Who was Valentinus (sometimes spelled Valentinius)? What do most who profess Christ think he was? And perhaps most importantly, what did he and his followers teach? And was he one of the earliest teachers of the trinity? And did he write Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth?
This article will attempt to address those questions.
Who was Valentinus?
Valentinus was a second century church leader who had some affiliation with what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions:
Valentinus, the best known and most influential of the Gnostic heretics, was born according to Epiphanius (Haer., XXXI) on the coast of Egypt. He was trained in Hellenistic science in Alexandria. Like many other heretical teachers he went to Rome the better, perhaps to disseminate his views. He arrived there during the pontificate of Hyginus and remained until the pontificate of Anicetus. During a sojourn of perhaps fifteen years, though he had in the beginning allied himself with the orthodox community in Rome, he was guilty of attempting to establish his heretical system. His errors led to his excommunication, after which he repaired to Cyprus where he resumed his activities as a teacher and where he died probably about 160 or 161. Valentinus professed to have derived his ideas from Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of St. Paul, but his system is obviously an attempt to amalgamate Greek and Oriental speculations of the most fantastic kind with Christian ideas. He was especially indebted to Plato (Healy P. J. Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett. Valentinus and Valentinians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Irenaeus, though himself a heretic (though considered as a saint by Roman Catholics), in the late 2nd Century claimed that the Valentinians came from Simon Magus:
Thou hast indeed enjoined upon me, my very dear friend, that I should bring to light the Valentinian doctrines, concealed, as their votaries imagine; that I should exhibit their diversity, and compose a treatise in refutation of them. therefore have undertaken — showing that they spring from Simon, the father of all heretics — to exhibit both their doctrines and successions, and to set forth arguments against them all (Book III, Preface, Verse 1).
What do most who profess Christ think he was?
As mentioned above, the Roman Catholics and others consider that Valentinus was a Gnostic heretic.
Irenaeus wrote that both John and Polycarp strongly renounced the Gnostic heretics:
Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too…Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus.
But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time — a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles… John, the disciple of the Lord…exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan” (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).”
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