Gnostic Doctrine

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Valentinian Interpretation of Genesis 1

Valentinian Interpretation of Genesis 1

By the late second century, the Gnostic movement had developed a rather involved cosmology. Although it varied widely and should not be oversimplified, a basic outline can be useful for our understanding

The "classical" Gnostic mythology posits a sort of prologue to the Judeo-Christian version of creation as described in the Book of Genesis.

Genesis 1:1 ¶  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 ¶  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4  And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Against Heresies (Book I, Chapter 18):

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; Genesis 1:1 for, as they maintain, by naming these four —God, beginning, heaven, and earth — he set forth their Tetrad.

Indicating also its invisible and hidden nature, he said, Now the earth was invisible and unformed. Genesis 1:2 They will have it, moreover, that he spoke of the second Tetrad, the offspring of the first, in this way — by naming an abyss and darkness, in which were also water, and the Spirit moving upon the water. Then, proceeding to mention the Decad, he names light, day, night, the firmament, the evening, the morning, dry land, sea, plants, and, in the tenth place, trees. Thus, by means of these ten names, he indicated the ten ├ćons

The power of the Duodecad, again, was shadowed forth by him thus:— He names the sun, moon, stars, seasons, years, whales, fishes, reptiles, birds, quadrupeds, wild beasts, and after all these, in the twelfth place, man. 

Thus they teach that the Triacontad was spoken of through Moses by the Spirit. Moreover, man also, being formed after the image of the power above, had in himself that ability which flows from the one source. This ability was seated in the region of the brain, from which four faculties proceed, after the image of the Tetrad above, and these are called: the first, sight, the second, hearing, the third, smell, and the fourth, taste. And they say that the Ogdoad is indicated by man in this way: that he possesses two ears, the like number of eyes, also two nostrils, and a twofold taste, namely, of bitter and sweet. 

Moreover, they teach that the whole man contains the entire image of the Triacontad as follows: In his hands, by means of his fingers, he bears the Decad; and in his whole body the Duodecad, inasmuch as his body is divided into twelve members; for they portion that out, as the body of Truth is divided by them — a point of which we have already spoken. But the Ogdoad, as being unspeakable and invisible, is understood as hidden in the viscera.

2. Again, they assert that the sun, the great light-giver, was formed on the fourth day, with a reference to the number of the Tetrad.

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