the prophets, while He knows no other, and that this One is really God over all; and that He teaches that that adoption of sons pertaining to the Father, which is eternal life, takes place through Himself, conferring it [as He does] on all the righteous.

2. But since these men delight in attacking us, and in their true character of cavillers assail us with points which really tell not at all against us, bringing forward in opposition to us a multitude of parables and [captious] questions, I have thought it well, on the other side, first of all to put to them the following inquiries concerning their own doctrines, to exhibit their improbability, and to put an end to their audacity. After this has been done, [I intend] to bring forward the discourses of the Lord, so that they may not only be rendered destitute of the means of attacking us, but that, since they will be unable reasonably to reply to those questions which are put, they may see that their plan of argument is destroyed; so that, either returning to the truth, and humbling themselves, and ceasing from their multifarious phantasies, they may propitiate God for those blasphemies they have uttered against Him, and obtain salvation; or that, if they still persevere in that system of vainglory which has taken possession of their minds, they may at least find it necessary to change their kind of argument against us.


[3035] Playing upon the doctrines of the heretics with respect to vacuity and shade.

Chapter XII. The Triacontad of the heretics errs both by defect and excess: Sophia could never have produced anything apart from her consort; Logos and Sige could not have been contemporaries.

1. We may [3036] remark, in the first place, regarding their Triacontad, that the whole of it marvellously falls to ruin on both sides, that is, both as respects defect and excess. They say that to indicate it the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years. But this assertion really amounts to a manifest subversion of their entire argument. As to defect, this happens as follows: first of all, because they reckon the Propator among the other Æons. For the Father of all ought not to be counted with other productions; He who was not produced with that which was produced; He who was unbegotten with that which was born; He whom no one comprehends with that which is comprehended by Him, and who is on this account [Himself] incomprehensible; and He who is without figure with that which has a definite shape. For inasmuch as He is superior to the rest, He ought not to be numbered with them, and that so that He who is impassible and not in error should be reckoned with an Æon subject to passion, and actually in error. For I have shown in the book which immediately precedes this, that, beginning with Bythus, they reckon up the Triacontad to Sophia, whom they describe as the erring Æon; and I have also there set forth the names of their [Æons]; but if He be not reckoned, there are no longer, on their own showing, thirty productions of Æons, but these then become only twenty-nine.

2. Next, with respect to the first production Ennœa, whom they also term Sige, from whom again they describe Nous and Aletheia as having been sent forth, they err in both particulars. For it is impossible that the thought (Ennœa) of any one, or his silence (Sige), should be understood apart from himself; and that, being sent forth beyond him, it should possess a special figure of its own. But if they assert that the (Ennœa) was not sent forth beyond Him, but continued one with the Propator, why then do they reckon her with the other Æons with those who were not one [with the Father], and are on this account ignorant of His greatness? If, however, she was so united (let us take this also into consideration), there is then an absolute necessity, that from this united and inseparable conjunction, which constitutes but one being, there [3037] should proceed an unseparated and united production, so that it should not be dissimilar to Him who sent it forth. But if this be so, then just as Bythus and Sige, so also Nous and Aletheia will form one and the same being, ever cleaving mutually together. And inasmuch as the one cannot be conceived of without the other, just as water cannot [be conceived of] without [the thought of] moisture, or fire without [the thought of] heat, or a stone without [the thought] of hardness (for these things are mutually bound together, and the one cannot be separated from the other, but always co-exists with it), so it behoves Bythus to be united in the same way with Ennœa, and Nous with Aletheia. Logos and Zoe again, as being sent forth by those that are thus united, ought themselves to be united, and to constitute only one being. But, according to such a process of reasoning, Homo and Ecclesia too, and indeed all the remaining conjunctions of the Æons produced, ought to be united, and always to co-exist, the one with the other. For there is a necessity in their opinion, that a female Æon should exist side by side with a male one, inasmuch as she is, so to speak, [the forthputting of] his affection.

3. These things being so, and such opinions being proclaimed by them, they again venture, without a blush, to teach that the younger Æon of the Duodecad, whom they also style Sophia, did, apart from union with her consort, whom they call Theletus, endure passion, and separately, without any assistance from him, gave birth to a production which they name "a female from a female." They thus rush into such utter frenzy, as to form two most clearly opposite opinions respecting the same point. For if Bythus is ever one with Sige, Nous with Aletheia, Logos with Zoe, and so on, as respects the rest, how could Sophia, without union with her consort, either suffer or generate anything? And if, again, she did really suffer passion apart from him, it necessarily follows that the other conjunctions also admit of disjunction and separation among themselves, a thing which I have already shown to be impossible. It is also impossible, therefore, that Sophia suffered passion apart from Theletus; and thus, again, their whole system of argument is overthrown. For they have yet [3038] again derived the whole of remaining [material substance], like the composition of a tragedy, from that passion which they affirm she experienced apart from union with her consort.

4. If, however, they impudently maintain, in order to preserve from ruin their vain imaginations, that the rest of the conjunctions also were disjoined and separated from one another on account of this latest conjunction, then [I reply that], in the first place, they rest upon a thing which is impossible. For how can they separate the Propator from his Ennœa, or Nous from Aletheia, or Logos from Zoe, and so on with the rest? And how can they themselves maintain that they tend again to unity, and are, in fact, all at one, if indeed these very conjunctions, which are within the Pleroma, do not preserve unity, but are separate from one another; and that to such a degree, that they both endure passion and perform the work of generation without union one with another, just as hens do apart from intercourse with cocks.

5. Then, again, their first and first-begotten Ogdoad will be overthrown as follows: They must admit that Bythus and Sige, Nous and Aletheia, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia, do individually dwell in the same Pleroma. But it is impossible that Sige (silence) can exist in the presence of Logos (speech), or again, that Logos can manifest himself in the presence of Sige. For these are mutually destructive of each other, even as light and darkness can by no possibility exist in the same place: for if light prevails, there cannot be darkness; and if darkness, there cannot be light, since, where light appears, darkness is put to flight. In like manner, where Sige is, there cannot be Logos; and where Logos is, there certainly cannot be Sige. But if they say that Logos simply exists within [3039] (unexpressed), Sige also will exist within, and will not the less be destroyed by the Logos within. But that he really is not merely conceived of in the mind, the very order of the production of their (Æons) shows.

6. Let them not then declare that the first and principal Ogdoad consists of Logos and Sige, but let them [as a matter of necessity] exclude either Sige or Logos; and then their first and principal Ogdoad is at an end. For if they describe the conjunctions [of the Æons] as united, then their whole argument fails to pieces. Since, if they were united, how could Sophia have generated a defect without union with her consort? If, on the other hand, they maintain that, as in production, each of the Æons possesses his own peculiar substance, then how can Sige and Logos manifest themselves in the same place? So far, then, with respect to defect.

7. But again, their Triacontad is overthrown as to excess by the following considerations. They represent Horos (whom they call by a variety of names which I have mentioned in the preceding book) as having been produced by Monogenes just like the other Æons. Some of them maintain that this Horos was produced by Monogenes, while others affirm that he was sent forth by the Propator himself in His own image. They affirm further, that a production was formed by Monogenes Christ and the Holy Spirit; and they do not reckon these in the number of the Pleroma, nor the Saviour either, whom they also declare to be Totum [3040] (all things). Now, it is evident even to a blind man, that not merely thirty productions, as they maintain, were sent forth, but four more along with these thirty. For they reckon the Propator himself in the Pleroma, and those too, who in succession were produced by one another. Why is it, then, that those [other beings] are not reckoned as existing with these in the same Pleroma, since they were produced in the same manner? For what just reason can they assign for not reckoning along with the other Æons, either Christ, whom they describe as having, according to the Father's will, been produced by Monogenes, or the Holy Spirit, or Horos, whom they also call Soter [3041] (Saviour), and not even the Saviour Himself, who came to impart assistance and form to their Mother? Whether is this as if these latter were weaker than the former, and therefore unworthy of the name of Æons, or of being numbered among them, or as if they were superior and more excellent? But how could they be weaker, since they were produced for the establishment and rectification of the others? And then, again, they cannot possibly be superior to the first and principal Tetrad, by which they were also produced; for it, too, is reckoned in the number above mentioned. These latter beings, then, ought also to have been numbered in the Pleroma of the Æons, or that should be deprived of the honour of those Æons which bear this appellation (the Tetrad).

8. Since, therefore, their Triacontad is thus brought to nought, as I have shown, both with respect to defect and excess (for in dealing with such a number, either excess or defect [to any extent] will render the number untenable, and how much more so great variations?), it follows that what they maintain respecting their Ogdoad and Duodecad is a mere fable which cannot stand. Their whole system, moreover, falls to the ground, when their very foundation is destroyed and dissolved into Bythus, [3042] that is, into what has no existence. Let them, then, henceforth seek to set forth some other reasons why the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years, and [explain in some other way] the Duodecad of the apostles; and [the fact stated regarding] her who suffered from an issue of blood; and all the other points respecting which they so madly labour in vain.


[3036] The text vacillates between "dicemus" and "dicamus." [3037] This sentence is confused in the Latin text, but the meaning is evidently that given above. [3038] It is difficult to see the meaning of "iterum" here. Harvey begins a new paragraph with this sentence. [3039] endiathetos simply conceived in the mind used in opposition to prophorikos, expressed. [3040] Harvey remarks that "the author perhaps wrote Oron (Horos), which was read by the translator áOlon (totum)." [3041] Since Soter does not occur among the various appellations of Horos mentioned by Irenæus (i. 11, 4), Grabe proposes to read Stauros, and Massuet Lytrotes; but Harvey conceives that the difficulty is explained by the fact that Horos was a power of Soter (i. 3, 3). [3042] Irenæus here, after his custom, plays upon the word Bythus (profundity), which, in the phraseology of the Valentinians, was a name of the Propator, but is in this passage used to denote an unfathomable abyss.

Chapter XIII. The first order of production maintained by the heretics is altogether indefensible.

1. I now proceed to show, as follows, that the first order of production, as conceived of by them, must be rejected. For they maintain that Nous and Aletheia were produced from Bythus and his Ennœa, which is proved to be a contradiction. For Nous is that which is itself chief, and highest, and, as it were, the principle and source of all understanding. Ennœa, again, which arises from him, is any sort of emotion concerning any subject. It cannot be, therefore, that Nous was produced by Bythus and Ennœa; it would be more like the truth for them to maintain that Ennœa was produced as the daughter of the Propator and this Nous. For Ennœa is not the daughter of Nous, as they assert, but Nous becomes the father of Ennœa. For how can Nous have been produced by the Propator, when he holds the chief and primary place of that hidden and invisible affection which is within Him? By this affection sense is produced, and Ennœa, and Enthymesis, and other things which are simply synonyms for Nous himself. As I have said already, they are merely certain definite exercises in thought of that very power concerning some particular subject. We understand the [several] terms according to their [3043] length and breadth of meaning, not according to any [fundamental] change [of signification]; and the [various exercises of thought] are limited by [the same sphere of] knowledge, and are expressed together by [the same] term, the [very same] sense remaining within, and creating, and administering, and freely governing even by its own power, and as it pleases, the things which have been previously mentioned.

2. For the first exercise of that [power] respecting anything, is styled Ennœa; but when it continues, and gathers strength, and takes possession of the whole soul, it is called Enthymesis. This Enthymesis, again, when it exercises itself a long time on the same point, and has, as it were, been proved, is named Sensation. And this Sensation, when it is much developed, becomes Counsel. The increase, again, and greatly developed exercise of this Counsel becomes the Examination of thought (Judgment); and this remaining in the mind is most properly termed Logos (reason), from which the spoken Logos (word) proceeds. [3044] But all the [exercises of thought] which have been mentioned are [fundamentally] one and the same, receiving their origin from Nous, and obtaining [different] appellation according to their increase. Just as the human body, which is at one time young, then in the prime of life, and then old, has received [different] appellations according to its increase and continuance, but not according to any change of substance, or on account of any [real] loss of body, so is it with those [mental exercises]. For, when one [mentally] contemplates anything, he also thinks of it; and when he thinks of it, he has also knowledge regarding it; and when he knows it, he also considers it; and when he considers it, he also mentally handles it; and when he mentally handles it, he also speaks of it. But, as I have already said, it is Nous who governs all these [mental processes], while He is himself invisible, and utters speech of himself by means of those processes which have been mentioned, as it were by rays [proceeding from Him], but He himself is not sent forth by any other.

3. These things may properly be said to hold good in men, since they are compound by nature, and consist of a body and a soul. But those who affirm that Ennœa was sent forth from God, and Nous from Ennœa, and then, in succession, Logos from these, are, in the first place, to be blamed as having improperly used these productions; and, in the next place, as describing the affections, and passions, and mental tendencies of men, while they [thus prove themselves] ignorant of God. By their manner of speaking, they ascribe those things which apply to men to the Father of all, whom they also declare to be unknown to all; and they deny that He himself made the world, to guard against attributing want of power [3045] to Him; while, at the same time, they endow Him with human affections and passions. But if they had known the Scriptures, and been taught by the truth, they would have known, beyond doubt, that God is not as men are; and that His thoughts are not like the thoughts of men. [3046] For the Father of all is at a vast distance from those affections and passions which operate among men. He is a simple, uncompounded Being, without diverse members, [3047] and altogether like, and equal to himself, since He is wholly understanding, and wholly spirit, and wholly thought, and wholly intelligence, and wholly reason, and wholly hearing, and wholly seeing, and wholly light, and the whole source of all that is good even as the religious and pious are wont to speak concerning God.

4. He is, however, above [all] these properties, and therefore indescribable. For He may well and properly be called an Understanding which comprehends all things, but He is not [on that account] like the understanding of men; and He may most properly be termed Light, but He is nothing like that light with which we are acquainted. And so, in all other particulars, the Father of all is in no degree similar to human weakness. He is spoken of in these terms according to the love [we bear Him]; but in point of greatness, our thoughts regarding Him transcend these expressions. If then, even in the case of human beings, understanding itself does not arise from emission, nor is that intelligence which produces other things separated from the living man, while its motions and affections come into manifestation, much more will the mind of God, who is all understanding, never by any means be separated from Himself; nor can anything [3048] [in His case] be produced as if by a different Being.

5. For if He produced intelligence, then He who did thus produce intelligence must be understood, in accordance with their views, as a compound and corporeal Being; so that God, who sent forth [the intelligence referred to], is separate from it, and the intelligence which was sent forth separate [from Him]. But if they affirm that intelligence was sent forth from intelligence, they then cut asunder the intelligence of God, and divide it into parts. And whither has it gone? Whence was it sent forth? For whatever is sent forth from any place, passes of necessity into some other. But what existence was there more ancient than the intelligence of God, into which they maintain it was sent forth? And what a vast region that must have been which was capable of receiving and containing the intelligence of God! If, however, they affirm [that this emission took place] just as a ray proceeds from the sun, then, as the subjacent air which receives the ray must have had an existence prior to it, so [by such reasoning] they will indicate that there was something in existence, into which the intelligence of God was sent forth, capable of containing it, and more ancient than itself. Following upon this, we must hold that, as we see the sun, which is less than all things, sending forth rays from himself to a great distance, so likewise we say that the Propator sent forth a ray beyond, and to a great distance from, Himself. But what can be conceived of beyond, or at a distance from, God, into which He sent forth this ray?

6. If, again, they affirm that that [intelligence] was not sent forth beyond the Father, but within the Father Himself, then, in the first place, it becomes superfluous to say that it was sent forth at all. For how could it have been sent forth if it continued within the Father? For an emission is the manifestation of that which is emitted, beyond him who emits it. In the next place, this [intelligence] being sent forth, both that Logos who springs from Him will still be within the Father, as will also be the future emissions proceeding from Logos. These, then, cannot in such a case be ignorant of the Father, since they are within Him; nor, being all equally surrounded by the Father, can any one know Him less [than another] according to the descending order of their emission. And all of them must also in an equal measure continue impassible, since they exist in the bosom of their Father, and none of them can ever sink into a state of degeneracy or degradation. For with the Father there is no degeneracy, unless perchance as in a great circle a smaller is contained, and within this one again a smaller; or unless they affirm of the Father, that, after the manner of a sphere or a square, He contains within Himself on all sides the likeness of a sphere, or the production of the rest of the Æons in the form of a square, each one of these being surrounded by that one who is above him in greatness, and surrounding in turn that one who is after him in smallness; and that on this account, the smallest and the last of all, having its place in the centre, and thus being far separated from the Father, was really ignorant of the Propator. But if they maintain any such hypothesis, they must shut up their Bythus within a definite form and space, while He both surrounds others, and is surrounded by them; for they must of necessity acknowledge that there is something outside of Him which surrounds Him. And none the less will the talk concerning those that contain, and those that are contained, flow on into infinitude; and all [the Æons] will most clearly appear to be bodies enclosed [by one another].

7. Further, they must also confess either that He is mere vacuity, or that the entire universe is within Him; and in that case all will in like degree partake of the Father. Just as, if one forms circles in water, or round or square figures, all these will equally partake of water; just as those, again, which are framed in the air, must necessarily partake of air, and those which [are formed] in light, of light; so must those also who are within Him all equally partake of the Father, ignorance having no place among them. Where, then, is this partaking of the Father who fills [all things]? If, indeed, He has filled [all things], there will be no ignorance among them. On this ground, then, their work of [supposed] degeneracy is brought to nothing, and the production of matter with the formation of the rest of the world; which things they maintain to have derived their substance from passion and ignorance. If, on the other hand, they acknowledge that He is vacuity, then they fall into the greatest blasphemy; they deny His spiritual nature. For how can He be a spiritual being, who cannot fill even those things which are within Him?

8. Now, these remarks which have been made concerning the emission of intelligence are in like manner applicable in opposition to those who belong to the school of Basilides, as well as in opposition to the rest of the Gnostics, from whom these also (the Valentinians) have adopted the ideas about emissions, and were refuted in the first book. But I have now plainly shown that the first production of Nous, that is, of the intelligence they speak of, is an untenable and impossible opinion. And let us see how the matter stands with respect to the rest [of the Æons]. For they maintain that Logos and Zoe were sent forth by him (i.e., Nous) as fashioners of this Pleroma; while they conceive of an emission of Logos, that is, the Word after the analogy of human feelings, and rashly form conjectures respecting God, as if they had discovered something wonderful in their assertion that Logos was I produced by Nous. All indeed have a clear perception that this may be logically affirmed with respect to men. [3049] But in Him who is God over all, since He is all Nous, and all Logos, as I have said before, and has in Himself nothing more ancient or late than another, and nothing at variance with another, but continues altogether equal, and similar, and homogeneous, there is no longer ground for conceiving of such production in the order which has been mentioned. Just as he does not err who declares that God is all vision, and all hearing (for in what manner He sees, in that also He hears; and in what manner He hears, in that also He sees), so also he who affirms that He is all intelligence, and all word, and that, in whatever respect He is intelligence, in that also He is word, and that this Nous is His Logos, will still indeed have only an inadequate conception of the Father of all, but will entertain far more becoming [thoughts regarding Him] than do those who transfer the generation of the word to which men gave utterance to the eternal Word of God, assigning a beginning and course of production [to Him], even as they do to their own word. And in what respect will the Word of God yea, rather God Himself, since He is the Word differ from the word of men, if He follows the same order and process of generation?

9. They have fallen into error, too, respecting Zoe, by maintaining that she was produced in the sixth place, when it behoved her to take precedence of all [the rest], since God is life, and incorruption, and truth. And these and such like attributes have not been produced according to a gradual scale of descent, but they are names of those perfections which always exist in God, so far as it is possible and proper for men to hear and to speak of God. For with the name of God the following words will harmonize: intelligence, word, life, incorruption, truth, wisdom, goodness, and such like. And neither can any one maintain that intelligence is more ancient than life, for intelligence itself is life; nor that life is later than intelligence, so that He who is the intellect of all, that is God, should at one time have been destitute of life. But if they affirm that life was indeed [previously] in the Father, but was produced in the sixth place in order that the Word might live, surely it ought long before, [according to such reasoning,] to have been sent forth, in the fourth place, that Nous might have life; and still further, even before Him, [it should have been] with Bythus, that their Bythus might live. For to reckon Sige, indeed, along with their Propator, and to assign her to Him as His consort, while they do not join Zoe to the number, is not this to surpass all other madness?

10. Again, as to the second production which proceeds from these [Æons who have been mentioned], that, namely, of Homo and Ecclesia, their very fathers, falsely styled Gnostics, strive among themselves, each one seeking to make good his own opinions, and thus convicting themselves of being wicked thieves. They maintain that it is more suitable to [the theory of] production as being, in fact, truth-like that the Word was produced by man, and not man by the Word; and that man existed prior to the Word, and that this is really He who is God over all. And thus it is, as I have previously remarked, that heaping together with a kind of plausibility all human feelings, and mental exercises, and formation of intentions, and utterances of words, they have lied with no plausibility at all against God. For while they ascribe the things which happen to men, and whatsoever they recognise themselves as experiencing, to the divine reason, they seem to those who are ignorant of God to make statements suitable enough. And by these human passions, drawing away their intelligence, while they describe the origin and production of the Word of God in the fifth place, they assert that thus they teach wonderful mysteries, unspeakable and sublime, known to no one but themselves. It was, [they affirm,] concerning these that the Lord said, "Seek, and ye shall find," [3050] that is, that they should inquire how Nous and Aletheia proceeded from Bythus and Sage; whether Logos and Zoe again derive their origin from these and then, whether Anthropos and Ecclesia proceed from Logos and Zoe.


[3043] This sentence appears to us, after long study, totally untranslateable. The general meaning seems to be, that whatever name is given to mental acts, whether they are called Ennœa, Enthymesis, or by whatever other appellation, they are all but exercises of the same fundamental power, styled Nous. Compare the following section. [3044] "The following," says Harvey, "may be considered to be consecutive steps in the evolution of logos as a psychological entity. Ennœa, conception; Enthymesis, intention; Sensation, thought; Consilium, reasoning; Cogitationis Examinatio, judgment; in Mente Perseverans, Logos endiathetos; Emissibile Verbum, Logos prophoikos." [3045] That is, lest He should be thought destitute of power, as having been unable to prevent evil from having a place in creation. [3046] Isa. lv. 8. [3047] The Latin expression is "similimembrius," which some regard as the translation of homoiokōlos, and others of homoiomerēs; but in either case the meaning will be as given above. [3048] That is, His Nous, Ennœa, etc., can have no independent existence. The text fluctuates between "emittitur" and "emittetur." [3049] That is, in human beings no doubt, thought (Nous) precedes speech (Logos). [3050] Matt. vii. 7.

Chapter XIV. Valentinus and his followers derived the principles of their system from the heathen; the names only are changed.

1. Much more like the truth, and more pleasing, is the account which Antiphanes, [3051] one of the ancient comic poets, gives in his Theogony as to the origin of all things. For he speaks Chaos as being produced from Night and Silence; relates that then Love [3052] sprang from Chaos and Night; from this again, Light; and that from this, in his opinion, were derived all the rest of the first generation of the gods. After these he next introduces a second generation of gods, and the creation of the world; then he narrates the formation of mankind by the second order of the gods. These men (the heretics), adopting this fable as their own, have ranged their opinions round it, as if by a sort of natural process, changing only the names of the things referred to, and setting forth the very same beginning of the generation of all things, and their production. In place of Night and Silence they substitute Bythus and Sige; instead of Chaos, they put Nous; and for Love (by whom, says the comic poet, all other things were set in order) they have brought forward the Word; while for the primary and greatest gods they have formed the Æons; and in place of the secondary gods, they tell us of that creation by their mother which is outside of the Pleroma, calling it the second Ogdoad. They proclaim to us, like the writer referred to, that from this (Ogdoad) came the creation of the world and the formation of man, maintaining that they alone are acquainted with these ineffable and unknown mysteries. Those things which are everywhere acted in the theatres by comedians with the clearest voices they transfer to their own system, teaching them undoubtedly through means of the same arguments, and merely changing the names.

2. And not only are they convicted of bringing forward, as if their own [original ideas], those things which are to be found among the comic poets, but they also bring together the things which have been said by all those who were ignorant of God, and who are termed philosophers; and sewing together, as it were, a motley garment out of a heap of miserable rags, they have, by their subtle manner of expression, furnished themselves with a cloak which is really not their own. They do, it is true, introduce a new kind of doctrine, inasmuch as by a new sort of art it has been substituted [for the old]. Yet it is in reality both old and useless, since these very opinions have been sewed together out of ancient dogmas redolent of ignorance and irreligion. For instance, Thales [3053] of Miletus affirmed that water was the generative and initial principle of all things. Now it is just the same thing whether we say water or Bythus. The poet Homer, [3054] again, held the opinion that Oceanus, along with mother Tethys, was the origin of the gods: this idea these men have transferred to Bythus and Sige. Anaximander laid it down that infinitude is the first principle of all things, having seminally in itself the generation of them all, and from this he declares the immense worlds [which exist] were formed: this, too, they have dressed up anew, and referred to Bythus and their Æons. Anaxagoras, again, who has also been surnamed "Atheist," gave it as his opinion that animals were formed from seeds falling down from heaven upon earth. This thought, too, these men have transferred to "the seed" of their Mother, which they maintain to be themselves; thus acknowledging at once, in the judgment of such as are possessed of sense, that they themselves are the offspring of the irreligious Anaxagoras.

3. Again, adopting the [ideas of] shade and vacuity from Democritus and Epicurus, they have fitted these to their own views, following upon those [teachers] who had already talked a great deal about a vacuum and atoms, the one of which they called that which is, and the other that which is not. In like manner, these men call those things which are within the Pleroma real existences, just as those philosophers did the atoms; while they maintain that those which are without the Pleroma have no true existence, even as those did respecting the vacuum. They have thus banished themselves in this world (since they are here outside of the Pleroma) into a place which has no existence. Again, when they maintain that these things [below] are images of those which have a true existence [above], they again most manifestly rehearse the doctrine of Democritus and Plato. For Democritus was the first who maintained that numerous and diverse figures were stamped, as it were, with the forms [of things above], and descended from universal space into this world. But Plato, for his part, speaks of matter, and exemplar, [3055] and God. These men, following those distinctions, have styled what he calls ideas, and exemplar, the images of those things which are above; while, through a mere change of name, they boast themselves as being discoverers and contrivers of this kind of imaginary fiction.

4. This opinion, too, that they hold the Creator formed the world out of previously existing matter, both Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and Plato expressed before them; as, forsooth, we learn they also do under the inspiration of their Mother. Then again, as to the opinion that everything of necessity passes away to those things out of which they maintain it was also formed, and that God is the slave of this necessity, so that He cannot impart immortality to what is mortal, or bestow incorruption on what is corruptible, but every one passes into a substance similar in nature to itself, both those who are named Stoics from the portico (stoa), and indeed all that are ignorant of God, poets and historians alike, make the same affirmation. [3056] Those [heretics] who hold the same [system of] infidelity have ascribed, no doubt, their own proper region to spiritual beings, that, namely, which is within the Pleroma, but to animal beings the intermediate space, while to corporeal they assign that which is material. And they assert that God Himself can do no otherwise, but that every one of the [different kinds of substance] mentioned passes away to those things which are of the same nature [with itself].

5. Moreover, as to their saying that the Saviour was formed out of all the Æons, by every one of them depositing, so to speak, in Him his own special flower, they bring forward nothing new that may not be found in the Pandora of Hesiod. For what he says respecting her, these men insinuate concerning the Saviour, bringing Him before us as Pandoros (All-gifted), as if each of the Æons had bestowed on Him what He possessed in the greatest perfection. Again, their opinion as to the indifference of [eating of] meats and other actions, and as to their thinking that, from the nobility of their nature, they can in no degree at all contract pollution, whatever they eat or perform, they have derived it from the Cynics, since they do in fact belong to the same society as do these [philosophers]. They also strive to transfer to [the treatment of matters of] faith that hairsplitting and subtle mode of handling questions which is, in fact, a copying of Aristotle.

6. Again, as to the desire they exhibit to refer this whole universe to numbers, they have learned it from the Pythagoreans. For these were the first who set forth numbers as the initial principle of all things, and [described] that initial principle of theirs as being both equal and unequal, out of which [two properties] they conceived that both things sensible [3057] and immaterial derived their origin. And [they held] that one set of first principles [3058] gave rise to the matter [of things], and another to their form. They affirm that from these first principles all things have been made, just as a statue is of its metal and its special form. Now, the heretics have adapted this to the things which are outside of the Pleroma. The [Pythagoreans] maintained that the [3059] principle of intellect is proportionate to the energy wherewith mind, as a recipient of the comprehensible, pursues its inquiries, until, worn out, it is resolved at length in the Indivisible and One. They further affirm that Hen that is, One is the first principle of all things, and the substance of all that has been formed. From this again proceeded the Dyad, the Tetrad, the Pentad, and the manifold generation of the others. These things the heretics repeat, word for word, with a reference to their Pleroma and Bythus. From the same source, too, they strive to bring into vogue those conjunctions which proceed from unity. Marcus boasts of such views as if they were his own, and as if he were seen to have discovered something more novel than others, while he simply sets forth the Tetrad of Pythagoras as the originating principle and mother of all things.

7. But I will merely say, in opposition to these men Did all those who have been mentioned, with whom you have been proved to coincide in expression, know, or not know, the truth? If they knew it, then the descent of the Saviour into this world was superfluous. For why [in that case] did He descend? Was it that He might bring that truth which was [already] known to the knowledge of those who knew it? If, on the other hand, these men did not know it, then how is it that, while you express yourselves in the same terms as do those who knew not the truth, ye boast that yourselves alone possess that knowledge which is above all things, although they who are ignorant of God [likewise] possess it? Thus, then, by a complete perversion [3060] of language, they style ignorance of the truth knowledge: and Paul well says [of them,] that [they make use of] "novelties of words of false knowledge." [3061] For that knowledge of theirs is truly found to be false. If, however, taking an impudent course with respect to these points, they declare that men indeed did not know the truth, but that their Mother, [3062] the seed of the Father, proclaimed the mysteries of truth through such men, even as also through the prophets, while the Demiurge was ignorant [of the proceeding], then I answer, in the first place, that the things which were predicted were not of such a nature as to be intelligible to no one; for the men themselves knew what they were saying, as did also their disciples, and those again succeeded these. And, in the next place, if either the Mother or her seed knew and proclaimed those things which were of the truth (and the Father [3063] is truth), then on their theory the Saviour spoke falsely when He said, "No one knoweth the Father but the Son," [3064] unless indeed they maintain that their seed or Mother is No-one.

8. Thus far, then, by means of [ascribing to their Æons] human feelings, and by the fact that they largely coincide in their language with many of those who are ignorant of God, they have been seen plausibly drawing a certain number away [from the truth]. They lead them on by the use of those [expressions] with which they have been familiar, to that sort of discourse which treats of all things, setting forth the production of the Word of God, and of Zoe, and of Nous, and bringing into the world, as it were, the [successive] emanations of the Deity. The views, again, which they propound, without either plausibility or parade, are simply lies from beginning to end. Just as those who, in order to lure and capture any kind of animals, place their accustomed food before them, gradually drawing them on by means of the familiar aliment, until at length they seize it, but, when they have taken them captive, they subject them to the bitterest of bondage, and drag them along with violence whithersoever they please; so also do these men gradually and gently persuading [others], by means of their plausible speeches, to accept of the emission which has been mentioned, then bring forward things which are not consistent, and forms of the remaining emissions which are not such as might have been expected. They declare, for instance, that [ten] [3065] Æons were sent forth by Logos and Zoe, while from Anthropos and Ecclesia there proceeded twelve, although they have neither proof, nor testimony, nor probability, nor anything whatever of such a nature [to support these assertions]; and with equal folly and audacity do they wish it to be believed that from Logos and Zoe, being Æons, were sent forth Bythus and Mixis, Ageratos and Henosis, Autophyes and Hedone, Acinetos and Syncrasis, Monogenes and Macaria. Moreover, [as they affirm,] there were sent forth, in a similar way, from Anthropos and Ecclesia, being Æons, Paracletus and Pistis, Patricos and Elpis, Metricos and Agape, Ainos and Synesis, Ecclesiasticus and Macariotes, Theletos and Sophia.

9. The passions and error of this Sophia, and how she ran the risk of perishing through her investigation [of the nature] of the Father, as they relate, and what took place outside of the Pleroma, and from what sort of a defect they teach that the Maker of the world was produced, I have set forth in the preceding book, describing in it, with all diligence, the opinions of these heretics. [I have also detailed their views] respecting Christ, whom they describe as having been produced subsequently to all these, and also regarding Soter, who, [according to them,] derived his being from those Æons who were formed within the Pleroma. [3066] But I have of necessity mentioned their names at present, that from these the absurdity of their falsehood may be made manifest, and also the confused nature of the nomenclature they have devised. For they themselves detract from [the dignity of] their Æons by a multitude of names of this sort. They give out names plausible and credible to the heathen, [as being similar] to those who are called their twelve gods, [3067] and even these they will have to be images of their twelve Æons. But the images [so called] can produce names [of their own] much more seemly, and more powerful through their etymology to indicate divinity [than are those of their fancied prototypes].


[3051] Nothing is known of this writer. Several of the same name are mentioned by the ancients, but to none of them is a work named Theogonia ascribed. He is supposed to be the same poet as is cited by Athenæus, but that writer quotes from a work styled 'Aphroditēs gonai. [3052] The Latin is "Cupidinem;" and Harvey here refers to Aristotle, who "quotes the authority of Hesiod and Parmenides as saying that Love is the eternal intellect, reducing Chaos into order." [3053] Compare, on the opinions of the philosophers referred to in this chapter, Hippolytus, Philosoph., book i. [3054] Iliad, xiv. 201; vii. 99. [3055] The Latin has here exemplum, corresponding doubtless to paradeigma, and referring to those ideai of all things which Plato supposed to have existed for ever in the divine mind. [3056] [Our author's demonstration of the essential harmony of Gnosticism with the old mythologies, and the philosophies of the heathen, explains the hold it seems to have gained among nominal converts to Christianity, and also the necessity for a painstaking refutation of what seem to us mere absurdities. The great merit of Irenæus is thus illustrated: he gave the death-blow to heathenism in extirpating heresy.] [3057] The Latin text reads "sensibilia et insensata;" but these words, as Harvey observes, must be the translation of aisthēta kai anaisthēta, "the former referring to material objects of sense, the latter to the immaterial world of intellect." [3058] This clause is very obscure, and we are not sure if the above rendering brings out the real meaning of the author. Harvey takes a different view of it, and supposes the original Greek to have been, kai allas men tēs hupostaseōs archas einai allas de tēs aisthēseōs kai tēs ousias. He then remarks: "The reader will observe that the word hupostasis here means intellectual substance, ousia material; as in V. c. ult. The meaning therefore of the sentence will be, And they affirmed that the first principles of intellectual substance and of sensible and material existence were diverse, viz., unity was the exponent of the first, duality of the second." [3059] All the editors confess the above sentence hopelessly obscure. We have given Harvey's conjectural translation. [3060] Literally, "antiphrasis." [3061] 1 Tim. vi. 20. The text is, "Vocum novitates falsæ agnitionis," kainophōnias having apparently been read in the Greek instead of kenophōnias as in Text. Rec. [3062] Grabe and others insert "vel" between these words. [3063] It seems necessary to regard these words as parenthetical, though the point is overlooked by all the editors. [3064] Matt. xi. 27. [3065] "Decem" is of doubtful authority. [3066] The text has "qui in labe facti sunt;" but, according to Harvey, "the sense requires plērōmati instead of ektrōmati in the original." [3067] Viz., the "Dii majorum gentium" of the Gentiles.

Chapter XV. No account can be given of these productions.

1. But let us return to the fore-mentioned question as to the production [of the Æons]. And, in the first place, let them tell us the reason of the production of the Æons being of such a kind that they do not come in contact with any of those things which belong to creation. For they maintain that those things [above] were not made on account of creation, but creation on account of them; and that the former are not images of the latter, but the latter of the former. As, therefore, they render a reason for the images, by saying that the month has thirty days on account of the thirty Æons, and the day twelve hours, and the year twelve months, on account of the twelve Æons which are within the Pleroma, with other such nonsense of the same kind, let them now tell us also the reason for that production of the Æons, why it was of such a nature, for what reason the first and first-begotten Ogdoad was sent forth, and not a Pentad, or a Triad, or a Septenad, or any one of those which are defined by a different number? Moreover, how did it come to pass, that from Logos and Zoe were sent forth ten Æons, and neither more nor less; while again from Anthropos and Ecclesia proceeded twelve, although these might have been either more or less numerous?

2. And then, again, with reference to the entire Pleroma, what reason is there that it should be divided into these three an Ogdoad, a Decad, and a Duodecad and not into some other number different from these? Moreover, with respect to the division itself, why has it been made into three parts, and not into four, or five, or six, or into some other number among those which have no connection with such numbers [3068] as belong to creation? For they describe those [Æons above] as being more ancient than these [created things below], and it behoves them to possess their principle [of being] in themselves, one which existed before creation, and not after the pattern of creation, all exactly agreeing as to the point. [3069]

3. The account which we give of creation is one harmonious with that regular order [of things prevailing in the world], for this scheme of ours is adapted to the [3070] things which have [actually] been made; but it is a matter of necessity that they, being unable to assign any reason belonging to the things themselves, with regard to those beings that existed before [creation], and were perfected by themselves, should fall into the greatest perplexity. For, as to the points on which they interrogate us as knowing nothing of creation, they themselves, when questioned in turn respecting the Pleroma, either make mention of mere human feelings, or have recourse to that sort of speech which bears only upon that harmony observable in creation, improperly giving us replies concerning things which are secondary, and not concerning those which, as they maintain, are primary. For we do not question them concerning that harmony which belongs to creation, nor concerning human feelings; but because they must acknowledge, as to their octiform, deciform, and duodeciform Pleroma (the image of which they declare creation to be), that their Father formed it of that figure vainly and thoughtlessly, and must ascribe to Him deformity, if He made anything without a reason. Or, again, if they declare that the Pleroma was so produced in accordance with the foresight of the Father, for the sake of creation, as if He had thus symmetrically arranged its very essence, then it follows that the Pleroma can no longer be regarded as having been formed on its own account, but for the sake of that [creation] which was to be its image as possessing its likeness (just as the clay model is not moulded for its own sake, but for the sake of the statue in brass, or gold, or silver about to be formed), then creation will have greater honour than the Pleroma, if, for its sake, those things [above] were produced.


[3068] Referring to numbers like 4, 5, 6, which do not correspond to any important fact in creation, as 7 e.g., does to the number of the planets. [3069] The Latin text is here scarcely intelligible, and is variously pointed by the editors. [3070] Harvey explains "his" as here denoting "in his," but we are at a loss to know how he would translate the passage. It is in the highest degree obscure.

Chapter XVI. The Creator of the world either produced of Himself the images of things to be made, or the Pleroma was formed after the image of some previous system; and so on ad infinitum.

1. But if they will not yield assent to any one of these conclusions, since in that case they would be proved by us as incapable of rendering any reason for such a production of their Pleroma, they will of necessity be shut up to this that they confess that, above the Pleroma, there was some other system more spiritual and more powerful, after the image of which their Pleroma was formed. For if the Demiurge did not of himself construct that figure of creation which exists, but made it after the form of those things which are above, then from whom did their Bythus who, to be sure, brought it about that the Pleroma should be possessed of a configuration of this kind receive the figure of those things which existed before Himself? For it must needs be, either that the intention [of creating] dwelt in that god who made the world, so that of his own power, and from himself, he obtained the model of its formation; or, if any departure is made from this being, then there will arise a necessity for constantly asking whence there came to that one who is above him the configuration of those things which have been made; what, too, was the number of the productions; and what the substance of the model itself? If, however, it was in the power of Bythus to impart of himself such a configuration to the Pleroma, then why may it not have been in the power of the Demiurge to form of himself such a world as exists? And then, again, if creation be an image of those things [above], why should we not affirm that those are, in turn, images of others above them, and those above these again, of others, and thus go on supposing innumerable images of images?

2. This difficulty presented itself to Basilides after he had utterly missed the truth, and was conceiving that, by an infinite succession of those beings that were formed from one another, he might escape such perplexity. When he had proclaimed that three hundred and sixty-five heavens were formed through succession and similitude by one another, and that a manifest proof [of the existence] of these was found in the number of the days of the year, as I stated before; and that above these there was a power which they also style Unnameable, and its dispensation he did not even in this way escape such perplexity. For, when asked whence came the image of its configuration to that heaven which is above all, and from which he wishes the rest to be regarded as having been formed by means of succession, he will say, from that dispensation which belongs to the Unnameable. He must then say, either that the Unspeakable formed it of himself, or he will find it necessary to acknowledge that there is some other power above this being, from whom his unnameable One derived such vast numbers of configurations as do, according to him, exist.

3. How much safer and more accurate a course is it, then, to confess at once that which is true: that this God, the Creator, who formed the world, is the only God, and that there is no other God besides Him He Himself receiving from Himself the model and figure of those things which have been made than that, after wearying ourselves with such an impious and circuitous description, we should be compelled, at some point or another, to fix the mind on some One, and to confess that from Him proceeded the configuration of things created.

4. As to the accusation brought against us by the followers of Valentinus, when they declare that we continue in that Hebdomad which is below, as if we could not lift our minds on high, nor understand those things which are above, because we do not accept their monstrous assertions: this very charge do the followers of Basilides bring in turn against them, inasmuch as they (the Valentinians) keep circling about those things which are below, [going] as far as the first and second Ogdoad, and because they unskilfully imagine that, immediately after the thirty Æons, they have discovered Him who is above all things Father, not following out in thought their investigations to that Pleroma which is above the three hundred and sixty-five heavens, which [3071] is above forty-five Ogdoads. And any one, again, might bring against them the same charge, by imagining four thousand three hundred and eighty heavens, or Æons, since the days of the year contain that number of hours. If, again, some one adds also the nights, thus doubling the hours which have been mentioned, imagining that [in this way] he has discovered a great multitude of Ogdoads, and a kind of innumerable company [3072] of Æons, and thus, in opposition to Him who is above all things Father, conceiving himself more perfect than all [others], he will bring the same charge against all, inasmuch as they are not capable of rising to the conception of such a multitude of heavens or Æons as he has announced, but are either so deficient as to remain among those things which are below, or continue in the intermediate space.


[3071] The text is here doubtful: Harvey proposes to read "qui" instead of "quæ," but we prefer "quod" with Grabe. The meaning is, that three hundred and sixty-five is more than forty-five Ogdoads (45 * 8 = 360). [3072] "Operositatem." corresponding to pragmateian, lit. manufacture.

Chapter XVII. Inquiry into the production of the Æons: whatever its supposed nature, it is in every respect inconsistent; and on the hypothesis of the heretics, even Nous and the Father Himself would be stained with ignorance.

1. That system, then, which has respect to their Pleroma, and especially that part of it which refers to the primary Ogdoad being thus burdened with so great contradictions and perplexities, let me now go on to examine the remainder of their scheme. [In doing so] on account of their madness, I shall be making inquiry respecting things which have no real existence; yet it is necessary to do this, since the treatment of this subject has been entrusted to me, and since I desire all men to come to the knowledge of the truth, as well as because thou thyself hast asked to receive from me full and complete means for overturning [the views of] these men.

2. I ask, then, in what manner were the rest of the Æons produced? Was it so as to be united with Him who produced them, even as the solar rays are with the sun; or was it actually [3073] and separately, so that each of them possessed an independent existence and his own special form, just as has a man from another man, and one herd of cattle from another? Or was it after the manner of germination, as branches from a tree? And were they of the same substance with those who produced them, or did they derive their substance from some other [kind of] substance? Also, were they produced at the same time, so as to be contemporaries; or after a certain order, so that some of them were older, and others younger? And, again, are they uncompounded and uniform, and altogether equal and similar among themselves, as spirit and light are produced; or are they compounded and different, unlike [to each other] in their members?

3. If each of them was produced, after the manner of men, actually and according to its own generation, then either those thus generated by the Father will be of the same substance with Him, and similar to their Author; or if [3074] they appear dissimilar, then it must of necessity be acknowledged that they are [formed] of some different substance. Now, if the beings generated by the Father be similar to their Author, then those who have been produced must remain for ever impassible, even as is He who produced them; but if, on the other hand, they are of a different substance, which is capable of passion, then whence came this dissimilar substance to find a place within the incorruptible Pleroma? Further, too, according to this principle, each one of them must be understood as being completely separated from every other, even as men are not mixed with nor united the one to the other, but each having a distinct shape of his own, and a definite sphere of action, while each one of them, too, is formed of a particular size, qualities characteristic of a body, and not of a spirit. Let them therefore no longer speak of the Pleroma as being spiritual, or of themselves as "spiritual," if indeed their Æons sit feasting with the Father, just as if they were men, and He Himself is of such a configuration as those reveal Him to be who were produced by Him.

4. If, again, the Æons were derived from Logos, Logos from Nous, and Nous from Bythus, just as lights are kindled from a light as, for example, torches are from a torch then they may no doubt differ in generation and size from one another; but since they are of the same substance with the Author of their production, they must either all remain for ever impassible, or their Father Himself must participate in passion. For the torch which has been kindled subsequently cannot be possessed of a different kind of light from that which preceded it. Wherefore also their lights, when blended in one, return to the original identity, since that one light is then formed which has existed even from the beginning. But we cannot speak, with respect to light itself, of some part being more recent in its origin, and another being more ancient (for the whole is but one light); nor can we so speak even in regard to those torches which have received the light (for these are all contemporary as respects their material substance, for the substance of torches is one and the same), but simply as to [the time of] its being kindled, since one was lighted a little while ago, and another has just now been kindled.

5. The defect, therefore, of that passion which has regard to ignorance, will either attach alike to their whole Pleroma, since [all its members] are of the same substance; and the Propator will share in this defect of ignorance that is, will be ignorant of Himself; or, on the other hand, all those lights which are within the Pleroma will alike remain for ever impassible. Whence, then, comes the passion of the youngest Æon, if the light of the Father is that from which all other lights have been formed, and which is by nature impassible? And how can one Æon be spoken of as either younger or older among themselves, since there is but one light in the entire Pleroma? And if any one calls them stars, they will all nevertheless appear to participate in the same nature. For if "one star differs from another star in glory," [3075] but not in qualities, nor substance, nor in the fact of being passible or impassible; so all these, since they are alike derived from the light of the Father, must either be naturally impassible and immutable, or they must all, in common with the light of the Father, be passible, and are capable of the varying phases of corruption.

6. The same conclusion will follow, although they affirm that the production of Æons sprang from Logos, as branches from a tree, since Logos has his generation from their Father. For all [the Æons] are formed of the same substance with the Father, differing from one another only in size, and not in nature, and filling up the greatness of the Father, even as the fingers complete the hand. If therefore He exists in passion and ignorance, so must also those Æons who have been generated by Him. But if it is impious to ascribe ignorance and passion to the Father of all, how can they describe an Æon produced by Him as being passible; and while they ascribe the same impiety to the very wisdom (Sophia) of God, how can they still call themselves religious men?

7. If, again, they declare that their Æons were sent forth just as rays are from the sun, then, since all are of the same substance and sprung from the same source, all must either be capable of passion along with Him who produced them, or all will remain impassible for ever. For they can no longer maintain that, of beings so produced, some are impassible and others passible. If, then, they declare all impassible, they do themselves destroy their own argument. For how could the youngest Æon have suffered passion if all were impassible? If, on the other hand, they declare that all partook of this passion, as indeed some of them venture to maintain, then, inasmuch as it originated with Logos, [3076] but flowed onwards to Sophia, they will thus be convicted of tracing back the passion to Logos, who is the [3077] Nous of this Propator, and so acknowledging the Nous of the Propator and the Father Himself to have experienced passion. For the Father of all is not to be regarded as a kind of compound Being, who can be separated from his Nous (mind), as I have already shown; but Nous is the Father, and the Father Nous. It necessarily follows, therefore, both that he who springs from Him as Logos, or rather that Nous himself, since he is Logos, must be perfect and impassible, and that those productions which proceed from him, seeing that they are of the same substance with himself, should be perfect and impassible, and should ever remain similar to him who produced them.

8. It cannot therefore longer be held, as these men teach, that Logos, as occupying the third place in generation, was ignorant of the Father. Such a thing might indeed perhaps be deemed probable in the case of the generation of human beings, inasmuch as these frequently know nothing of their parents; but it is altogether impossible in the case of the Logos of the Father. For if, existing in the Father, he knows Him in whom he exists that is, is not ignorant of himself then those productions which issue from him being his powers (faculties), and always present with him, will not be ignorant of him who emitted them, any more than rays [may be supposed to be] of the sun. It is impossible, therefore, that the Sophia (wisdom) of God, she who is within the Pleroma, inasmuch as she has been produced in such a manner, should have fallen under the influence of passion, and conceived such ignorance. But it is possible that that Sophia (wisdom) who pertains to [the scheme] of Valentinus, inasmuch as she is a production of the devil, should fall into every kind of passion, and exhibit the profoundest ignorance. For when they themselves bear testimony concerning their mother, to the effect that she was the offspring of an erring Æon, we need no longer search for a reason why the sons of such a mother should be ever swimming in the depths of ignorance.

9. I am not aware that, besides these productions [which have been mentioned], they are able to speak of any other; indeed, they have not been known to me (although I have had very frequent discussions with them concerning forms of this kind) as ever setting forth any other peculiar kind of being as produced [in the manner under consideration]. This only they maintain, that each one of these was so produced as to know merely that one who produced him, while he was ignorant of the one who immediately preceded. But they do not in this matter go forward [in their account] with any kind of demonstration as to the manner in which these were produced, or how such a thing could take place among spiritual beings. For, in whatsoever way they may choose to go forward, they will feel themselves bound (while, as regards the truth, they depart [3078] entirely from right reason) to proceed so far as to maintain that their Word, who springs from the Nous of the Propator, to maintain, I say, that he was produced in a state of degeneracy. For [they hold] that perfect Nous, previously begotten by the perfect Bythus, was not capable of rendering that production which issued from him perfect, but [could only bring it forth] utterly blind to the knowledge and greatness of the Father. They also maintain that the Saviour exhibited an emblem of this mystery in the case of that man who was blind from his birth, [3079] since the Æon was in this manner produced by Monogenes blind, that is, in ignorance, thus falsely ascribing ignorance and blindness to the Word of God, who, according to their own theory, holds the second [place of] production from the Propator. Admirable sophists, and explorers of the sublimities of the unknown Father, and rehearsers of those super-celestial mysteries "which the angels desire to look into!" [3080] that they may learn that from the Nous of that Father who is above all, the Word was produced blind, that is, ignorant of the Father who produced him!

10. But, ye miserable sophists, how could the Nous of the Father, or rather the very Father Himself, since He is Nous and perfect in all things, have produced his own Logos as an imperfect and blind Æon, when He was able also to produce along with him the knowledge of the Father? As ye affirm that Christ was generated [3081] after the rest, and yet declare that he was produced perfect, much more then should Logos, who is anterior to him in age, be produced by the same Nous, unquestionably perfect, and not blind; nor could he, again, have produced Æons still blinder than himself, until at last your Sophia, always utterly blinded, gave birth to so vast a body of evils. And your Father is the cause of all this mischief; for ye declare the magnitude and power of your Father to be the causes of ignorance, assimilating Him to Bythus, and assigning this as a name to Him who is the unnameable Father. But if ignorance is an evil, and ye declare all evils to have derived their strength from it, while ye maintain that the greatness and power of the Father is the cause of this ignorance, ye do thus set Him forth as the author of [all] evils. For ye state as the cause of evil this fact, that [no one] could contemplate His greatness. But if it was really impossible for the Father to make Himself known from the beginning to those [beings] that were formed by Him, He must in that case be held free from blame, inasmuch as He could not remove the ignorance of those who came after Him. But if, at a subsequent period, when He so willed it, He could take away that ignorance which had increased with the successive productions as they followed each other, and thus become deeply seated in the Æons, much more, had He so willed it might He formerly have prevented that ignorance, which as yet was not, from coming into existence.

11. Since therefore, as soon as He so pleased, He did become known not only to the Æons, but also to these men who lived in these latter times; but, as He did not so please to be known from the beginning, He remained unknown the cause of ignorance is, according to you, the will of the Father. For if He foreknew that these things would in future happen in such a manner, why then did He not guard against the ignorance of these beings before it had obtained a place among them, rather than afterwards, as if under the influence of repentance, deal with it through the production of Christ? For the knowledge which through Christ He conveyed to all, He might long before have imparted through Logos, who was also the first-begotten of Monogenes. Or if, knowing them beforehand, He willed that these things should happen [as they have done], then the works of ignorance must endure for ever, and never pass away. For the things which have been made in accordance with the will of your Propator must continue along with the will of Him who willed them; or if they pass away, the will of Him also who decreed that they should have a being will pass away along with them. And why did the Æons find rest and attain perfect knowledge through learning [at last] that the Father is altogether [3082] incomprehensible? They might surely have possessed this knowledge before they became involved in passion; for the greatness of the Father did not suffer diminution from the beginning, so that these might [3083] know that He was altogether incomprehensible. For if, on account of His infinite greatness, He remained unknown, He ought also on account of His infinite love to have preserved those impassible who were produced by Him, since nothing hindered, and expediency rather required, that they should have known from the beginning that the Father was altogether incomprehensible.


[3073] Efficabiliter in the Latin text is thought to correspond to energōs in the original Greek. [3074] Si is inserted by most of the editors; and although Harvey argues for its omission, we agree with Massuet in deeming it indispensable. [3075] 1 Cor. xv. 41. [3076] Comp. i. 2, 2. [3077] It seems needless to insert an "et" before this word, as Harvey suggests, or, as an alternative, to strike out the first "Nun Propatoris." [3078] Some read "cæcutientes" instead of "circumeuntes," as above. [3079] John ix. 1, etc. [3080] 1 Pet. i. 12. [3081] "Postgenitum quidem reliquis," the representative, according to Grabe, of apogonon men loipois in the Greek. Harvey remarks that tōn loipōn would have been better, and proposes to read "progenitum" in the Latin; but we do not see any necessity for change. [3082] "Incapabilis et incomprehensibilis," corresponding to achōrētos kai akatalēptos in the Greek. [3083] Literally, "to these knowing," "his scientibus."

Chapter XVIII. Sophia was never really in ignorance or passion; her Enthymesis could not have been separated from herself, or exhibited special tendencies of its own.

1. How can it be regarded as otherwise than absurd, that they also affirm this Sophia (wisdom) to have been involved in ignorance, and degeneracy, and passion? For these things are alien and contrary to wisdom, nor can they ever be qualities belonging to it. For wherever there is a want of foresight, and an ignorance of the course of utility, there wisdom does not exist. Let them therefore no longer call this suffering Æon, Sophia, but let them give up either her name or her sufferings. And let them, moreover, not call their entire Pleroma spiritual, if this Æon had a place within it when she was involved in such a tumult of passion. For even a vigorous soul, not to say a spiritual substance, would not pass through any such experience.

2. And, again, how could her Enthymesis, going forth [from her] along with the passion, have become a separate existence? For Enthymesis (thought) is understood in connection with some person, and can never have an isolated existence by itself. For a bad Enthymesis is destroyed and absorbed by a good one, even as a state of disease is by health. What, then, was the sort of Enthymesis which preceded that of passion? [It was this]: to investigate the [nature of] the Father, and to consider His greatness. But what did she afterwards become persuaded of, and so was restored to health? [This, viz.], that the Father is incomprehensible, and that He is past finding out. It was not, then, a proper feeling that she wished to know the Father, and on this account she became passible; but when she became persuaded that He is unsearchable, she was restored to health. And even Nous himself, who was inquiring into the [nature of] the Father, ceased, according to them, to continue his researches, on learning that the Father is incomprehensible.

3. How then could the Enthymesis separately conceive passions, which themselves also were her affections? For affection is necessarily connected with an individual: it cannot come into being or exist apart by itself. This opinion [of theirs], however, is not only untenable, but also opposed to that which was spoken by our Lord: "Seek, and ye shall find." [3084] For the Lord renders His disciples perfect by their seeking after and finding the Father; but that Christ of theirs, who is above, has rendered them perfect, by the fact that He has commanded the Æons not to seek after the Father, persuading them that, though they should labour hard, they would not find Him. And they [3085] declare that they themselves are perfect, by the fact that they maintain they have found their Bythus; while the Æons [have been made perfect] through means of this, that He is unsearchable who was inquired after by them.

4. Since, therefore, the Enthymesis herself could not exist separately, apart from the Æon, [it is obvious that] they bring forward still greater falsehood concerning her passion, when they further proceed to divide and separate it from her, while they declare that it was the substance of matter. As if God were not light, and as if no Word existed who could convict them, and overthrow their wickedness. For it is certainly true, that whatsoever the Æon thought, that she also suffered; and what she suffered, that she also thought. And her Enthymesis was, according to them, nothing else than the passion of one thinking how she might comprehend the incomprehensible. And thus Enthymesis (thought) was the passion; for she was thinking of things impossible. How then could affection and passion be separated and set apart from the Enthymesis, so as to become the substance of so vast a material creation, when Enthymesis herself was the passion, and the passion Enthymesis? Neither, therefore, can Enthymesis apart from the Æon, nor the affections apart from Enthymesis, separately possess substance; and thus once more their system breaks down and is destroyed.

5. But how did it come to pass that the Æon was both dissolved [into her component parts], and became subject to passion? She was undoubtedly of the same substance as the Pleroma; but the entire Pleroma was of the Father. Now, any substance, when brought in contact with what is of a similar nature, will not be dissolved into nothing, nor will be in danger of perishing, but will rather continue and increase, such as fire in fire, spirit in spirit, and water in water; but those which are of a contrary nature to each other do, [when they meet,] suffer and are changed and destroyed. And, in like manner, if there had been a production of light, it would not suffer passion, or recur any danger in light like itself, but would rather glow with the greater brightness, and increase, as the day does from [the increasing brilliance of] the sun; for they maintain that Bythus [himself] was the image of their father [3086] (Sophia). Whatever animals are alien [in habits] and strange to each other, or are mutually opposed in nature, fall into danger [on meeting together], and are destroyed; whereas, on the other hand, those who are accustomed to each other, and of a harmonious disposition, suffer no peril from being together in the same place, but rather secure both safety and life by such a fact. If, therefore, this Æon was produced by the Pleroma of the same substance as the whole of it, she could never have undergone change, since she was consorting with beings similar to and familiar with herself, a spiritual essence among those that were spiritual. For fear, terror, passion, dissolution, and such like, may perhaps occur through the struggle of contraries among such beings as we are, who are possessed of bodies; but among spiritual beings, and those that have the light diffused among them, no such calamities can possibly happen. But these men appear to me to have endowed their Æon with the [same sort of] passion as belongs to that character in the comic poet Menander, [3087] who was himself deeply in love, but an object of hatred [to his beloved]. For those who have invented such opinions have rather had an idea and mental conception of some unhappy lover among men, than of a spiritual and divine substance.

6. Moreover, to meditate how to search into [the nature of] the perfect Father, and to have a desire to exist within Him, and to have a comprehension of His [greatness], could not entail the stain of ignorance or passion, and that upon a spiritual Æon; but would rather [give rise to] perfection, and impassibility, and truth. For they do not say that even they, though they be but men, by meditating on Him who was before them, and while now, as it were, comprehending the perfect, and being placed within the knowledge of Him, are thus involved in a passion of perplexity, but rather attain to the knowledge and apprehension of truth. For they affirm that the Saviour said, "Seek, and ye shall find," to His disciples with this view, that they should seek after Him who, by means of imagination, has been conceived of by them as being above the Maker of all the ineffable Bythus; and they desire themselves to be regarded as "the perfect;" because they have sought and found the perfect One, while they are still on earth. Yet they declare that that Æon who was within the Pleroma, a wholly spiritual being, by seeking after the Propator, and endeavouring to find a place within His greatness, and desiring to have a comprehension of the truth of the Father, fell down into [the endurance of] passion, and such a passion that, unless she had met with that Power who upholds all things, she would have been dissolved into the general substance [of the Æons], and thus come to an end of her [personal] existence.

7. Absurd is such presumption, and truly an opinion of men totally destitute of the truth. For, that this Æon is superior to themselves, and of greater antiquity, they themselves acknowledge, according to their own system, when they affirm that they are the fruit of the Enthymesis of that Æon who suffered passion, so that this Æon is the father of their mother, that is, their own grandfather. And to them, the later grandchildren, the search after the Father brings, as they maintain, truth, and perfection, and establishment, and deliverance from unstable matter, and reconciliation to the Father; but on their grandfather this same search entailed ignorance, and passion, and terror, and perplexity, from which [disturbances] they also declare that the substance of matter was formed. To say, therefore, that the search after and investigation of the perfect Father, and the desire for communion and union with Him, were things quite beneficial to them, but to an Æon, from whom also they derive their origin, these things were the cause of dissolution and destruction, how can such assertions be otherwise viewed than as totally inconsistent, foolish, and irrational? Those, too, who listen to these teachers, truly blind themselves, while they possess blind guides, justly [are left to] fall along with them into the gulf of ignorance which lies below them.


[3084] Matt. vii. 7. [3085] It seems necessary to read "se quidem" instead of "si quidem," as in the mss. [3086] Although Sophia was a feminine Æon, she was regarded as being the father of Enthymesis, who again was the mother of the Valentinians. [3087] Stieren refers for this allusion to Meineke's edition of the Reliquiæ Menan. et Philem., p. 116.

Chapter XIX. Absurdities of the heretics as to their own origin: their opinions respecting the Demiurge shown to be equally untenable and ridiculous.

1. But what sort of talk also is this concerning their seed that it was conceived by the mother according to the configuration of those angels who wait upon the Saviour, shapeless, without form, and imperfect; and that it was deposited in the Demiurge without his knowledge, in order that through his instrumentality it might attain to perfection and form in that soul which he had, [so to speak,] filled with seed? This is to affirm, in the first place, that those angels who wait upon their Saviour are imperfect, and without figure or form; if indeed that which was conceived according to their appearance was generated any such kind of being [as has been described].

2. Then, in the next place, as to their saying that the Creator was ignorant of that deposit of seed which took place into him, and again, of that impartation of seed which was made by him to man, their words are futile and vain, and are in no way susceptible of proof. For how could he have been ignorant of it, if that seed had possessed any substance and peculiar properties? If, on the other hand, it was without substance and without quality, and so was really nothing, then, as a matter of course, he was ignorant of it. For those things which have a certain motion of their own, and quality, either of heat, or swiftness, or sweetness, or which differ from others in brilliance, do not escape the notice even of men, since they mingle in the sphere of human action: far less can they [be hidden from] God, the Maker of this universe. With reason, however, [is it said, that] their seed was not known to Him, since it is without any quality of general utility, and without the substance requisite for any action, and is, in fact, a pure nonentity. It really seems to me, that, with a view to such opinions, the Lord expressed Himself thus: "For every idle word that men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment." [3088] For all teachers of a like character to these, who fill men's ears with idle talk, shall, when they stand at the throne of judgment, render an account for those things which they have vainly imagined and falsely uttered against the Lord, proceeding, as they have done, to such a height of audacity as to declare of themselves that, on account of the substance of their seed, they are acquainted with the spiritual Pleroma, because that man who dwells within reveals to them the true Father; for the animal nature required [3089] to be disciplined by means of the senses. But [they hold that] the Demiurge, while receiving into himself the whole of this seed, through its being deposited in him by the Mother, still remained utterly ignorant of all things, and had no understanding of anything connected with the Pleroma.

3. And that they are the truly "spiritual," inasmuch as a certain particle of the Father of the universe has been deposited in their souls, since, according to their assertions, they have souls formed of the same substance as the Demiurge himself, yet that he, although he received from the Mother, once for all, the whole [of the divine] seed, and possessed it in himself, still remained of an animal nature, and had not the slightest understanding of those things which are above, which things they boast that they themselves understand, while they are still on earth; does not this crown all possible absurdity? For to imagine that the very same seed conveyed knowledge and perfection to the souls of these men, while it only gave rise to ignorance in the God who made them, is an opinion that can be held only by those utterly frantic, and totally destitute of common sense.

4. Further, it is also a most absurd and groundless thing for them to say that the seed was, by being thus deposited, reduced to form and increased, and so was prepared for all the reception of perfect rationality. For there will be in it an admixture of matter that substance which they hold to have been derived from ignorance and defect; [and this will prove itself] more apt and useful than was the light of their Father, if indeed, when born, according to the contemplation of that [light], it was without form or figure, but derived from this [matter], form, and appearance, and increase, and perfection. For if that light which proceeds from the Pleroma was the cause to a spiritual being that it possessed neither form, nor appearance, nor its own special magnitude, while its descent to this world added all these things to it, and brought it to perfection, then a sojourn here (which they also term darkness) would seem much more efficacious and useful than was the light of their Father. But how can it be regarded as other than ridiculous, to affirm that their mother ran the risk of being almost extinguished in matter, and was almost on the point of being destroyed by it, had she not then with difficulty stretched herself outwards, and leaped, [as it were,] out of herself, receiving assistance from the Father; but that her seed increased in this same matter, and received a form, and was made fit for the reception of perfect rationality; and this, too, while "bubbling up" among substances dissimilar and unfamiliar to itself, according to their own declaration that the earthly is opposed to the spiritual, and the spiritual to the earthly? How, then, could "a little particle," [3090] as they say, increase, and receive shape, and reach perfection, in the midst of substances contrary to and unfamiliar to itself?

5. But further, and in addition to what has been said, the question occurs, Did their mother, when she beheld the angels, bring forth the seed all at once, or only one by one [in succession]? If she brought forth the whole simultaneously and at once, that which was thus produced cannot now be of an infantile character: its descent, therefore, into those men who now exist must be superfluous. [3091] But if one by one, then she did not form her conception according to the figure of those angels whom she beheld; for, contemplating them all together, and once for all, so as to conceive by them, she ought to have brought forth once for all the offspring of those from whose forms she had once for all conceived.

6. Why was it, too, that, beholding the angels along with the Saviour, she did indeed conceive their images, but not that of the Saviour, who is far more beautiful than they? Did He not please her; and did she not, on that account, conceive after His likeness? [3092] How was it, too, that the Demiurge, whom they can call an animal being, having, as they maintain, his own special magnitude and figure, was produced perfect as respects his substance; while that which is spiritual, which also ought to be more effective than that which is animal, was sent forth imperfect, and he required to descend into a soul, that in it he might obtain form, and thus becoming perfect, might be rendered fit for the reception of perfect reason? If, then, he obtains form in mere earthly and animal men, he can no longer be said to be after the likeness of angels whom they call lights, but [after the likeness] of those men who are here below. For he will not possess in that case the likeness and appearance of angels, but of those souls in whom also he receives shape; just as water when poured into a vessel takes the form of that vessel, and if on any occasion it happens to congeal in it, it will acquire the form of the vessel in which it has thus been frozen, since souls themselves possess the figure [3093] of the body [in which they dwell]; for they themselves have been adapted to the vessel [in which they exist], as I have said before. If, then, that seed [referred to] is here solidified and formed into a definite shape, it will possess the figure of a man. and not the form of the angels. How is it possible, therefore, that that seed should be after images of the angels, seeing it has obtained a form after the likeness of men? Why, again, since it was of a spiritual nature, had it any need of descending into flesh? For what is carnal stands in need of that which is spiritual, if indeed it is to be saved, that in it it may be sanctified and cleared from all impurity, and that what is mortal may be swallowed up by immortality; [3094] but that which is spiritual has no need whatever of those things which are here below. For it is not we who benefit it, but it that improves us.

7. Still more manifestly is that talk of theirs concerning their seed proved to be false, and that in a way which must be evident to every one, by the fact that they declare those souls which have received seed from the Mother to be superior to all others; wherefore also they have been honoured by the Demiurge, and constituted princes, and kings, and priests. For if this were true, the high priest Caiaphas, and Annas, and the rest of the chief priests, and doctors of the law, and rulers of the people, would have been the first to believe in the Lord, agreeing as they did with respect [3095] to that relationship; and even before them should have been Herod the king. But since neither he, nor the chief priests, nor the rulers, nor the eminent of the people, turned to Him [in faith], but, on the contrary, those who sat begging by the highway, the deaf, and the blind, while He was rejected and despised by others, according to what Paul declares, "For ye see your calling, brethren, that there are not many wise men among you, not many noble, not many mighty; but those things of the world which were despised hath God chosen." [3096] Such souls, therefore, were not superior to others on account of the seed deposited in them, nor on this account were they honoured by the Demiurge.

8. As to the point, then, that their system is weak and untenable as well as utterly chimerical, enough has been said. For it is not needful, to use a common proverb, that one should drink up the ocean who wishes to learn that its water is salt. But, just as in the case of a statue which is made of clay, but coloured on the outside that it may be thought to be of gold, while it really is of clay, any one who takes out of it a small particle, and thus laying it open reveals the clay, will set free those who seek the truth from a false opinion; in the same way have I (by exposing not a small part only, but the several heads of their system which are of the greatest importance) shown to as many as do not wish wittingly to be led astray, what is wicked, deceitful, seductive, and pernicious, connected with the school of the Valentinians, and all those other heretics who promulgate [3097] wicked opinions respecting the Demiurge, that is, the Fashioner and Former of this universe, and who is in fact the only true God exhibiting, [as I have done,] how easily their views are overthrown.

9. For who that has any intelligence, and possesses only a small proportion of truth, can tolerate them, when they affirm that there is another god above the Creator; and that there is another Monogenes as well as another Word of God, whom also they describe as having been produced in [a state of] degeneracy; and another Christ, whom they assert to have been formed, along with the Holy Spirit, later than the rest of the Æons; and another Saviour, who, they say, did not proceed from the Father of all, but was a kind of joint production of those Æons who were formed in [a state of] degeneracy, and that He was produced of necessity on account of this very degeneracy? It is thus their opinion that, unless the Æons had been in a state of ignorance and degeneracy, neither Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor Horos, nor the Saviour, nor the angels, nor their Mother, nor her seed, nor the rest of the fabric of the world, would have been produced at all; but the universe would have been a desert, and destitute of the many good things which exist in it. They are therefore not only chargeable with impiety against the Creator, declaring Him the fruit of a defect, but also against Christ and the Holy Spirit, affirming that they were produced on account of that defect; and, in like manner, that the Saviour [was produced] subsequently to [the existence of] that defect. And who will tolerate the remainder of their vain talk, which they cunningly endeavour to accommodate to the parables, and have in this way plunged both themselves, and those who give credit to them, in the profoundest depths of impiety?


[3088] Matt. xii. 36. [The serious spirit of this remark lends force to it as exposition.] [3089] Comp. i. 6, 1. [3090] "Parvum emissum" a small emission. [3091] That is, there could be no need for its descending into them that it might increase, receive form, and thus be prepared for the reception of perfect reason. [3092] Or, "on beholding Him." [3093] As Massuet here remarks, we may infer from this passage that Irenæus believed souls to be corporeal, as being possessed of a definite form, an opinion entertained by not a few of the ancients. [And, before we censure them, let us reflect whether their perceptions of "the carnal mind" as differing from the spirit of a man, may not account for it. 1 Thess. v. 23.] [3094] Comp. 1 Cor. xv. 44; 2 Cor. v. 4. [As a Catholic I cannot accept everything contained in the Biblical Psychology of Dr. Delitzsch, but may I entreat the reader who has not studied it to do so before dismissing the ideas of Irenæus on such topics. A translation has been provided for English readers, by the Messrs. T. and T. Clark of Edinburgh, 1867.] [3095] The meaning apparently is, that by the high position which all these in common occupied, they proved themselves, on the principles of the heretics, to belong to the favoured "seed," and should therefore have eagerly have welcomed the Lord. Or the meaning may be, "hurrying together to that relationship," that is, to the relationship secured by faith in Christ. [3096] 1 Cor. i. 26, 28, somewhat loosely quoted. [3097] "Male tractant;" literally, handle badly.

Chapter XX. Futility of the arguments adduced to demonstrate the sufferings of the twelfth Æon, from the parables, the treachery of Judas, and the passion of our Saviour.

1. That they improperly and illogically apply both the parables and the actions of the Lord to their falsely-devised system, I prove as follows: They endeavour, for instance, to demonstrate that passion which, they say, happened in the case of the twelfth Æon, from this fact, that the passion of the Saviour was brought about by the twelfth apostle, and happened in the twelfth month. For they hold that He preached [only] for one year after His baptism. They maintain also that the same thing was clearly set forth in the case of her who suffered from the issue of blood. For the woman suffered during twelve years, and through touching the hem of the Saviour's garment she was made whole by that power which went forth from the Saviour, and which, they affirm, had a previous existence. For that Power who suffered was stretching herself outwards and flowing into immensity, so that she was in danger of being dissolved into the general substance [of the Æons]; but then, touching the primary Tetrad, which is typified by the hem of the garment, she was arrested, and ceased from her passion.

2. Then, again, as to their assertion that the passion of the twelfth Æon was proved through the conduct of Judas, how is it possible that Judas can be compared [with this Æon] as being an emblem of her he who was expelled from the number of the twelve, [3098] and never restored to his place? For that Æon, whose type they declare Judas to be, after being separated from her Enthymesis, was restored or recalled [to her former position]; but Judas was deprived [of his office], and cast out, while Matthias was ordained in his place, according to what is written, "And his bishopric let another take." [3099] They ought therefore to maintain that the twelfth Æon was cast out of the Pleroma, and that another was produced, or sent forth to fill her place; if, that is to say, she is pointed at in Judas. Moreover, they tell us that it was the Æon herself who suffered, but Judas was the betrayer, [and not the sufferer.] Even they themselves acknowledge that it was the suffering Christ, and not Judas, who came to [the endurance of] passion. How, then, could Judas, the betrayer of Him who had to suffer for our salvation, be the type and image of that Æon who suffered?

3. But, in truth, the passion of Christ was neither similar to the passion of the Æon, nor did it take place in similar circumstances. For the Æon underwent a passion of dissolution and destruction, so that she who suffered was in danger also of being destroyed. But the Lord, our Christ, underwent a valid, and not a merely [3100] accidental passion; not only was He Himself not in danger of being destroyed, but He also established fallen man [3101] by His own strength, and recalled him to incorruption. The Æon, again, underwent passion while she was seeking after the Father, and was not able to find Him; but the Lord suffered that He might bring those who have wandered from the Father, back to knowledge and to His fellowship. The search into the greatness of the Father became to her a passion leading to destruction; but the Lord, having suffered, and bestowing the knowledge of the Father, conferred on us salvation. Her passion, as they declare, gave origin to a female offspring, weak, infirm, unformed, and ineffective; but His passion gave rise to strength and power. For the Lord, through means of suffering, "ascending into the lofty place, led captivity captive, gave gifts to men," [3102] and conferred on those that believe in Him the power "to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and on all the power of the enemy," [3103] that is, of the leader of apostasy. Our Lord also by His passion destroyed death, and dispersed error, and put an end to corruption, and destroyed ignorance, while He manifested life and revealed truth, and bestowed the gift of incorruption. But their Æon, when she had suffered, established [3104] ignorance, and brought forth a substance without shape, out of which all material works have been produced death, corruption, error, and such like.

4. Judas, then, the twelfth in order of the disciples, was not a type of the suffering Æon, nor, again, was the passion of the Lord; for these two things have been shown to be in every respect mutually dissimilar and inharmonious. This is the case not only as respects the points which I have already mentioned, but with regard to the very number. For that Judas the traitor is the twelfth in order, is agreed upon by all, there being twelve apostles mentioned by name in the Gospel. But this Æon is not the twelfth, but the thirtieth; for, according to the views under consideration, there were not twelve Æons only produced by the will of the Father, nor was she sent forth the twelfth in order: they reckon her, [on the contrary,] as having been produced in the thirtieth place. How, then, can Judas, the twelfth in order, be the type and image of that Æon who occupies the thirtieth place?

5. But if they say that Judas in perishing was the image of her Enthymesis, neither in this way will the image bear any analogy to that truth which [by hypothesis] corresponds to it. For the Enthymesis having been separated from the Æon, and itself afterwards receiving a shape from Christ, [3105] then being made a partaker of intelligence by the Saviour, and having formed all things which are outside of the Pleroma, after the image of those which are within the Pleroma, is said at last to have been received by them into the Pleroma, and, according to [the principle of] conjunction, to have been united to that Saviour who was formed out of all. But Judas having been once for all cast away, never returns into the number of the disciples; otherwise a different person would not have been chosen to fill his place. Besides, the Lord also declared regarding him, "Woe to the man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed;" [3106] and, "It were better for him if he had never been born;" [3107] and he was called the "son of perdition" [3108] by Him. If, however, they say that Judas was a type of the Enthymesis, not as separated from the Æon, but of the passion entwined with her, neither in this way can the number twelve be regarded as a [fitting] type of the number three. For in the one case Judas was cast away, and Matthias was ordained instead of him; but in the other case the Æon is said to have been in danger of dissolution and destruction, and [there are also] her Enthymesis and passion: for they markedly distinguish Enthymesis from the passion; and they represent the Æon as being restored, and Enthymesis as acquiring form, but the passion, when separated from these, as becoming matter. Since, therefore, there are thus these three, the Æon, her Enthymesis, and her passion, Judas and Matthias, being only two, cannot be the types of them.


[3098] Or, "from the twelfth number" the twelfth position among the apostles. [3099] Acts i. 20, from Ps. cix. 8. [3100] The text is here uncertain. Most editions read "et quæ non cederet," but Harvey prefers "quæ non accederet" (for "accideret"), and remarks that the corresponding Greek would be kai ou tuchon, which we have translated as above. [3101] "Corruptum hominem." [3102] Ps. lxviii. 18; Eph. iv. 8. [3103] Luke x. 19; [Mark xvi. 17, 18.] [3104] Though the reading "substituit" is found in all the mss. and editions, it has been deemed corrupt, and "sustinuit" has been proposed instead of it. Harvey supposes it the equivalent of hupestēse, and then somewhat strangely adds "for apestēse." There seems to us no difficulty in the word, and consequently no necessity for change. [3105] Compare, in illustration of this sentence, book i. 4, 1, and i. 4, 5. [3106] Matt. xxvi. 24. [3107] Mark xiv. 21. [3108] John xvii. 12.

Chapter XXI. The twelve apostles were not a type of the Æons.

1. If, again, they maintain that the twelve apostles were a type only of that group of twelve Æons which Anthropos in conjunction with Ecclesia produced, then let them produce ten other apostles as a type of those ten remaining Æons, who, as they declare, were produced by Logos and Zoe. For it is unreasonable to suppose that the junior, and for that reason inferior Æons, were set forth by the Saviour through the election of the apostles, while their seniors, and on this account their superiors, were not thus foreshown; since the Saviour (if, that is to say, He chose the apostles with this view, that by means of them He might show forth the Æons who are in the Pleroma) might have chosen other ten apostles also, and likewise other eight before these, that thus He might set forth the original and primary Ogdoad. He could not, [3109] in regard to the second [Duo] Decad, show forth [any emblem of it] through the number of the apostles being [already] constituted a type. For [He made choice of no such other number of disciples; but] after the twelve apostles, our Lord is found to have sent seventy others before Him. [3110] Now seventy cannot possibly be the type either of an Ogdoad, a Decad, or a Triacontad. What is the reason, then, that the inferior Æons are, as I have said, represented by means of the apostles; but the superior, from whom, too, the former derived their being, are not prefigured at all? But if [3111] the twelve apostles were chosen with this object, that the number of the twelve Æons might be indicated by means of them, then the seventy also ought to have been chosen to be the type of seventy Æons; and in that case, they must affirm that the Æons are no longer thirty, but eighty-two in number. For He who made choice of the apostles, that they might be a type of those Æons existing in the Pleroma, would never have constituted them types of some and not of others; but by means of the apostles He would have tried to preserve an image and to exhibit a type of those Æons that exist in the Pleroma.

2. Moreover we must not keep silence respecting Paul, but demand from them after the type of what Æon that apostle has been handed down to us, unless perchance [they affirm that he is a representative] of the Saviour compounded of them [all], who derived his being from the collected gifts of the whole, and whom they term All Things, as having been formed out of them all. Respecting this being the poet Hesiod has strikingly expressed himself, styling him Pandora that is, "The gift of all" for this reason, that the best gift in the possession of all was centred in him. In describing these gifts the following account is given: Hermes (so [3112] he is called in the Greek language), Haimulious [3113] te logous kai epiklopon ēthos autous Kattheto (or to express this in the English [3114] language), "implanted words of fraud and deceit in their minds, and thievish habits," for the purpose of leading foolish men astray, that such should believe their falsehoods. For their Mother that is, Leto [3115] secretly stirred them up (whence also she is called Leto, [3116] according to the meaning of the Greek word, because she secretly stirred up men), without the knowledge of the Demiurge, to give forth profound and unspeakable mysteries to itching ears. [3117] And not only did their Mother bring it about that this mystery should be declared by Hesiod; but very skilfully also by means of the lyric poet Pindar, when he describes to the Demiurge [3118] the case of Pelops, whose flesh was cut in pieces by the Father, and then collected and brought together, and compacted anew by all the gods, [3119] did she in this way indicate Pandora and these men having their consciences seared [3120] by her, declaring, as they maintain, the very same things, are [proved] of the same family and spirit as the others.


[3109] This passage is hopelessly corrupt. The editors have twisted it in every direction, but with no satisfactory result. Our version is quite as far from being certainly trustworthy as any other that has been proposed, but it seems something like the meaning of the words as they stand. Both the text and punctuation of the Latin are in utter confusion. [3110] Luke x. 1. [3111] "Si" is wanting in the mss. and early editions, and Harvey pleads for its exclusion, but the sense becomes clearer through inserting it. [3112] This clause is, of course, an interpolation by the Latin translator. [3113] The words are loosely quoted memoriter, as is the custom with Irenæus. See Hesiod, Works and Days, i. 77, etc. [3114] Latin, of course, in the text. [3115] There is here a play upon the words Lētō and lēthein, the former being supposed to be derived from the latter, so as to denote secrecy. [3116] This clause is probably an interpolation by the translator. [3117] 2 Tim. iv. 3. [3118] "Cœlet Demiurgo," such is the reading in all the mss. and editions. Harvey, however, proposes to read "celet Demiurgum;" but the change which he suggests, besides being without authority, does not clear away the obscurity which hangs upon the sentence. [3119] Comp. Pindar, Olymp., i. 38, etc. [3120] "Compuncti" supposed to correspond to kekautēriasmenoi: see 1 Tim. iv. 2. The whole passage is difficult and obscure.

Chapter XXII. The thirty Æons are not typified by the fact that Christ was baptized in His thirtieth year: He did not suffer in the twelfth month after His baptism, but was more than fifty years old when He died.

1. I have shown that the number thirty fails them in every respect; too few Æons, as they represent them, being at one time found within the Pleroma, and then again too many [to correspond with that number]. There are not, therefore, thirty Æons, nor did the Saviour come to be baptized when He was thirty years old, for this reason, that He might show forth the thirty silent [3121] Æons of their system, otherwise they must first of all separate and eject [the Saviour] Himself from the Pleroma of all. Moreover, they affirm that He suffered in the twelfth month, so that He continued to preach for one year after His baptism; and they endeavour to establish this point out of the prophet (for it is written, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of retribution" [3122] ), being truly blind, inasmuch as they affirm they have found out the mysteries of Bythus, yet not understanding that which is called by Isaiah the acceptable year of the Lord, nor the day of retribution. For the prophet neither speaks concerning a day which includes the space of twelve hours, nor of a year the length of which is twelve months. For even they themselves acknowledge that the prophets have very often expressed themselves in parables and allegories, and [are] not [to be understood] according to the mere sound of the words.

2. That, then, was called the day of retribution on which the Lord will render to every one according to his works that is, the judgment. The acceptable year of the Lord, again, is this present time, in which those who believe Him are called by Him, and become acceptable to God that is, the whole time from His advent onwards to the consummation [of all things], during which He acquires to Himself as fruits [of the scheme of mercy] those who are saved. For, according to the phraseology of the prophet, the day of retribution follows the [acceptable] year; and the prophet will be proved guilty of falsehood if the Lord preached only for a year, and if he speaks of it. For where is the day of retribution? For the year has passed, and the day of retribution has not yet come; but He still "makes His sun to rise upon the good and upon the evil, and sends rain upon the just and unjust." [3123] And the righteous suffer persecution, are afflicted, and are slain, while sinners are possessed of abundance, and "drink with the sound of the harp and psaltery, but do not regard the works of the Lord." [3124] But, according to the language [used by the prophet], they ought to be combined, and the day of retribution to follow the [acceptable] year. For the words are, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of retribution." This present time, therefore, in which men are called and saved by the Lord, is properly understood to be denoted by "the acceptable year of the Lord;" and there follows on this "the day of retribution," that is, the judgment. And the time thus referred to is not called "a year" only, but is also named "a day" both by the prophet and by Paul, of whom the apostle, calling to mind the Scripture, says in the Epistle addressed to the Romans, "As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." [3125] But here the expression "all the day long" is put for all this time during which we suffer persecution, and are killed as sheep. As then this day does not signify one which consists of twelve hours, but the whole time during which believers in Christ suffer and are put to death for His sake, so also the year there mentioned does not denote one which consists of twelve months, but the whole time of faith during which men hear and believe the preaching of the Gospel, and those become acceptable to God who unite themselves to Him.

3. But it is greatly to be wondered at, how it has come to pass that, while affirming that they have found out the mysteries of God, they have not examined the Gospels to ascertain how often after His baptism the Lord went up, at the time of the passover, to Jerusalem, in accordance with what was the practice of the Jews from every land, and every year, that they should assemble at this period in Jerusalem, and there celebrate the feast of the passover. First of all, after He had made the water wine at Cana of Galilee, He went up to the festival day of the passover, on which occasion it is written, "For many believed in Him, when they saw the signs which He did," [3126] as John the disciple of the Lord records. Then, again, withdrawing Himself [from Judæa], He is found in Samaria; on which occasion, too, He conversed with the Samaritan woman, and while at a distance, cured the son of the centurion by a word, saying, "Go thy way, thy son liveth." [3127] Afterwards He went up, the second time, to observe the festival day of the passover [3128] in Jerusalem; on which occasion He cured the paralytic man, who had lain beside the pool thirty-eight years, bidding him rise, take up his couch, and depart. Again, withdrawing from thence to the other side of the sea of Tiberias, [3129] He there seeing a great crowd had followed Him, fed all that multitude with five loaves of bread, and twelve baskets of fragments remained over and above. Then, when He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and plots were formed against Him by the Pharisees, He withdrew to a city called Ephraim; and from that place, as it is written "He came to Bethany six days before the passover," [3130] and going up from Bethany to Jerusalem, He there ate the passover, and suffered on the day following. Now, that these three occasions of the passover are not included within one year, every person whatever must acknowledge. And that the special month in which the passover was celebrated, and in which also the Lord suffered, was not the twelfth, but the first, those men who boast that they know all things, if they know not this, may learn it from Moses. Their explanation, therefore, both of the year and of the twelfth month has been proved false, and they ought to reject either their explanation or the Gospel; otherwise [this unanswerable question forces itself upon them], How is it possible that the Lord preached for one year only?

4. Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master, [3131] He came to Jerusalem, so that He might be properly acknowledged [3132] by all as a Master. For He did not seem one thing while He was another, as those affirm who describe Him as being man only in appearance; but what He was, that He also appeared to be. Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had [3133] appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through means of Himself all, I say, who through Him are born again to God [3134] infants, [3135] and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be "the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence," [3136] the Prince of life, [3137] existing before all, and going before all. [3138]

5. They, however, that they may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," maintain that He preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month. [In speaking thus,] they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying His whole work, and robbing Him of that age which is both more necessary and more honourable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher He excelled all others. For how could He have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed His thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: "Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old," [3139] when He came to receive baptism); and, [according to these men,] He preached only one year reckoning from His baptism. On completing His thirtieth year He suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, [3140] and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information. [3141] And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. [3142] Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the [validity of] the statement. Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemæus, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?

6. But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad," they answered Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?" [3143] Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, "Thou art not yet forty years old." For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being [3144] of flesh and blood. He did not then want much of being fifty years old; [3145] and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?" He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year, unless indeed, among their Æons, there be so long years assigned to those who sit in their ranks with Bythus in the Pleroma; of which beings Homer the poet, too, has spoken, doubtless being inspired by the Mother of their [system of] error:

Hoi de theoi par Zēni kathēmenoi ēgoroōnto

Chruseō en dapedō: [3146]

which we may thus render into English: [3147]

"The gods sat round, while Jove presided o er,

And converse held upon the golden floor."


[3121] Harvey wishes, without any authority, to substitute "tacitus" for "tacitos," but there is no necessity for alteration. Irenæus is here playing upon the word, according to a practice in which he delights, and quietly scoffs at the Sige (Silence) of the heretics by styling those Æons silent who were derived from her. [3122] Isa. lxi. 2. [3123] Matt. v. 45. [3124] Isa. v. 12. [3125] Rom. viii. 36. [3126] John ii. 23. [3127] John iv. 50. [3128] John v. 1, etc. It is well known that, to fix what is meant by the heortē, referred to in this passage of St. John, is one of the most difficult points in New Testament criticism. Some modern scholars think that the feast of Purim is intended by the Evangelist; but, upon the whole, the current of opinion that has always prevailed in the Church has been in favour of the statement here made by Irenæus. Christ would therefore be present at four passovers after His baptism: (1) John ii. 13; (2) John v. 1; (3) John vi. 4; (4) John xiii. 1. [3129] John vi. 1, etc. [3130] John xi. 54, John xii. 1. [3131] Or, "teacher," magistri. [3132] Harvey strangely remarks here, that "the reading audiret, followed by Massuet, makes no sense." He gives audiretur in his text, but proposes to read ordiretur. The passage may, however, be translated as above, without departing from the Benedictine reading audiret. [3133] "Neque solvens suam legem in se humani generis." Massuet would expunge "suam;" but, as Harvey well observes, "it has a peculiar significance, nor abrogating his own law." [3134] "Renascuntur in Deum." The reference in these words is doubtless to baptism, as clearly appears from comparing book iii. 17, 1. [3135] It has been remarked by Wall and others, that we have here the statement of a valuable fact as to the baptism of infants in the primitive Church. [3136] Col. i. 18. [3137] Acts iii. 15. [3138] [That our Lord was prematurely old may be inferred from the text which Irenæus regards as proof that he literally lived to be old. St. John viii. 56, 57; comp. Isa. liii. 2.] [3139] Luke iii. 23. [3140] The Latin text of this clause is, "Quia autem triginta annorum ætas prima indolis est juvenis" words which it seems almost impossible to translate. Grabe regarded "indolis" as being in the nominative, while Massuet contends it is in the genitive case; and so regarding it, we might translate, "Now that the age of thirty is the first age of the mind of youth," etc. But Harvey re-translates the clause into Greek as follows: Hoti de hē tōn triakonta etōn hēlikia hē prōtē tēs diatheseōs esti neas words which we have endeavoured to render as above. The meaning clearly is, that the age of thirty marked the transition point from youth to maturity. [3141] With respect to this extraordinary assertion of Irenæus, Harvey remarks: "The reader may here perceive the unsatisfactory character of tradition, where a mere fact is concerned. From reasonings founded upon the evangelical history, as well as from a preponderance of external testimony, it is most certain that our Lord's ministry extended but little over three years; yet here Irenæus states that it included more than ten years, and appeals to a tradition derived, as he says, from those who had conversed with an apostle" [3142] Trajan's reign commenced a.d. 98, and St. John is said to have lived to the age of a hundred years. [3143] John viii. 56, 57. [3144] "Sed veritas" literally, "the truth." [3145] [This statement is simply astounding, and might seem a providential illustration of the worthlessness of mere tradition unsustained by the written Word. No mere tradition could be more creditably authorized than this.] [3146] Iliad, iv. 1. [3147] Latin, of course, in the text.

Chapter XXIII. The woman who suffered from an issue of blood was no type of the suffering Æon.

1. Moreover, their ignorance comes out in a clear light with respect to the case of that woman who, suffering from an issue of blood, touched the hem of the Lord's garment, and so was made whole; for they maintain that through her was shown forth that twelfth power who suffered passion, and flowed out towards immensity, that is, the twelfth Æon. [This ignorance of theirs appears] first, because, as I have shown, according to their own system, that was not the twelfth Æon. But even granting them this point [in the meantime], there being twelve Æons, eleven of these are said to have continued impassible, while the twelfth suffered passion; but the woman, on the other hand, being healed in the twelfth year, it is manifest that she had continued to suffer during eleven years, and was healed in the twelfth. If indeed they were to say that eleven Æons were involved in passion, but the twelfth one was healed, it would then be a plausible thing to say that the woman was a type of these. But since she suffered during eleven years, and [all that time] obtained no cure, but was healed in the twelfth year, in what way can she be a type of the twelfth of the Æons, eleven of whom, [according to hypothesis,] did not suffer at all, but the twelfth alone participated in suffering? For a type and emblem is, no doubt, sometimes diverse from the truth [signified] as to matter and substance; but it ought, as to the general form and features, to maintain a likeness [to what is typified], and in this way to shadow forth by means of things present those which are yet to come.

2. And not only in the case of this woman have the years of her infirmity (which they affirm to fit in with their figment) been mentioned, but, lo! another woman was also healed, after suffering in like manner for eighteen years; concerning whom the Lord said, "And ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound during eighteen years, to be set free on the Sabbath-day?" [3148] If, then, the former was a type of the twelfth Æon that suffered, the latter should also be a type of the eighteenth Æon in suffering. But they cannot maintain this; otherwise their primary and original Ogdoad will be included in the number of Æons who suffered together. Moreover, there was also a certain other person [3149] healed by the Lord, after he had suffered for eight-and-thirty years: they ought therefore to affirm that the Æon who occupies the thirty-eighth place suffered. For if they assert that the things which were done by the Lord were types of what took place in the Pleroma, the type ought to be preserved throughout. But they can neither adapt to their fictitious system the case of her who was cured after eighteen years, nor of him who was cured after thirty-eight years. Now, it is in every way absurd and inconsistent to declare that the Saviour preserved the type in certain cases, while He did not do so in others. The type of the woman, therefore, [with the issue of blood] is shown to have no analogy to their system of Æons. [3150]


[3148] Luke xiii. 16. [3149] John v. 5. [3150] The text of this sentence is very uncertain. We follow Massuet s reading, "negotio Æonum," in preference to that suggested by Harvey.

Chapter XXIV. Folly of the arguments derived by the heretics from numbers, letters, and syllables.

1. This very thing, too, still further demonstrates their opinion false, and their fictitious system untenable, that they endeavour to bring forward proofs of it, sometimes through means of numbers and the syllables of names, sometimes also through the letter of syllables, and yet again through those numbers which are, according to the practice followed by the Greeks, contained in [different] letters; [this, I say,] demonstrates in the clearest manner their overthrow or confusion, [3151] as well as the untenable and perverse character of their [professed] knowledge. For, transferring the name Jesus, which belongs to another language, to the numeration of the Greeks, they sometimes call it "Episemon," [3152] as having six letters, and at other times "the Plenitude of the Ogdoads," as containing the number eight hundred and eighty-eight. But His [corresponding] Greek name, which is "Soter," that is, Saviour, because it does not fit in with their system, either with respect to numerical value or as regards its letters, they pass over in silence. Yet surely, if they regard the names of the Lord, as, in accordance with the preconceived purpose of the Father, by means of their numerical value and letters, indicating number in the Pleroma, Soter, as being a Greek name, ought by means of its letters and the numbers [expressed by these], in virtue of its being Greek, to show forth the mystery of the Pleroma. But the case is not so, because it is a word of five letters, and its numerical value is one thousand four hundred and eight. [3153] But these things do not in any way correspond with their Pleroma; the account, therefore, which they give of transactions in the Pleroma cannot be true.

2. Moreover, Jesus, which is a word belonging to the proper tongue of the Hebrews, contains, as the learned among them declare, two letters and a half, [3154] and signifies that Lord who contains heaven and earth; [3155] for Jesus in the ancient Hebrew language means "heaven," while again "earth" is expressed by the words sura usser. [3156] The word, therefore, which contains heaven and earth is just Jesus. Their explanation, then, of the Episemon is false, and their numerical calculation is also manifestly overthrown. For, in their own language, Soter is a Greek word of five letters; but, on the other hand, in the Hebrew tongue, Jesus contains only two letters and a half. The total which they reckon up, viz., eight hundred and eighty-eight, therefore falls to the ground. And throughout, the Hebrew letters do not correspond in number with the Greek, although these especially, as being the more ancient and unchanging, ought to uphold the reckoning connected with the names. For these ancient, original, and generally called sacred letters [3157] of the Hebrews are ten in number (but they are written by means of fifteen [3158] ), the last letter being joined to the first. And thus they write some of these letters according to their natural sequence, just as we do, but others in a reverse direction, from the right hand towards the left, thus tracing the letters backwards. The name Christ, too, ought to be capable of being reckoned up in harmony with the Æons of their Pleroma, inasmuch as, according to their statements, He was produced for the establishment and rectification of their Pleroma. The Father, too, in the same way, ought, both by means of letters and numerical value, to contain the number of those Æons who were produced by Him; Bythus, in like manner, and not less Monogenes; but pre-eminently the name which is above all others, by which God is called, and which in the Hebrew tongue is expressed by Baruch, [3159] [a word] which also contains two and a half letters. From this fact, therefore, that the more important names, both in the Hebrew and Greek languages, do not conform to their system, either as respects the number of letters or the reckoning brought out of them, the forced character of their calculations respecting the rest becomes clearly manifest.

3. For, choosing out of the law whatever things agree with the number adopted in their system, they thus violently strive to obtain proofs of its validity. But if it was really the purpose of their Mother, or the Saviour, to set forth, by means of the Demiurge, types of those things which are in the Pleroma, they should have taken care that the types were found in things more exactly correspondent and more holy; and, above all, in the case of the Ark of the Covenant, on account of which the whole tabernacle of witness was formed. Now it was constructed thus: its length [3160] was two cubits and a half, its breadth one cubit and a half, its height one cubit and a half; but such a number of cubits in no respect corresponds with their system, yet by it the type ought to have been, beyond everything else, clearly set forth. The mercy-seat [3161] also does in like manner not at all harmonize with their expositions. Moreover, the table of shew-bread [3162] was two cubits in length, while its height was a cubit and a half. These stood before the holy of holies, and yet in them not a single number is of such an amount as contains an indication of the Tetrad, or the Ogdoad, or of the rest of their Pleroma. What of the candlestick, [3163] too, which had seven [3164] branches and seven lamps? while, if these had been made according to the type, it ought to have had eight branches and a like number of lamps, after the type of the primary Ogdoad, which shines pre-eminently among the Æons, and illuminates the whole Pleroma. They have carefully enumerated the curtains [3165] as being ten, declaring these a type of the ten Æons; but they have forgotten to count the coverings of skin, which were eleven [3166] in number. Nor, again, have they measured the size of these very curtains, each curtain [3167] being eight-and-twenty cubits in length. And they set forth the length of the pillars as being ten cubits, with a reference to the Decad of Æons. "But the breadth of each pillar was a cubit and a half;" [3168] and this they do not explain, any more than they do the entire number of the pillars or of their bars, because that does not suit the argument. But what of the anointing oil, [3169] which sanctified the whole tabernacle? Perhaps it escaped the notice of the Saviour, or, while their Mother was sleeping, the Demiurge of himself gave instructions as to its weight; and on this account it is out of harmony with their Pleroma, consisting, [3170] as it did, of five hundred shekels of myrrh, five hundred of cassia, two hundred and fifty of cinnamon, two hundred and fifty of calamus, and oil in addition, so that it was composed of five ingredients. The incense [3171] also, in like manner, [was compounded] of stacte, onycha, galbanum, mint, and frankincense, all which do in no respect, either as to their mixture or weight, harmonize with their argument. It is therefore unreasonable and altogether absurd [to maintain] that the types were not preserved in the sublime and more imposing enactments of the law; but in other points, when any number coincides with their assertions, to affirm that it was a type of the things in the Pleroma; while [the truth is, that] every number occurs with the utmost variety in the Scriptures, so that, should any one desire it, he might form not only an Ogdoad, and a Decad, and a Duodecad, but any sort of number from the Scriptures, and then maintain that this was a type of the system of error devised by himself.

4. But that this point is true, that that number which is called five, which agrees in no respect with their argument, and does not harmonize with their system, nor is suitable for a typical manifestation of the things in the Pleroma, [yet has a wide prevalence, [3172] ] will be proved as follows from the Scriptures. Soter is a name of five letters; Pater, too, contains five letters; Agape (love), too, consists of five letters; and our Lord, after [3173] blessing the five loaves, fed with them five thousand men. Five virgins [3174] were called wise by the Lord; and, in like manner, five were styled foolish. Again, five men are said to have been with the Lord when He obtained testimony [3175] from the Father, namely, Peter, and James, and John, and Moses, and Elias. The Lord also, as the fifth person, entered into the apartment of the dead maiden, and raised her up again; for, says [the Scripture], "He suffered no man to go in, save Peter and James, [3176] and the father and mother of the maiden." [3177] The rich man in hell [3178] declared that he had five brothers, to whom he desired that one rising from the dead should go. The pool from which the Lord commanded the paralytic man to go into his house, had five porches. The very form of the cross, too, has five extremities, [3179] two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is fixed by the nails. Each of our hands has five fingers; we have also five senses; our internal organs may also be reckoned as five, viz., the heart, the liver, the lungs, the spleen, and the kidneys. Moreover, even the whole person may be divided into this number [of parts], the head, the breast, the belly, the thighs, and the feet. The human race passes through five ages first infancy, then boyhood, then youth, then maturity, [3180] and then old age. Moses delivered the law to the people in five books. Each table which he received from God contained five [3181] commandments. The veil covering [3182] the holy of holies had five pillars. The altar of burnt-offering also was five cubits in breadth. [3183] Five priests were chosen in the wilderness, namely, Aaron, [3184] Nadab, Abiud, Eleazar, Ithamar. The ephod and the breastplate, and other sacerdotal vestments, were formed out of five [3185] materials; for they combined in themselves gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And there were five [3186] kings of the Amorites, whom Joshua the son of Nun shut up in a cave, and directed the people to trample upon their heads. Any one, in fact, might collect many thousand other things of the same kind, both with respect to this number and any other he chose to fix upon, either from the Scriptures, or from the works of nature lying under his observation. [3187] But although such is the case, we do not therefore affirm that there are five Æons above the Demiurge; nor do we consecrate the Pentad, as if it were some divine thing; nor do we strive to establish things that are untenable, nor ravings [such as they indulge in], by means of that vain kind of labour; nor do we perversely force a creation well adapted by God [for the ends intended to be served], to change itself into types of things which have no real existence; nor do we seek to bring forward impious and abominable doctrines, the detection and overthrow of which are easy to all possessed of intelligence.

5. For who can concede to them that the year has three hundred and sixty-five days only, in order that there may be twelve months of thirty days each, after the type of the twelve Æons, when the type is in fact altogether out of harmony [with the antitype]? For, in the one case, each of the Æons is a thirtieth part of the entire Pleroma, while in the other they declare that a month is the twelfth part of a year. If, indeed, the year were divided into thirty parts, and the month into twelve, then a fitting type might be regarded as having been found for their fictitious system. But, on the contrary, as the case really stands, their Pleroma is divided into thirty parts, and a portion of it into twelve; while again the whole year is divided into twelve parts, and a certain portion of it into thirty. The Saviour therefore acted unwisely in constituting the month a type of the entire Pleroma, but the year a type only of that Duodecad which exists in the Pleroma; for it was more fitting to divide the year into thirty parts, even as the whole Pleroma is divided, but the month into twelve, just as the Æons are in their Pleroma. Moreover, they divide the entire Pleroma into three portions, namely, into an Ogdoad, a Decad, and a Duodecad. But our year is divided into four parts, namely, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. And again, not even do the months, which they maintain to be a type of the Triacontad, consist precisely of thirty days, but some have more and some less, inasmuch as five days remain to them as an overplus. [3188] The day, too, does not always consist precisely of twelve hours, but rises from nine [3189] to fifteen, and then falls again from fifteen to nine. It cannot therefore be held that months of thirty days each were so formed for the sake of [typifying] the Æons; for, in that case, they would have consisted precisely of thirty days: nor, again, the days of these months, that by means of twelve hours they might symbolize the twelve Æons; for, in that case, they would always have consisted precisely of twelve hours.

6. But further, as to their calling material substances "on the left hand," and maintaining that those things which are thus on the left hand of necessity fall into corruption, while they also affirm that the Saviour came to the lost sheep, in order to transfer it to the right hand, that is, to the ninety and nine sheep which were in safety, and perished not, but continued within the fold, yet were of the left hand, [3190] it follows that they must acknowledge that the enjoyment [3191] of rest did not imply salvation. And that which has not in like manner the same number, they will be compelled to acknowledge as belonging to the left hand, that is, to corruption. This Greek word Agape (love), then, according to the letters of the Greeks, by means of which reckoning is carried on among them, having a numerical value of ninety-three, [3192] is in like manner assigned to the place of rest on the left hand. Aletheia (truth), too, having in like manner, according to the principle indicated above, a numerical value of sixty-four, [3193] exists among material substances. And thus, in fine, they will be compelled to acknowledge that all those sacred names which do not reach a numerical value of one hundred, but only contain the numbers summed by the left hand, are corruptible and material.


[3151] "Sive confusionem" is very probably a marginal gloss which has found its way into the text. The whole clause is difficult and obscure. [3152] Comp. i. 14, 4. [3153] Thus: = 1408. [3154] Being written thus, and the small being apparently regarded as only half a letter. Harvey proposes a different solution which seems less probable. [3155] This is one of the most obscure passages in the whole work of Irenæus, and the editors have succeeded in throwing very little light upon it. We may merely state that seems to be regarded as containing in itself the initials of the three words , Jehovah; , heaven; and , and earth. [3156] Nothing can be made of these words; they have probably been corrupted by ignorant transcribers, and are now wholly unintelligible. [3157] "Literæ sacerdotales," another enigma which no man can solve. Massuet supposes the reference to be to the archaic Hebrew characters, still used by the priests after the square Chaldaic letters had been generally adopted. Harvey thinks that sacerdotales represents the Greek leitourgika, "meaning letters as popularly used in common computation." [3158] The editors have again long notes on this most obscure passage. Massuet expunges "quæque," and gives a lengthened explanation of the clause, to which we can only refer the curious reader. [3159] Baruch, blessed, one of the commonest titles of the Almighty. The final seems to be reckoned only a half-letter, as being different in form from what it is when accompanied by a vowel at the beginning or in the middle of a word. [3160] Ex. xxv. 10. [3161] Ex. xxv. 17. [3162] Ex. xxv. 23. [3163] Ex. xxv. 31, etc. [3164] Only six branches are mentioned in Ex. xxv. 32. [3165] Ex. xxvi. 1. [3166] Ex. xxvi. 7. [3167] Ex. xxvi. 2. [3168] Ex. xxvi. 16. [3169] Ex. xxvi. 26. [3170] Ex. xxx. 23, etc. [3171] Ex. xxx. 34. [3172] Some such supplement as this seems requisite, but the syntax in the Latin text is very confused. [3173] Matt. xiv. 19, 21; Mark vi. 41, 44; Luke ix. 13, 14; John vi. 9, 10, 11. [3174] Matt. xxv. 2, etc. [3175] Matt. xvii. 1. [3176] St. John is here strangely overlooked. [3177] Luke viii. 51. [3178] Luke xvi. 28. [3179] "Fines et summitates;" comp. Justin Mart., Dial. c. Tryph., 91. [3180] "Juvenis," one in the prime of life. [3181] It has been usual in the Christian Church to reckon four commandments in the first table, and six in the second; but the above was the ancient Jewish division. See Joseph., Antiq., iii. 6. [3182] Ex. xxvi. 37. [3183] Ex. xxvii. 1; "altitudo" in the text must be exchanged for "latitudo." [3184] Ex. xxviii. 1. [3185] Ex. xxviii. 5. [3186] Josh. x. 17. [3187] [Note the manly contempt with which our author dismisses a class of similitudes, which seem, even in our day, to have great attractions for some minds not otherwise narrow.] [3188] 365 (the days of the year) 12 * 30 + 5. [3189] These hours of daylight, at the winter and summer solstice respectively, correspond to the latitude of Lyons, 45° 45´ N., where Irenæus resided. [3190] "Alluding," says Harvey, "to a custom among the ancients, of summing the numbers below 100 by various positions of the left hand and its fingers; 100 and upwards being reckoned by corresponding gestures of the right hand. The ninety and nine sheep, therefore, that remained quietly in the fold were summed upon the left hand, and Gnostics professed that they were typical of the true spiritual seed; but Scripture always places the workers of iniquity of the left hand, and in the Gnostic theory the evil principle of matter was sinistral, therefore," etc., as above. [3191] "Levamen," corresponding probably to the Greek anapausin. [3192] 'Agapē ( a = 1, g = 3, a = 1, p = 80, ē = 8 ) = 93. [3193] 'Alētheia ( a = 1, l = 30, ē = 8, th = 9, e = 5, i = 10, a = 1 ) = 64.

Chapter XXV. God is not to be sought after by means of letters, syllables, and numbers; necessity of humility in such investigations.

1. If any one, however, say in reply to these things, What then? Is it a meaningless and accidental thing, that the positions of names, and the election of the apostles, and the working of the Lord, and the arrangement of created things, are what they are? we answer them: Certainly not; but with great wisdom and diligence, all things have clearly been made by God, fitted and prepared [for their special purposes]; and His word formed both things ancient and those belonging to the latest times; and men ought not to connect those things with the number thirty, [3194] but to harmonize them with what actually exists, or with right reason. Nor should they seek to prosecute inquiries respecting God by means of numbers, syllables, and letters. For this is an uncertain mode of proceeding, on account of their varied and diverse systems, and because every sort of hypothesis may at the present day be, in like manner, devised [3195] by any one; so that [3196] they can derive arguments against the truth from these very theories, inasmuch as they may be turned in many different directions. But, on the contrary, they ought to adapt the numbers themselves, and those things which have been formed, to the true theory lying before them. For system [3197] does not spring out of numbers, but numbers from a system; nor does God derive His being from things made, but things made from God. For all things originate from one and the same God.

2. But since created things are various and numerous, they are indeed well fitted and adapted to the whole creation; yet, when viewed individually, are mutually opposite and inharmonious, just as the sound of the lyre, which consists of many and opposite notes, gives rise to one unbroken melody, through means of the interval which separates each one from the others. The lover of truth therefore ought not to be deceived by the interval between each note, nor should he imagine that one was due to one artist and author, and another to another, nor that one person fitted the treble, another the bass, and yet another the tenor strings; but he should hold that one and the same person [formed the whole], so as to prove the judgment, goodness, and skill exhibited in the whole work and [specimen of] wisdom. Those, too, who listen to the melody, ought to praise and extol the artist, to admire the tension of some notes, to attend to the softness of others, to catch the sound of others between both these extremes, and to consider the special character of others, so as to inquire at what each one aims, and what is the cause of their variety, never failing to apply our rule, neither giving up the [one [3198] ] artist, nor casting off faith in the one God who formed all things, nor blaspheming our Creator.

3. If, however, any one do not discover the cause of all those things which become objects of investigation, let him reflect that man is infinitely inferior to God; that he has received grace only in part, and is not yet equal or similar to his Maker; and, moreover, that he cannot have experience or form a conception of all things like God; but in the same proportion as he who was formed but to-day, and received the beginning of his creation, is inferior to Him who is uncreated, and who is always the same, in that proportion is he, as respects knowledge and the faculty of investigating the causes of all things, inferior to Him who made him. For thou, O man, art not an uncreated being, nor didst thou always co-exist [3199] with God, as did His own Word; but now, through His pre-eminent goodness, receiving the beginning of thy creation, thou dost gradually learn from the Word the dispensations of God who made thee.

4. Preserve therefore the proper order of thy knowledge, and do not, as being ignorant of things really good, seek to rise above God Himself, for He cannot be surpassed; nor do thou seek after any one above the Creator, for thou wilt not discover such. For thy Former cannot be contained within limits; nor, although thou shouldst measure all this [universe], and pass through all His creation, and consider it in all its depth, and height, and length, wouldst thou be able to conceive of any other above the Father Himself. For thou wilt not be able to think Him fully out, but, indulging in trains of reflection opposed to thy nature, thou wilt prove thyself foolish; and if thou persevere in such a course, thou wilt fall into utter madness, whilst thou deemest thyself loftier and greater than thy Creator, and imaginest that thou canst penetrate beyond His dominions.


[3194] Some read XX., but XXX. is probably correct. [3195] Harvey proposes "commentitum" instead of "commentatum," but the alteration seems unnecessary. [3196] The syntax is in confusion, and the meaning obscure. [3197] "Regula." [3198] "Errantes ab artifice." The whole sentence is most obscure. [3199] Alluding to the imaginary Æon Anthropos, who existed from eternity.

Chapter XXVI. "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth."

1. It is therefore better and more profitable to belong to the simple and unlettered class, and by means of love to attain to nearness to God, than, by imagining ourselves learned and skilful, to be found [among those who are] blasphemous against their own God, inasmuch as they conjure up another God as the Father. And for this reason Paul exclaimed, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth:" [3200] not that he meant to inveigh against a true knowledge of God, for in that case he would have accused himself; but, because he knew that some, puffed up by the pretence of knowledge, fall away from the love of God, and imagine that they themselves are perfect, for this reason that they set forth an imperfect Creator, with the view of putting an end to the pride which they feel on account of knowledge of this kind, he says, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth." Now there can be no greater conceit than this, that any one should imagine he is better and more perfect than He who made and fashioned him, and imparted to him the breath of life, and commanded this very thing into existence. It is therefore better, as I have said, that one should have no knowledge whatever of any one reason why a single thing in creation has been made, but should believe in God, and continue in His love, than [3201] that, puffed up through knowledge of this kind, he should fall away from that love which is the life of man; and that he should search after no other knowledge except [the knowledge of] Jesus Christ the Son of God, who was crucified for us, than that by subtle questions and hair-splitting expressions he should fall into impiety. [3202]

2. For how would it be, if any one, gradually elated by attempts of the kind referred to, should, because the Lord said that "even the hairs of your head are all numbered," [3203] set about inquiring into the number of hairs on each one's head, and endeavour to search out the reason on account of which one man has so many, and another so many, since all have not an equal number, but many thousands upon thousands are to be found with still varying numbers, on this account that some have larger and others smaller heads, some have bushy heads of hair, others thin, and others scarcely any hair at all, and then those who imagine that they have discovered the number of the hairs, should endeavour to apply that for the commendation of their own sect which they have conceived? Or again, if any one should, because of this expression which occurs in the Gospel, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them falls to the ground without the will of your Father," [3204] take occasion to reckon up the number of sparrows caught daily, whether over all the world or in some particular district, and to make inquiry as to the reason of so many having been captured yesterday, so many the day before, and so many again on this day, and should then join on the number of sparrows to his [particular] hypothesis, would he not in that case mislead himself altogether, and drive into absolute insanity those that agreed with him, since men are always eager in such matters to be thought to have discovered something more extraordinary than their masters? [3205]

3. But if any one should ask us whether every number of all the things which have been made, and which are made, is known to God, and whether every one of these [numbers] has, according to His providence, received that special amount which it contains; and on our agreeing that such is the case, and acknowledging that not one of the things which have been, or are, or shall be made, escapes the knowledge of God, but that through His providence every one of them has obtained its nature, and rank, and number, and special quantity, and that nothing whatever either has been or is produced in vain or accidentally, but with exceeding suitability [to the purpose intended], and in the exercise of transcendent knowledge, and that it was an admirable and truly divine intellect [3206] which could both distinguish and bring forth the proper causes of such a system: if, [I say,] any one, on obtaining our adherence and consent to this, should proceed to reckon up the sand and pebbles of the earth, yea also the waves of the sea and the stars of heaven, and should endeavour to think out the causes of the number which he imagines himself to have discovered, would not his labour be in vain, and would not such a man be justly declared mad, and destitute of reason, by all possessed of common sense? And the more he occupied himself beyond others in questions of this kind, and the more he imagines himself to find out beyond others, styling them unskilful, ignorant, and animal beings, because they do not enter into his so useless labour, the more is he [in reality] insane, foolish, struck as it were with a thunderbolt, since indeed he does in no one point own himself inferior to God; but, by the knowledge which he imagines himself to have discovered, he changes God Himself, and exalts his own opinion above the greatness of the Creator.


[3200] 1 Cor. viii. 1. [3201] "Aut;" ē having been thus mistakenly rendered instead of "quam." [3202] [This seems anticipatory of the dialects of scholasticism, and of its immense influence in Western Christendom, after St. Bernard's feeble adhesion to the Biblical system of the ancients.] [3203] Matt. x. 30. [3204] Matt. x. 29. [3205] [Illustrated by the history of modern thought in Germany. See the meritorious work of Professor Kahnis, on German Protestantism (translated). Edinburgh, T. and T. Clark, 1856.] [3206] "Rationem."

Chapter XXVII. Proper mode of interpreting parables and obscure passages of Scripture.

1. A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. And therefore the parables ought not to be adapted to ambiguous expressions. For, if this be not done, both he who explains them will do so without danger, and the parables will receive a like interpretation from all, and the body [3207] of truth remains entire, with a harmonious adaptation of its members, and without any collision [of its several parts]. But to apply expressions which are not clear or evident to interpretations of the parables, such as every one discovers for himself as inclination leads him, [is absurd. [3208] ] For in this way no one will possess the rule of truth; but in accordance with the number of persons who explain the parables will be found the various systems of truth, in mutual opposition to each other, and setting forth antagonistic doctrines, like the questions current among the Gentile philosophers.

2. According to this course of procedure, therefore, man would always be inquiring but never finding, because he has rejected the very method of discovery. And when the Bridegroom [3209] comes, he who has his lamp untrimmed, and not burning with the brightness of a steady light, is classed among those who obscure the interpretations of the parables, forsaking Him who by His plain announcements freely imparts gifts to all who come to Him, and is excluded from His marriage-chamber. Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and [3210] since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown [3211] from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it, those persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own. For that there is nothing whatever openly, expressly, and without controversy said in any part of Scripture respecting the Father conceived of by those who hold a contrary opinion, they themselves testify, when they maintain that the Saviour privately taught these same things not to all, but to certain only of His disciples who could comprehend them, and who understood what was intended by Him through means of arguments, enigmas, and parables. They come, [in fine,] to this, that they maintain there is one Being who is proclaimed as God, and another as Father, He who is set forth as such through means of parables and enigmas.

3. But since parables admit of many interpretations, what lover of truth will not acknowledge, that for them to assert God is to be searched out from these, while they desert what is certain, indubitable, and true, is the part of men who eagerly throw themselves into danger, and act as if destitute of reason? And is not such a course of conduct not to build one's house upon a rock [3212] which is firm, strong, and placed in an open position, but upon the shifting sand? Hence the overthrow of such a building is a matter of ease.


[3207] We read "veritatis corpus" for "a veritate corpus" in the text. [3208] Some such expression of disapproval must evidently be supplied, though wanting in the Latin text. [3209] Matt. xxv. 5, etc. [3210] The text is here elliptical, and we have supplied what seems necessary to complete the sense. [3211] It is doubtful whether "demonstravimus" or "demonstrabimus" be the proper reading: if the former, the reference will be to book i. 22, or ii. 2; if the latter, to book iii. 8. [3212] Matt. vii. 25.

Chapter XXVIII. Perfect knowledge cannot be attained in the present life: many questions must be submissively left in the hands of God.

1. Having therefore the truth itself as our rule and the testimony concerning God set clearly before us, we ought not, by running after numerous and diverse answers to questions, to cast away the firm and true knowledge of God. But it is much more suitable that we, directing our inquiries after this fashion, should exercise ourselves in the investigation of the mystery and administration of the living God, and should increase in the love of Him who has done, and still does, so great things for us; but never should fall from the belief by which it is most clearly proclaimed that this Being alone is truly God and Father, who both formed this world, fashioned man, and bestowed the faculty of increase on His own creation, and called him upwards from lesser things to those greater ones which are in His own presence, just as He brings an infant which has been conceived in the womb into the light of the sun, and lays up wheat in the barn after He has given it full strength on the stalk. But it is one and the same Creator who both fashioned the womb and created the sun; and one and the same Lord who both reared the stalk of corn, increased and multiplied the wheat, and prepared the barn.

2. If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit; but we, inasmuch as we are inferior to, and later in existence than, the Word of God and His Spirit, are on that very account [3213] destitute of the knowledge of His mysteries. And there is no cause for wonder if this is the case with us as respects things spiritual and heavenly, and such as require to be made known to us by revelation, since many even of those things which lie at our very feet (I mean such as belong to this world, which we handle, and see, and are in close contact with) transcend our knowledge, so that even these we must leave to God. For it is fitting that He should excel all [in knowledge]. For how stands the case, for instance, if we endeavour to explain the cause of the rising of the Nile? We may say a great deal, plausible or otherwise, on the subject; but what is true, sure, and incontrovertible regarding it, belongs only to God. Then, again, the dwelling-place of birds of those, I mean, which come to us in spring, but fly away again on the approach of autumn though it is a matter connected with this world, escapes our knowledge. What explanation, again, can we give of the flow and ebb of the ocean, although every one admits there must be a certain cause [for these phenomena]? Or what can we say as to the nature of those things which lie beyond it? [3214] What, moreover, can we say as to the formation of rain, lightning, thunder, gatherings of clouds, vapours, the bursting forth of winds, and such like things; or tell as to the storehouses of snow, hail, and other like things? [What do we know respecting] the conditions requisite for the preparation of clouds, or what is the real nature of the vapours in the sky? What as to the reason why the moon waxes and wanes, or what as to the cause of the difference of nature among various waters, metals, stones, and such like things? On all these points we may indeed say a great deal while we search into their causes, but God alone who made them can declare the truth regarding them.

3. If, therefore, even with respect to creation, there are some things [the knowledge of] which belongs only to God, and others which come within the range of our own knowledge, what ground is there for complaint, if, in regard to those things which we investigate in the Scriptures (which are throughout spiritual), we are able by the grace of God to explain some of them, while we must leave others in the hands of God, and that not only in the present world, but also in that which is to come, so that God should for ever teach, and man should for ever learn the things taught him by God? As the apostle has said on this point, that, when other things have been done away, then these three, "faith, hope, and charity, shall endure." [3215] For faith, which has respect to our Master, endures [3216] unchangeably, assuring us that there is but one true God, and that we should truly love Him for ever, seeing that He alone is our Father; while we hope ever to be receiving more and more from God, and to learn from Him, because He is good, and possesses boundless riches, a kingdom without end, and instruction that can never be exhausted. If, therefore, according to the rule which I have stated, we leave some questions in the hands of God, we shall both preserve our faith uninjured, and shall continue without danger; and all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonize with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear, shall serve to explain the parables; and through the many diversified utterances [of Scripture] there shall be heard [3217] one harmonious melody in us, praising in hymns that God who created all things. If, for instance, any one asks, "What was God doing before He made the world?" we reply that the answer to such a question lies with God Himself. For that this world was formed perfect [3218] by God, receiving a beginning in time, the Scriptures teach us; but no Scripture reveals to us what God was employed about before this event. The answer therefore to that question remains with God, and it is not proper [3219] for us to aim at bringing forward foolish, rash, and blasphemous suppositions [in reply to it]; so, as by one's imagining that he has discovered the origin of matter, he should in reality set aside God Himself who made all things.

4. For consider, all ye who invent such opinions, since the Father Himself is alone called God, who has a real existence, but whom ye style the Demiurge; since, moreover, the Scriptures acknowledge Him alone as God; and yet again, since the Lord confesses Him alone as His own Father, and knows no other, as I shall show from His very words, when ye style this very Being the fruit of defect, and the offspring of ignorance, and describe Him as being ignorant of those things which are above Him, with the various other allegations which you make regarding Him, consider the terrible blasphemy [ye are thus guilty of] against Him who truly is God. Ye seem to affirm gravely and honestly enough that ye believe in God; but then, as ye are utterly unable to reveal any other God, ye declare this very Being in whom ye profess to believe, the fruit of defect and the offspring of ignorance. Now this blindness and foolish talking flow to you from the fact that ye reserve nothing for God, but ye wish to proclaim the nativity and production both of God Himself, of His Ennœa, of His Logos, and Life, and Christ; and ye form the idea of these from no other than a mere human experience; not understanding, as I said before, that it is possible, in the case of man, who is a compound being, to speak in this way of the mind of man and the thought of man; and to say that thought (ennœa) springs from mind (sensus), intention (enthymesis) again from thought, and word (logos) from intention (but which logos? [3220] for there is among the Greeks one logos which is the principle that thinks, and another which is the instrument by means of which thought is expressed); and [to say] that a man sometimes is at rest and silent, while at other times he speaks and is active. But since God is [3221] all mind, all reason, all active spirit, all light, and always exists one and the same, as it is both beneficial for us to think of God, and as we learn regarding Him from the Scriptures, such feelings and divisions [of operation] cannot fittingly be ascribed to Him. For our tongue, as being carnal, is not sufficient to minister to the rapidity of the human mind, inasmuch as that is of a spiritual nature, for which reason our word is restrained [3222] within us, and is not at once expressed as it has been conceived by the mind, but is uttered by successive efforts, just as the tongue is able to serve it.

5. But God being all Mind, and all Logos, both speaks exactly what He thinks, and thinks exactly what He speaks. For His thought is Logos, and Logos is Mind, and Mind comprehending all things is the Father Himself. He, therefore, who speaks of the mind of God, and ascribes to it a special origin of its own, declares Him a compound Being, as if God were one thing, and the original Mind another. So, again, with respect to Logos, when one attributes to him the third [3223] place of production from the Father; on which supposition he is ignorant of His greatness; and thus Logos has been far separated from God. As for the prophet, he declares respecting Him, "Who shall describe His generation?" [3224] But ye pretend to set forth His generation from the Father, and ye transfer the production of the word of men which takes place by means of a tongue to the Word of God, and thus are righteously exposed by your own selves as knowing neither things human nor divine.

6. But, beyond reason inflated [with your own wisdom], ye presumptuously maintain that ye are acquainted with the unspeakable mysteries of God; while even the Lord, the very Son of God, allowed that the Father alone knows the very day and hour of judgment, when He plainly declares, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father only." [3225] If, then, the Son was not ashamed to ascribe the knowledge of that day to the Father only, but declared what was true regarding the matter, neither let us be ashamed to reserve for God those greater questions which may occur to us. For no man is superior to his master. [3226] If any one, therefore, says to us, "How then was the Son produced by the Father?" we reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable. Neither Valentinus, nor Marcion, nor Saturninus, nor Basilides, nor angels, nor archangels, nor principalities, nor powers [possess this knowledge], but the Father only who begat, and the Son who was begotten. Since therefore His generation is unspeakable, those who strive to set forth generations and productions cannot be in their right mind, inasmuch as they undertake to describe things which are indescribable. For that a word is uttered at the bidding of thought and mind, all men indeed well understand. Those, therefore, who have excogitated [the theory of] emissions have not discovered anything great, or revealed any abstruse mystery, when they have simply transferred what all understand to the only-begotten Word of God; and while they style Him unspeakable and unnameable, they nevertheless set forth the production and formation of His first generation, as if they themselves had assisted at His birth, thus assimilating Him to the word of mankind formed by emissions.

7. But we shall not be wrong if we affirm the same thing also concerning the substance of matter, that God produced it. For we have learned from the Scriptures that God holds the supremacy over all things. But whence or in what way He produced it, neither has Scripture anywhere declared; nor does it become us to conjecture, so as, in accordance with our own opinions, to form endless conjectures concerning God, but we should leave such knowledge in the hands of God Himself. In like manner, also, we must leave the cause why, while all things were made by God, certain of His creatures sinned and revolted from a state of submission to God, and others, indeed the great majority, persevered, and do still persevere, in [willing] subjection to Him who formed them, and also of what nature those are who sinned, and of what nature those who persevere, [we must, I say, leave the cause of these things] to God and His Word, to whom alone He said, "Sit at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." [3227] But as for us, we still dwell upon the earth, and have not yet sat down upon His throne. For although the Spirit of the Saviour that is in Him "searcheth all things, even the deep things of God," [3228] yet as to us "there are diversities of gifts, differences of administrations, and diversities of operations;" [3229] and we, while upon the earth, as Paul also declares, "know in part, and prophesy in part." [3230] Since, therefore, we know but in part, we ought to leave all sorts of [difficult] questions in the hands of Him who in some measure, [and that only,] bestows grace on us. That eternal fire, [for instance,] is prepared for sinners, both the Lord has plainly declared, and the rest of the Scriptures demonstrate. And that God foreknew that this would happen, the Scriptures do in like manner demonstrate, since He prepared eternal fire from the beginning for those who were [afterwards] to transgress [His commandments]; but the cause itself of the nature of such transgressors neither has any Scripture informed us, nor has an apostle told us, nor has the Lord taught us. It becomes us, therefore, to leave the knowledge of this matter to God, even as the Lord does of the day and hour [of judgment], and not to rush to such an extreme of danger, that we will leave nothing in the hands of God, even though we have received only a measure of grace [from Him in this world]. But when we investigate points which are above us, and with respect to which we cannot reach satisfaction, [it is absurd [3231] ] that we should display such an extreme of presumption as to lay open God, and things which are not yet discovered, [3232] as if already we had found out, by the vain talk about emissions, God Himself, the Creator of all things, and to assert that He derived His substance from apostasy and ignorance, so as to frame an impious hypothesis in opposition to God.

8. Moreover, they possess no proof of their system, which has but recently been invented by them, sometimes resting upon certain numbers, sometimes on syllables, and sometimes, again, on names; and there are occasions, too, when, by means of those letters which are contained in letters, by parables not properly interpreted, or by certain [baseless] conjectures, they strive to establish that fabulous account which they have devised. For if any one should inquire the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord alone to know the hour and the day [of judgment], he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this (since, indeed, the Lord is the only true Master), that we may learn through Him that the Father is above all things. For "the Father," says He, "is greater than I." [3233] The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge; for this reason, that we, too, as long as we are connected with the scheme of things in this world, should leave perfect knowledge, and such questions [as have been mentioned], to God, and should not by any chance, while we seek to investigate the sublime nature of the Father, fall into the danger of starting the question whether there is another God above God. [3234]

9. But if any lover of strife contradict what I have said, and also what the apostle affirms, that "we know in part, and prophesy in part," [3235] and imagine that he has acquired not a partial, but a universal, knowledge of all that exists, being such an one as Valentinus, or Ptolemæus, or Basilides, or any other of those who maintain that they have searched out the deep [3236] things of God, let him not (arraying himself in vainglory) boast that he has acquired greater knowledge than others with respect to those things which are invisible, or cannot be placed under our observation; but let him, by making diligent inquiry, and obtaining information from the Father, tell us the reasons (which we know not) of those things which are in this world, as, for instance, the number of hairs on his own head, and the sparrows which are captured day by day, and such other points with which we are not previously acquainted, so that we may credit him also with respect to more important points. But if those who are perfect do not yet understand the very things in their hands, and at their feet, and before their eyes, and on the earth, and especially the rule followed with respect to the hairs of their head, how can we believe them regarding things spiritual, and super-celestial, [3237] and those which, with a vain confidence, they assert to be above God? So much, then, I have said concerning numbers, and names, and syllables, and questions respecting such things as are above our comprehension, and concerning their improper expositions of the parables: [I add no more on these points,] since thou thyself mayest enlarge upon them.


[3213] Or, "to that degree." [3214] Comp. Clem. Rom. Ep. to Cor., c. xx.; and August, De. Civit Dei, xvi. 9. [3215] 1 Cor. xiii. 13. [3216] "Permanet firma," no doubt corresponding to the menei of the apostle, 1 Cor. xiii. 13. Harvey here remarks, that "the author seems to misapprehend the apostle's meaning . There will be no longer room for hope, when the substance of things hoped for shall have become a matter of fruition; neither will there be any room for faith, when the soul shall be admitted to see God as He is." But the best modern interpreters take the same view of the passage as Irenæus. They regard the nuni de of St. Paul as not being temporal, but logical, and conclude therefore the meaning to be, that faith and hope, as well as love, will, in a sense, endure for ever. Comp., e.g., Alford, in loc. [3217] The Latin text is here untranslateable. Grabe proposes to read, "una consonans melodia in nobis sentietur;" while Stieren and others prefer to exchange aisthēsetai for asthēsetai. [3218] "Apotelesticos." This word, says Harvey, "may also refer to the vital energy of nature, whereby its effects are for ever reproduced in unceasing succession." Comp. Hippol., Philos., vii. 24. [3219] We here follow Grabe, who understands decet. Harvey less simply explains the very obscure Latin text. [3220] The Greek term logos, as is well known, denotes both ratio (reason) and sermo (speech). Some deem the above parenthesis an interpolation. [3221] Comp. i. 12, 2. [3222] "Suffugatur:" some read "suffocatur;" and Harvey proposes "suffragatur," as the representative of the Greek psēphizetai. The meaning in any case is, that while ideas are instantaneously formed in the human mind, they can be expressed through means of words only fractionally, and by successive utterances. [3223] Thus: Bythus, Nous, Logos. [3224] Isa. liii. 8. [3225] Mark xiii. 32. The words, "neither the angels which are in heaven," are here omitted, probably because, as usual, the writer quotes from memory. [3226] Comp. Matt. x. 24; Luke xi. 40. [3227] Ps. cx. 1. [3228] 1 Cor. ii. 10. [3229] 1 Cor. xii. 4, 5, 6. [3230] 1 Cor. xiii. 9. [3231] Massuet proposes to insert these words, and some such supplement seems clearly necessary to complete the sense. But the sentence still remains confused and doubtful. [3232] [Gen. xl. 8; Deut. xxix. 29; Ps. cxxxi.] [3233] John xiv. 28. [3234] [On the great matter of the perichōrēsis, the subordination of the Son, etc., Bull has explored Patristic doctrine, and may well be consulted here. Defens. Fid. Nicænæ, sect. iv.; see also vol. v. 363] [3235] 1 Cor. xiii. 9. [3236] "Altitudines," literally, heights. [3237] [Wisdom ix. 13, 17. A passage of marvellous beauty.]

Chapter XXIX. Refutation of the views of the heretics as to the future destiny of the soul and body.

1. Let us return, however, to the remaining points of their system. For when they declare [3238] that, at the consummation of all things, their mother shall re-enter the Pleroma, and receive the Saviour as her consort; that they themselves, as being spiritual, when they have got rid of their animal souls, and become intellectual spirits, will be the consorts of the spiritual angels; but that the Demiurge, since they call him animal, will pass into the place of the Mother; that the souls of the righteous shall psychically repose in the intermediate place; when they declare that like will be gathered to like, spiritual things to spiritual, while material things continue among those that are material, they do in fact contradict themselves, inasmuch as they no longer maintain that souls pass, on account of their nature, into the intermediate place to those substances which are similar to themselves, but [that they do so] on account of the deeds done [in the body], since they affirm that those of the righteous do pass [into that abode], but those of the impious continue in the fire. For if it is on account of their nature that all souls attain to the place of enjoyment, [3239] and all belong to the intermediate place simply because they are souls, as being thus of the same nature with it, then it follows that faith is altogether superfluous, as was also the descent [3240] of the Saviour [to this world]. If, on the other hand, it is on account of their righteousness [that they attain to such a place of rest], then it is no longer because they are souls but because they are righteous. But if souls would have [3241] perished unless they had been righteous, then righteousness must have power to save the bodies also [which these souls inhabited]; for why should it not save them, since they, too, participated in righteousness? For if nature and substance are the means of salvation, then all souls shall be saved; but if righteousness and faith, why should these not save those bodies which, equally with the souls, will enter [3242] into immortality? For righteousness will appear, in matters of this kind, either impotent or unjust, if indeed it saves some substances through participating in it, but not others.

2. For it is manifest that those acts which are deemed righteous are performed in bodies. Either, therefore, all souls will of necessity pass into the intermediate place, and there will never be a judgment; or bodies, too, which have participated in righteousness, will attain to the place of enjoyment, along with the souls which have in like manner participated, if indeed righteousness is powerful enough to bring thither those substances which have participated in it. And then the doctrine concerning the resurrection of bodies which we believe, will emerge true and certain [from their system]; since, [as we hold,] God, when He resuscitates our mortal bodies which preserved righteousness, will render them incorruptible and immortal. For God is superior to nature, and has in Himself the disposition [to show kindness], because He is good; and the ability to do so, because He is mighty; and the faculty of fully carrying out His purpose, because He is rich and perfect.

3. But these men are in all points inconsistent with themselves, when they decide that all souls do not enter into the intermediate place, but those of the righteous only. For they maintain that, according to nature and substance, three sorts [of being] were produced by the Mother: the first, which proceeded from perplexity, and weariness, and fear that is material substance; the second from impetuosity [3243] that is animal substance; but that which she brought forth after the vision of those angels who wait upon Christ, is spiritual substance. If, then, that substance [3244] which she brought forth will by all means enter into the Pleroma because it is spiritual, while that which is material will remain below because it is material, and shall be totally consumed by the fire which burns within it, why should not the whole animal substance go into the intermediate place, into which also they send the Demiurge? But what is it which shall enter within their Pleroma? For they maintain that souls shall continue in the intermediate place, while bodies, because they possess material substance, when they have been resolved into matter, shall be consumed by that fire which exists in it; but their body being thus destroyed, and their soul remaining in the intermediate place, no part of man will any longer be left to enter in within the Pleroma. For the intellect of man his mind, thought, mental intention, and such like is nothing else than his soul; but the emotions and operations of the soul itself have no substance apart from the soul. What part of them, then, will still remain to enter into the Pleroma? For they themselves, in as far as they are souls, remain in the intermediate place; while, in as far as they are body, they will be consumed with the rest of matter.


[3238] Comp. i. 7, 1. [3239] "Refrigerium," place of refreshment. [3240] Billius, with great apparent reason, proposes to read "descensio" for the unintelligible "discessio" of the Latin text. [3241] Grabe and Massuet read, "Si autem animæ perire inciperent, nisi justæ fuissent," for "Si autem animæ quæ perituræ essent inciperent nisi justæ fuissent," words which defy all translation. [3242] The text is here uncertain and confused; but, as Harvey remarks, "the argument is this, That if souls are saved qua intellectual substance, then all are saved alike; but if by reason of any moral qualities, then the bodies that have executed the moral purposes of the soul, must also be considered to be heirs of salvation." [3243] "De impetu:" it is generally supposed that these words correspond to ek tēs epistrophēs (comp. i. 5, 1), but Harvey thinks ex hormēs preferable (i. 4, 1). [3244] The syntax of this sentence is in utter confusion, but the meaning is doubtless that given above.

Chapter XXX. Absurdity of their styling themselves spiritual, while the Demiurge is declared to be animal.

1. Such being the state of the case, these infatuated men declare that they rise above the Creator (Demiurge); and, inasmuch as they proclaim themselves superior to that God who made and adorned the heavens, and the earth, and all things that are in them, and maintain that they themselves are spiritual, while they are in fact shamefully carnal on account of their so great impiety, affirming that He, who has made His angels [3245] spirits, and is clothed with light as with a garment, and holds the circle [3246] of the earth, as it were, in His hand, in whose sight its inhabitants are counted as grasshoppers, and who is the Creator and Lord of all spiritual substance, is of an animal nature, they do beyond doubt and verily betray their own madness; and, as if truly struck with thunder, even more than those giants who are spoken of in [heathen] fables, they lift up their opinions against God, inflated by a vain presumption and unstable glory, men for whose purgation all the hellebore [3247] on earth would not suffice, so that they should get rid of their intense folly.

2. The superior person is to be proved by his deeds. In what way, then, can they show themselves superior to the Creator (that I too, through the necessity of the argument in hand, may come down to the level of their impiety, instituting a comparison between God and foolish men, and, by descending to their argument, may often refute them by their own doctrines; but in thus acting may God be merciful to me, for I venture on these statements, not with the view of comparing Him to them, but of convicting and overthrowing their insane opinions) they, for whom many foolish persons entertain so great an admiration, as if, forsooth, they could learn from them something more precious than the truth itself! That expression of Scripture, "Seek, and ye shall find," [3248] they interpret as spoken with this view, that they should discover themselves to be above the Creator, styling themselves greater and better than God, and calling themselves spiritual, but the Creator animal; and [affirming] that for this reason they rise upwards above God, for that they enter in within the Pleroma, while He remains in the intermediate place. Let them, then, prove themselves by their deeds superior to the Creator; for the superior person ought to be proved not by what is said, but by what has a real existence.

3. What work, then, will they point to as having been accomplished through themselves by the Saviour, or by their Mother, either greater, or more glorious, or more adorned with wisdom, than those which have been produced by Him who was the disposer of all around us? What heavens have they established? what earth have they founded? what stars have they called into existence? or what lights of heaven have they caused to shine? within what circles, moreover, have they confined them? or, what rains, or frosts, or snows, each suited to the season, and to every special climate, have they brought upon the earth? And again, in opposition to these, what heat or dryness have they set over against them? or, what rivers have they made to flow? what fountains have they brought forth? with what flowers and trees have they adorned this sublunary world? or, what multitude of animals have they formed, some rational, and others irrational, but all adorned with beauty? And who can enumerate one by one all the remaining objects which have been constituted by the power of God, and are governed by His wisdom? or who can search out the greatness of that God who made them? And what can be told of those existences which are above heaven, and which do not pass away, such as Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, and Powers innumerable? Against what one of these works, then, do they set themselves in opposition? What have they similar to show, as having been made through themselves, or by themselves, since even they too are the Workmanship and creatures of this [Creator]? For whether the Saviour or their Mother (to use their own expressions, proving them false by means of the very terms they themselves employ) used this Being, as they maintain, to make an image of those things which are within the Pleroma, and of all those beings which she saw waiting upon the Saviour, she used him (the Demiurge) as being [in a sense] superior to herself, and better fitted to accomplish her purpose through his instrumentality; for she would by no means form the images of such important beings through means of an inferior, but by a superior, agent.

4. For, [be it observed,] they themselves, according to their own declarations, were then existing, as a spiritual conception, in consequence of the contemplation of those beings who were arranged as satellites around Pandora. And they indeed continued useless, the Mother accomplishing nothing through their instrumentality, [3249] an idle conception, owing their being to the Saviour, and fit for nothing, for not a thing appears to have been done by them. But the God who, according to them, was produced, while, as they argue, inferior to themselves (for they maintain that he is of an animal nature), was nevertheless the active agent in all things, efficient, and fit for the work to be done, so that by him the images of all things were made; and not only were these things which are seen formed by him, but also all things invisible, Angels, Archangels, Dominations, Powers, and Virtues, [by him, I say,] as being the superior, and capable of ministering to her desire. But it seems that the Mother made nothing whatever through their instrumentality, as indeed they themselves acknowledge; so that one may justly reckon them as having been an abortion produced by the painful travail of their Mother. For no accoucheurs performed their office upon her, and therefore they were cast forth as an abortion, useful for nothing, and formed to accomplish no work of the Mother. And yet they describe themselves as being superior to Him by whom so vast and admirable works have been accomplished and arranged, although by their own reasoning they are found to be so wretchedly inferior!

5. It is as if there were two iron tools, or instruments, the one of which was continually in the workman's hands and in constant use, and by the use of which he made whatever he pleased, and displayed his art and skill, but the other of which remained idle and useless, never being called into operation, the workman never appearing to make anything by it, and making no use of it in any of his labours; and then one should maintain that this useless, and idle, and unemployed tool was superior in nature and value to that which the artisan employed in his work, and by means of which he acquired his reputation. Such a man, if any such were found, would justly be regarded as imbecile, and not in his right mind. And so should those be judged of who speak of themselves as being spiritual and superior, and of the Creator as possessed of an animal nature, and maintain that for this reason they will ascend on high, and penetrate within the Pleroma to their own husbands (for, according to their own statements, they are themselves feminine), but that God [the Creator] is of an inferior nature, and therefore remains in the intermediate place, while all the time they bring forward no proofs of these assertions: for the better man is shown by his works, and all works have been accomplished by the Creator; but they, having nothing worthy of reason to point to as having been produced by themselves, are labouring under the greatest and most incurable madness.

6. If, however, they labour to maintain that, while all material things, such as the heaven, and the whole world which exists below it, were indeed formed by the Demiurge, yet all things of a more spiritual nature than these, those, namely, which are above the heavens, such as Principalities, Powers, Angels, Archangels, Dominations, Virtues, were produced by a spiritual process of birth (which they declare themselves to be), then, in the first place, we prove from the authoritative Scriptures [3250] that all the things which have been mentioned, visible and invisible, have been made by one God. For these men are not more to be depended on than the Scriptures; nor ought we to give up the declarations of the Lord, Moses, and the rest of the prophets, who have proclaimed the truth, and give credit to them, who do indeed utter nothing of a sensible nature, but rave about untenable opinions. And, in the next place, if those things which are above the heavens were really made through their instrumentality, then let them inform us what is the nature of things invisible, recount the number of the Angels, and the ranks of the Archangels, reveal the mysteries of the Thrones, and teach us the differences between the Dominations, Principalities, Powers, and Virtues. But they can say nothing respecting them; therefore these beings were not made by them. If, on the other hand, these were made by the Creator, as was really the case, and are of a spiritual and holy character, then it follows that He who produced spiritual beings is not Himself of an animal nature, and thus their fearful system of blasphemy is overthrown.

7. For that there are spiritual creatures in the heavens, all the Scriptures loudly proclaim; and Paul expressly testifies that there are spiritual things when he declares that he was caught up into the third heaven, [3251] and again, that he was carried away to paradise, and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter. But what did that profit him, either his entrance into paradise or his assumption into the third heaven, since all these things are still but under the power of the Demiurge, if, as some venture to maintain, he had already begun [3252] to be a spectator and a hearer of those mysteries which are affirmed to be above the Demiurge? For if it is true that he was becoming acquainted with that order of things which is above the Demiurge, he would by no means have remained in the regions of the Demiurge, and that so as not even thoroughly to explore even these (for, according to their manner of speaking, there still lay before him four heavens, [3253] if he were to approach the Demiurge, and thus behold the whole seven lying beneath him); but he might have been admitted, perhaps, into the intermediate place, that is, into the presence of the Mother, that he might receive instruction from her as to the things within the Pleroma. For that inner man which was in him, and spoke in him, as they say, though invisible, could have attained not only to the third heaven, but even as far as the presence of their Mother. For if they maintain that they themselves, that is, their [inner] man, at once ascends above the Demiurge, and departs to the Mother, much more must this have occurred to the [inner] man of the apostle; for the Demiurge would not have hindered him, being, as they assert, himself already subject to the Saviour. But if he had tried to hinder him, the effort would have gone for nothing. For it is not possible that he should prove stronger than the providence of the Father, and that when the inner man is said to be invisible even to the Demiurge. But since he (Paul) has described that assumption of himself up to the third heaven as something great and pre-eminent, it cannot be that these men ascend above the seventh heaven, for they are certainly not superior to the apostle. If they do maintain that they are more excellent than he, let them prove themselves so by their works, for they have never pretended to anything like [what he describes as occurring to himself]. And for this reason he added, "Whether in the body, or whether out of the body, God knoweth," [3254] that the body might neither be thought to be a partaker in that vision, [3255] as if it could have participated in those things which it had seen and heard; nor, again, that any one should say that he was not carried higher on account of the weight of the body; but it is therefore thus far permitted even without the body to behold spiritual mysteries which are the operations of God, who made the heavens and the earth, and formed man, and placed him in paradise, so that those should be spectators of them who, like the apostle, have reached a high degree of perfection in the love of God.

8. This Being, therefore, also made spiritual things, of which, as far as to the third heaven, the apostle was made a spectator, and heard unspeakable words which it is not possible for a man to utter, inasmuch as they are spiritual; and He Himself bestows [3256] [gifts] on the worthy as inclination prompts Him, for paradise is His; and He is truly the Spirit of God, and not an animal Demiurge, otherwise He should never have created spiritual things. But if He really is of an animal nature, then let them inform us by whom spiritual things were made. They have no proof which they can give that this was done by means of the travail of their Mother, which they declare themselves to be. For, not to speak of spiritual things, these men cannot create even a fly, or a gnat, or any other small and insignificant animal, without observing that law by which from the beginning animals have been and are naturally produced by God through the deposition of seed in those that are of the same species. Nor was anything formed by the Mother alone; [for] they say that this Demiurge was produced by her, and that he was the Lord (the author) of all creation. And they maintain that he who is the Creator and Lord of all that has been made is of an animal nature, while they assert that they themselves are spiritual, they who are neither the authors nor lords of any one work, not only of those things which are extraneous to them, but not even of their own bodies! Moreover, these men, who call themselves spiritual, and superior to the Creator, do often suffer much bodily pain, sorely against their will.

9. Justly, therefore, do we convict them of having departed far and wide from the truth. For if the Saviour formed the things which have been made, by means of him (the Demiurge), he is proved in that case not to be inferior but superior to them, since he is found to have been the former even of themselves; for they, too, have a place among created things. How, then, can it be argued that these men indeed are spiritual, but that he by whom they were created is of an animal nature? Or, again, if (which is indeed the only true supposition, as I have shown by numerous arguments of the very clearest nature) He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the substance [3257] of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the only Father rounding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot, heavenly and earthly, "by the word of His power;" [3258] and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him; nor is there a second God, as Marcion has imagined; nor is there a Pleroma of thirty Æons, which has been shown a vain supposition; nor is there any such being as Bythus or Proarche; nor are there a series of heavens; nor is there a virginal light, [3259] nor an unnameable Æon, nor, in fact, any one of those things which are madly dreamt of by these, and by all the heretics. But there is one only God, the Creator He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known [3260] to us, and in whom the Church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed.


[3245] Ps. civ. 2, 4. [3246] Isa. xl. 12, 22. [3247] Irenæus was evidently familiar with Horace; comp. Ars. Poet., 300. [3248] Matt. vii. 7. [3249] The punctuation is here doubtful. With Massuet and Stieren we expunge "vel" from the text. [3250] Or, "the Scriptures of the Lord;" but the words "dominicis scripturis" probably here represent the Greek kuriōn graphōn, and are to be rendered as above. [3251] 2 Cor. xii. 2, 3, 4. [3252] "Inciperet fieri;" perhaps for "futurus esset," was to be. [3253] "Quartum cœlum;" there still being, according to their theory of seven heavens, a fourth beyond that to which St. Paul had penetrated. [3254] 2 Cor. xii. 3, defectively quoted. [3255] This is an exceedingly obscure and difficult sentence. Grabe and some of the later editors read, "uti neque non corpus," thus making Irenæus affirm that the body did participate in the vision. But Massuet contends strenuously that this is contrary to the author's purpose, as wishing to maintain, against a possible exception of the Valentinians, that Paul then witnessed spiritual realities, and by omitting this "non" before "corpus," makes Irenæus deny that the body was a partaker in the vision. The point can only be doubtfully decided, but Massuet's ingenious note inclines us to his side of the question. [3256] "Præstat dignis:" here a very ambiguous expression. [3257] That is, as Massuet notes, all things derive not only their existence, but their qualities, from His will. Harvey proposes to read causa instead of substantia, but the change seems needless. [3258] Heb. i. 3. [3259] That is, Barbelos: comp. i. 29, 1. [3260] "Tradunt;" literally, hand down.

Chapter XXXI. Recapitulation and application of the foregoing arguments.

1. Those, then, who are of the school of Valentinus being overthrown, the whole multitude of heretics are, in fact, also subverted. For all the arguments I have advanced against their Pleroma, and with respect to those things which are beyond it, showing how the Father of all is shut up and circumscribed by that which is beyond Him (if, indeed, there be anything beyond Him), and how there is an absolute necessity [on their theory] to conceive of many Fathers, and many Pleromas, and many creations of worlds, beginning with one set and ending with another, as existing on every side; and that all [the beings referred to] continue in their own domains, and do not curiously intermeddle with others, since, indeed, no common interest nor any fellowship exists between them; and that there is no other God of all, but that that name belongs only to the Almighty; [all these arguments, I say,] will in like manner apply against those who are of the school of Marcion, and Simon, and Meander, or whatever others there may be who, like them, cut off that creation with which we are connected from the Father. The arguments, again, which I have employed against those who maintain that the Father of all no doubt contains all things, but that the creation to which we belong was not formed by Him, but by a certain other power, or by angels having no knowledge of the Propator, who is surrounded as a centre by the immense extent of the universe, just as a stain is by the [surrounding] cloak; when I showed that it is not a probable supposition that any other being than the Father of all formed that creation to which we belong, these same arguments will apply against the followers of Saturninus, Basilides, Carpocrates, and the rest of the Gnostics, who express similar opinions. Those statements, again, which have been made with respect to the emanations, and the Æons, and the [supposed state of] degeneracy, and the inconstant character of their Mother, equally overthrow Basilides, and all who are falsely styled Gnostics, who do, in fact, just repeat the same views under different names, but do, to a greater extent than the former, [3261] transfer those things which lie outside [3262] of the truth to the system of their own doctrine. And the remarks I have made respecting numbers will also apply against all those who misappropriate things belonging to the truth for the support of a system of this kind. And all that has been said respecting the Creator (Demiurge) to show that he alone is God and Father of all, and whatever remarks may yet be made in the following books, I apply against the heretics at large. The more moderate and reasonable among them thou wilt convert and convince, so as to lead them no longer to blaspheme their Creator, and Maker, and Sustainer, and Lord, nor to ascribe His origin to defect and ignorance; but the fierce, and terrible, and irrational [among them] thou wilt drive far from thee, that you may no longer have to endure their idle loquaciousness.

2. Moreover, those also will be thus confuted who belong to Simon and Carpocrates, and if there be any others who are said to perform miracles who do not perform what they do either through the power of God, or in connection with the truth, nor for the well-being of men, but for the sake of destroying and misleading mankind, by means of magical deceptions, and with universal deceit, thus entailing greater harm than good on those who believe them, with respect to the point on which they lead them astray. For they can neither confer sight on the blind, nor hearing on the deaf, nor chase away all sorts of demons [none, indeed,] except those that are sent into others by themselves, if they can even do so much as this. Nor can they cure the weak, or the lame, or the paralytic, or those who are distressed in any other part of the body, as has often been done in regard to bodily infirmity. Nor can they furnish effective remedies for those external accidents which may occur. And so far are they from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them, and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity the entire Church in that particular locality entreating [the boon] with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints that they do not even believe this can be possibly be done, [and hold] that the resurrection from the dead [3263] is simply an acquaintance with that truth which they proclaim.

3. Since, therefore, there exist among them error and misleading influences, and magical illusions are impiously wrought in the sight of men; but in the Church, sympathy, and compassion, and stedfastness, and truth, for the aid and encouragement of mankind, are not only displayed [3264] without fee or reward, but we ourselves lay out for the benefit of others our own means; and inasmuch as those who are cured very frequently do not possess the things which they require, they receive them from us; [since such is the case,] these men are in this way undoubtedly proved to be utter aliens from the divine nature, the beneficence of God, and all spiritual excellence. But they are altogether full of deceit of every kind, apostate inspiration, demoniacal working, and the phantasms of idolatry, and are in reality the predecessors of that dragon [3265] who, by means of a deception of the same kind, will with his tail cause a third part of the stars to fall from their place, and will cast them down to the earth. It behoves us to flee from them as we would from him; and the greater the display with which they are said to perform [their marvels], the more carefully should we watch them, as having been endowed with a greater spirit of wickedness. If any one will consider the prophecy referred to, and the daily practices of these men, he will find that their manner of acting is one and the same with the demons.


[3261] Qui, though here found in all the mss., seems to have been rightly expunged by the editors. [3262] The reference probably is to opinions and theories of the heathen. [3263] Comp. 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18. [On the sub-apostolic age and this subject of miracles, Newman, in spite of his sophistical argumentation, may well be consulted for his references, etc. Translation of the Abbé Fleury, p. xi. Oxford, 1842.] [3264] "Perficiatur:" it is difficult here to give a fitting translation of this word. Some prefer to read "impertiatur." [3265] Rev. xii. 14.

Chapter XXXII. Further exposure of the wicked and blasphemous doctrines of the heretics.

1. Moreover, this impious opinion of theirs with respect to actions namely, that it is incumbent on them to have experience of all kinds of deeds, even the most abominable is refuted by the teaching of the Lord, with whom not only is the adulterer rejected, but also the man who desires to commit adultery; [3266] and not only is the actual murderer held guilty of having killed another to his own damnation, but the man also who is angry with his brother without a cause: who commanded [His disciples] not only not to hate men, but also to love their enemies; and enjoined them not only not to swear falsely, but not even to swear at all; and not only not to speak evil of their neighbours, but not even to style any one "Raca" and "fool;" [declaring] that otherwise they were in danger of hell-fire; and not only not to strike, but even, when themselves struck, to present the other cheek [to those that maltreated them]; and not only not to refuse to give up the property of others, but even if their own were taken away, not to demand it back again from those that took it; and not only not to injure their neighbours, nor to do them any evil, but also, when themselves wickedly dealt with, to be long-suffering, and to show kindness towards those [that injured them], and to pray for them, that by means of repentance they might be saved so that we should in no respect imitate the arrogance, lust, and pride of others. Since, therefore, He whom these men boast of as their Master, and of whom they affirm that He had a soul greatly better and more highly toned than others, did indeed, with much earnestness, command certain things to be done as being good and excellent, and certain things to be abstained from not only in their actual perpetration, but even in the thoughts which lead to their performance, as being wicked, pernicious, and abominable, how then can they escape being put to confusion, when they affirm that such a Master was more highly toned [in spirit] and better than others, and yet manifestly give instruction of a kind utterly opposed to His teaching? And, again, if there were really no such thing as good and evil, but certain things were deemed righteous, and certain others unrighteous, in human opinion only, He never would have expressed Himself thus in His teaching: "The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father;" [3267] but He shall send the unrighteous, and those who do not the works of righteousness, "into everlasting fire, where their worm shall not die, and the fire shall not be quenched." [3268]

2. When they further maintain that it is incumbent on them to have experience of every kind [3269] of work and conduct, so that, if it be possible, accomplishing all during one manifestation in this life, they may [at once] pass over to the state of perfection, they are, by no chance, found striving to do those things which wait upon virtue, and are laborious, glorious, and skilful, [3270] which also are approved universally as being good. For if it be necessary to go through every work and every kind of operation, they ought, in the first place, to learn all the arts: all of them, [I say,] whether referring to theory or practice, whether they be acquired by self-denial, or are mastered through means of labour, exercise, and perseverance; as, for example, every kind of music, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and all such as are occupied with intellectual pursuits: then, again, the whole study of medicine, and the knowledge of plants, so as to become acquainted with those which are prepared for the health of man; the art of painting and sculpture, brass and marble work, and the kindred arts: moreover, [they have to study] every kind of country labour, the veterinary art, pastoral occupations, the various kinds of skilled labour, which are said to pervade the whole circle of [human] exertion; those, again, connected with a maritime life, gymnastic exercises, hunting, military and kingly pursuits, and as many others as may exist, of which, with the utmost labour, they could not learn the tenth, or even the thousandth part, in the whole course of their lives. The fact indeed is, that they endeavour to learn none of these, although they maintain that it is incumbent on them to have experience of every kind of work; but, turning aside to voluptuousness, and lust, and abominable actions, they stand self-condemned when they are tried by their own doctrine. For, since they are destitute of all those [virtues] which have been mentioned, they will [of necessity] pass into the destruction of fire. These men, while they boast of Jesus as being their Master, do in fact emulate the philosophy of Epicurus and the indifference of the Cynics, [calling Jesus their Master,] who not only turned His disciples away from evil deeds, but even from [wicked] words and thoughts, as I have already shown.

3. Again, while they assert that they possess souls from the same sphere as Jesus, and that they are like to Him, sometimes even maintaining that they are superior; while [they affirm that they were] produced, like Him, for the performance of works tending to the benefit and establishment of mankind, they are found doing nothing of the same or a like kind [with His actions], nor what can in any respect be brought into comparison with them. And if they have in truth accomplished anything [remarkable] by means of magic, they strive [in this way] deceitfully to lead foolish people astray, since they confer no real benefit or blessing on those over whom they declare that they exert [supernatural] power; but, bringing forward mere boys [3271] [as the subjects on whom they practise], and deceiving their sight, while they exhibit phantasms that instantly cease, and do not endure even a moment of time, [3272] they are proved to be like, not Jesus our Lord, but Simon the magician. It is certain, [3273] too, from the fact that the Lord rose from the dead on the third day, and manifested Himself to His disciples, and was in their sight received up into heaven, that, inasmuch as these men die, and do not rise again, nor manifest themselves to any, they are proved as possessing souls in no respect similar to that of Jesus.

4. If, however, they maintain that the Lord, too, performed such works simply in appearance, we shall refer them to the prophetical writings, and prove from these both that all things were thus [3274] predicted regarding Him, and did take place undoubtedly, and that He is the only Son of God. Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained [3275] among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practising deception upon any, nor taking any reward [3276] from them [on account of such miraculous interpositions]. For as she has received freely [3277] from God, freely also does she minister [to others].

5. Nor does she perform anything by means of angelic invocations, [3278] or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art; but, directing her prayers to the Lord, who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work [3279] miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error. If, therefore, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ even now confers benefits [upon men], and cures thoroughly and effectively all who anywhere believe on Him, but not that of Simon, or Menander, or Carpocrates, or of any other man whatever, it is manifest that, when He was made man, He held fellowship with His own creation, and [3280] did all things truly through the power of God, according to the will of the Father of all, as the prophets had foretold. But what these things were, shall be described in dealing with the proofs to be found in the prophetical writings.


[3266] Matt. v. 21, etc. [3267] Matt. xiii. 43. [3268] Matt. xxv. 41; Mark ix. 44. [3269] Comp. i. 25, 4. [3270] "Artificialia." [3271] "Pureos investes," boys that have not yet reached the age of puberty. [3272] The text has "stillicidio temporis," literally " a drop of time" (stagmē chronou); but the original text was perhaps stigmē chronou, "a moment of time." With either reading the meaning is the same. [3273] Some have deemed the words "firmum esse" an interpolation. [3274] That is, as being done in reality, and not in appearance. [3275] Harvey here notes: "The reader will not fail to remark this highly interesting testimony, that the divine charismata bestowed upon the infant Church were not wholly extinct in the days of Irenæus. Possibly the venerable Father is speaking from his own personal recollection of some who had been raised from the dead, and had continued for a time living witnesses of the efficacy of Christian faith." [See cap. xxxi., supra.] [3276] Comp. Acts viii. 9, 18. [3277] Matt. x. 8. [3278] Grabe contends that these words imply that no invocations of angels, good or bad, were practised in the primitive Church. Massuet, on the other hand, maintains that the words of Irenæus are plainly to be restricted to evil spirits, and have no bearing on the general question of angelic invocation. [3279] We follow the common reading, "perfecit;" but one ms. has "perficit," works, which suits the context better. [3280] We insert "et," in accordance with Grabe's suggestion.

Chapter XXXIII. Absurdity of the doctrine of the transmigration of souls.

1. We may subvert their doctrine as to transmigration from body to body by this fact, that souls remember nothing whatever of the events which took place in their previous states of existence. For if they were sent forth with this object, that they should have experience of every kind of action, they must of necessity retain a remembrance of those things which have been previously accomplished, that they might fill up those in which they were still deficient, and not by always hovering, without intermission, round the same pursuits, spend their labour wretchedly in vain (for the mere union of a body [with a soul] could not altogether extinguish the memory and contemplation of those things which had formerly been experienced [3281] ), and especially as they came [into the world] for this very purpose. For as, when the body is asleep and at rest, whatever things the soul sees by herself, and does in a vision, recollecting many of these, she also communicates them to the body; and as it happens that, when one awakes, perhaps after a long time, he relates what he saw in a dream, so also would he undoubtedly remember those things which he did before he came into this particular body. For if that which is seen only for a very brief space of time, or has been conceived of simply in a phantasm, and by the soul alone, through means of a dream, is remembered after she has mingled again with the body, and been dispersed through all the members, much more would she remember those things in connection with which she stayed during so long a time, even throughout the whole period of a bypast life.

2. With reference to these objections, Plato, that ancient Athenian, who also was the first [3282] to introduce this opinion, when he could not set them aside, invented the [notion of] a cup of oblivion, imagining that in this way he would escape this sort of difficulty. He attempted no kind of proof [of his supposition], but simply replied dogmatically [to the objection in question], that when souls enter into this life, they are caused to drink of oblivion by that demon who watches their entrance [into the world], before they effect an entrance into the bodies [assigned them]. It escaped him, that [by speaking thus] he fell into another greater perplexity. For if the cup of oblivion, after it has been drunk, can obliterate the memory of all the deeds that have been done, how, O Plato, dost thou obtain the knowledge of this fact (since thy soul is now in the body), that, before it entered into the body, it was made to drink by the demon a drug which caused oblivion? For if thou hast a remembrance of the demon, and the cup, and the entrance [into life], thou oughtest also to be acquainted with other things; but if, on the other hand, thou art ignorant of them, then there is no truth in the story of the demon, nor in the cup of oblivion prepared with art.

3. In opposition, again, to those who affirm that the body itself is the drug of oblivion, this observation may be made: How, then, does it come to pass, that whatsoever the soul sees by her own instrumentality, both in dreams and by reflection or earnest mental exertion, while the body is passive, she remembers, and reports to her neighbours? But, again, if the body itself were [the cause of] oblivion, then the soul, as existing in the body, could not remember even those things which were perceived long ago either by means of the eyes or the ears; but, as soon as the eye was turned from the things looked at, the memory of them also would undoubtedly be destroyed. For the soul, as existing in the very [cause of] oblivion, could have no knowledge of anything else than that only which it saw at the present moment. How, too, could it become acquainted with divine things, and retain a remembrance of them while existing in the body, since, as they maintain, the body itself is [the cause of] oblivion? But the prophets also, when they were upon the earth, remembered likewise, on their returning to their ordinary state of mind, [3283] whatever things they spiritually saw or heard in visions of heavenly objects, and related them to others. The body, therefore, does not cause the soul to forget those things which have been spiritually witnessed; but the soul teaches the body, and shares with it the spiritual vision which it has enjoyed.

4. For the body is not possessed of greater power than the soul, since indeed the former is inspired, and vivified, and increased, and held together by the latter; but the soul possesses [3284] and rules over the body. It is doubtless retarded in its velocity, just in the exact proportion in which the body shares in its motion; but it never loses the knowledge which properly belongs to it. For the body may be compared to an instrument; but the soul is possessed of the reason of an artist. As, therefore, the artist finds the idea of a work to spring up rapidly in his mind, but can only carry it out slowly by means of an instrument, owing to the want of perfect pliability in the matter acted upon, and thus the rapidity of his mental operation, being blended with the slow action of the instrument, gives rise to a moderate kind of movement [towards the end contemplated]; so also the soul, by being mixed up with the body belonging to it, is in a certain measure impeded, its rapidity being blended with the body s slowness. Yet it does not lose altogether its own peculiar powers; but while, as it were, sharing life with the body, it does not itself cease to live. Thus, too, while communicating other things to the body, it neither loses the knowledge of them, nor the memory of those things which have been witnessed.

5. If, therefore, the soul remembers nothing [3285] of what took place in a former state of existence, but has a perception of those things which are here, it follows that she never existed in other bodies, nor did things of which she has no knowledge, nor [once] knew things which she cannot [now mentally] contemplate. But, as each one of us receives his body through the skilful working of God, so does he also possess his soul. For God is not so poor or destitute in resources, that He cannot confer its own proper soul on each individual body, even as He gives it also its special character. And therefore, when the number [fixed upon] is completed, [that number] which He had predetermined in His own counsel, all those who have been enrolled for life [eternal] shall rise again, having their own bodies, and having also their own souls, and their own spirits, in which they had pleased God. Those, on the other hand, who are worthy of punishment, shall go away into it, they too having their own souls and their own bodies, in which they stood apart from the grace of God. Both classes shall then cease from any longer begetting and being begotten, from marrying and being given in marriage; so that the number of mankind, corresponding to the fore-ordination of God, being completed, may fully realize the scheme formed by the Father. [3286]


[3281] Harvey thinks that this parenthesis has fallen out of its proper place, and would insert it immediately after the opening period of the chapter. [3282] It is a mistake of Irenæus to say that the doctrine of metempsychosis originated with Plato: it was first publicly taught by Pythagoras, who learned it from the Egyptians. Comp. Clem. Alex., Strom., i. 15: Herodot., ii. 123. [3283] "In hominem conversi," literally, "returning into man." [3284] "Possidet." Massuet supposes this word to represent kurieuei, "rules over" and Stieren kratunei, governs; while Harvey thinks the whole clause corresponds to kratei kai kurieuei tou sōmatos, which we have rendered above. [3285] Literally, none of things past. [3286] The Latin text is here very confused, but the Greek original of the greater part of this section has happily been preserved. [This Father here anticipates in outline many ideas which St. Augustine afterwards corrected and elaborated.]

Chapter XXXIV. Souls can be recognised in the separate state, and are immortal although they once had a beginning.

1. The Lord has taught with very great fulness, that souls not only continue to exist, not by passing from body to body, but that they preserve the same form [3287] [in their separate state] as the body had to which they were adapted, and that they remember the deeds which they did in this state of existence, and from which they have now ceased, in that narrative which is recorded respecting the rich man and that Lazarus who found repose in the bosom of Abraham. In this account He states [3288] that Dives knew Lazarus after death, and Abraham in like manner, and that each one of these persons continued in his own proper position, and that [Dives] requested Lazarus to be sent to relieve him [Lazarus], on whom he did not [formerly] bestow even the crumbs [which fell] from his table. [He tells us] also of the answer given by Abraham, who was acquainted not only with what respected himself, but Dives also, and who enjoined those who did not wish to come into that place of torment to believe Moses and the prophets, and to receive [3289] the preaching of Him who was [3290] to rise again from the dead. By these things, then, it is plainly declared that souls continue to exist that they do not pass from body to body, that they possess the form of a man, so that they may be recognised, and retain the memory of things in this world; moreover, that the gift of prophecy was possessed by Abraham, and that each class [of souls] receives a habitation such as it has deserved, even before the judgment.

2. But if any persons at this point maintain that those souls, which only began a little while ago to exist, cannot endure for any length of time; but that they must, on the one hand, either be unborn, in order that they may be immortal, or if they have had a beginning in the way of generation, that they should die with the body itself let them learn that God alone, who is Lord of all, is without beginning and without end, being truly and for ever the same, and always remaining the same unchangeable Being. But all things which proceed from Him, whatsoever have been made, and are made, do indeed receive their own beginning of generation, and on this account are inferior to Him who formed them, inasmuch as they are not unbegotten. Nevertheless they endure, and extend their existence into a long series of ages in accordance with the will of God their Creator; so that He grants them that they should be thus formed at the beginning, and that they should so exist afterwards.

3. For as the heaven which is above us, the firmament, the sun, the moon, the rest of the stars, and all their grandeur, although they had no previous existence, were called into being, and continue throughout a long course of time according to the will of God, so also any one who thinks thus respecting souls and spirits, and, in fact, respecting all created things, will not by any means go far astray, inasmuch as all things that have been made had a beginning when they were formed, but endure as long as God wills that they should have an existence and continuance. The prophetic Spirit bears testimony to these opinions, when He declares, "For He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created: He hath established them for ever, yea, forever and ever." [3291] And again, He thus speaks respecting the salvation of man: "He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest him length of days for ever and ever;" [3292] indicating that it is the Father of all who imparts continuance for ever and ever on those who are saved. For life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature; but it is bestowed according to the grace of God. And therefore he who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognised Him who bestowed [the gift upon him], deprives himself of [the privilege of] continuance for ever and ever. [3293] And, for this reason, the Lord declared to those who showed themselves ungrateful towards Him: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is little, who will give you that which is great?" [3294] indicating that those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever.

4. But as the animal body is certainly not itself the soul, yet has fellowship with the soul as long as God pleases; so the soul herself is not life, [3295] but partakes in that life bestowed upon her by God. Wherefore also the prophetic word declares of the first-formed man, "He became a living soul," [3296] teaching us that by the participation of life the soul became alive; so that the soul, and the life which it possesses, must be understood as being separate existences. When God therefore bestows life and perpetual duration, it comes to pass that even souls which did not previously exist should henceforth endure [for ever], since God has both willed that they should exist, and should continue in existence. For the will of God ought to govern and rule in all things, while all other things give way to Him, are in subjection, and devoted to His service. Thus far, then, let me speak concerning the creation and the continued duration of the soul.


[3287] Grabe refers to Tertullian, De Anima, ch. vii., as making a similar statement. Massuet, on the other hand, denies that Irenæus here expresses an opinion like that of Tertullian in the passage referred to, and thinks that the special form (character) mentioned is to be understood as simply denoting individual spiritual properties. But his remarks are not satisfactory. [3288] Luke xvi. 19, etc. [3289] With Massuet and Stieren, we here supply esse. [3290] Some read resurgeret, and others resurrexerit; we deem the former reading preferable. [3291] Ps. cxlviii. 5, 6. [3292] Ps. xxi. 4. [3293] As Massuet observes, this statement is to be understood in harmony with the repeated assertion of Irenæus that the wicked will exist in misery for ever. It refers not annihilation, but to deprivation of happiness. [3294] Luke xvi. 11, quoted loosely from memory. Grabe, however, thinks they are cited from the apocryphal Gospel according to the Egyptians. [3295] Comp. Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph., ch. vi. [3296] Gen. ii. 7.

Chapter XXXV. Refutation of Basilides, and of the opinion that the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of different gods.

1. Moreover, in addition to what has been said, Basilides himself will, according to his own principles, find it necessary to maintain not only that there are three hundred and sixty-five heavens made in succession by one another, but that an immense and innumerable multitude of heavens have always been in the process of being made, and are being made, and will continue to be made, so that the formation of heavens of this kind can never cease. For if from the efflux [3297] of the first heaven the second was made after its likeness, and the third after the likeness of the second, and so on with all the remaining subsequent ones, then it follows, as a matter of necessity, that from the efflux of our heaven, which he indeed terms the last, another be formed like to it, and from that again a third; and thus there can never cease, either the process of efflux from those heavens which have been already made, or the manufacture of [new] heavens, but the operation must go on ad infinitum, and give rise to a number of heavens which will be altogether indefinite.

2. The remainder of those who are falsely termed Gnostics, and who maintain that the prophets uttered their prophecies under the inspiration of different gods, will be easily overthrown by this fact, that all the prophets proclaimed one God and Lord, and that the very Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things which are therein; while they moreover announced the advent of His Son, as I shall demonstrate from the Scriptures themselves, in the books which follow.

3. If, however, any object that, in the Hebrew language, diverse expressions [to represent God] occur in the Scriptures, such as Sabaoth, Eloë, Adonai, and all other such terms, striving to prove from these that there are different powers and gods, let them learn that all expressions of this kind are but announcements and appellations of one and the same Being. For the term Eloë in the Jewish language denotes God, while Elōeim [3298] and Eleōuth in the Hebrew language signify "that which contains all." As to the appellation Adonai, sometimes it denotes what is nameable [3299] and admirable; but at other times, when the letter Daleth in it is doubled, and the word receives an initial [3300] guttural sound thus Addonai [it signifies], "One who bounds and separates the land from the water," so that the water should not subsequently [3301] submerge the land. In like manner also, Sabaoth, [3302] when it is spelled by a Greek Omega in the last syllable [Sabaōth], denotes "a voluntary agent;" but when it is spelled with a Greek Omicron as, for instance, Sabaŏth it expresses "the first heaven." In the same way, too, the word Jaōth, [3303] when the last syllable is made long and aspirated, denotes "a predetermined measure;" but when it is written shortly by the Greek letter Omicron, namely Jaŏth, it signifies "one who puts evils to flight." All the other expressions likewise bring out [3304] the title of one and the same Being; as, for example (in English [3305] ), The Lord of Powers, The Father of all, God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. These are not the names and titles of a succession of different beings, but of one and the same, by means of which the one God and Father is revealed, He who contains all things, and grants to all the boon of existence.

4. Now, that the preaching of the apostles, the authoritative teaching of the Lord, the announcements of the prophets, the dictated utterances of the apostles, [3306] and the ministration of the law all of which praise one and the same Being, the God and Father of all, and not many diverse beings, nor one deriving his substance from different gods or powers, but [declare] that all things [were formed] by one and the same Father (who nevertheless adapts [His works] to the natures and tendencies of the materials dealt with), things visible and invisible, and, in short, all things that have been made [were created] neither by angels, nor by any other power, but by God alone, the Father are all in harmony with our statements, has, I think, been sufficiently proved, while by these weighty arguments it has been shown that there is but one God, the Maker of all things. But that I may not be thought to avoid that series of proofs which may be derived from the Scriptures of the Lord (since, indeed, these Scriptures do much more evidently and clearly proclaim this very point), I shall, for the benefit of those at least who do not bring a depraved mind to bear upon them, devote a special book to the Scriptures referred to, which shall fairly follow them out [and explain them], and I shall plainly set forth from these divine Scriptures proofs to [satisfy] all the lovers of truth. [3307]


[3297] Ex defluxu, corresponding to ex aporrhoias in the Greek. [3298] Eloæ here occurs in the Latin text, but Harvey supposes that the Greek had been 'Elōeim. He also remarks that Eloeuth is the rabbinical abstract term, Godhead. [3299] All that can be remarked on this is, that the Jews substituted the term Adonai for the name Jehovah, as often as the latter occurred in the sacred text. The former might therefore be styled nameable. [3300] The Latin text is, "aliquando autem duplicata litera delta cum aspiratione," and Harvey supposes that the doubling of the Daleth would give "to the scarcely articulate a more decidedly guttural character;" but the sense is extremely doubtful. [3301] Instead of "nec posteaquam insurgere," Feuardent and Massuet read "ne possit insurgere," and include the clause in the definition of Addonai. [3302] The author is here utterly mistaken, and, notwithstanding Harvey s earnest claim for him of a knowledge of Hebrew, seems clearly to betray his ignorance of that language. The term Sabaoth is never written with an Omicron, either in the LXX. or by the Greek Fathers, but always with an Omega (Sabaōth). Although Harvey remarks in his preface, that "It is hoped the Hebrew attainments of Irenæus will no longer be denied," there appears enough, in the etymologies and explanations of Hebrew terms given in this chapter by the venerable Father, to prevent such a conclusion; and Massuet's observation on the passage seems not improbable, when he says, "Sciolus quispiam Irenæo nostro, in Hebraicis haud satis perito, hic fucum ecisse videtur." [3303] Probably corresponding to the Hebrew term Jehovah ()
[3304] Literally, "belong to one and the same name." [3305] "Secundum Latinitatem" in the text. [3306] The words are "apostolorum dictatio," probably referring to the letters of the apostles, as distinguished from their preaching already mentioned. [3307] This last sentence is very confused and ambiguous, and the editors throw but little light upon it. We have endeavoured to translate it according to the ordinary text and punctuation, but strongly suspect interpolation and corruption. If we might venture to strike out "has Scripturas," and connect "his tamen" with "prædicantibus," a better sense would be yielded, as follows: "But that I may not be thought to avoid that series of proofs which may be derived from the Scriptures of the Lord (since, indeed, these Scriptures to much more evidently and clearly set forth this very point, to those at least who do not bring a depraved mind to their consideration), I shall devote the particular book which follows to them, and shall," etc.

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