Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion 




WE must now turn back to an earlier period, and consider any evidence regarding the synoptic Gospels which may be furnished by the so-called heretical writers of the second century. The first of these who claims our attention is Basilides, the founder of a system of Gnosticism, who lived in Alexandria about the year 125 of our era. [322:1] With the exception of a very few brief fragments, [322:2] none of the writings of this Gnostic have been preserved, and all our information regarding them is, therefore, derived at second-hand from ecclesiastical writers opposed to him and his doctrines; and their statements, especially where acquaintance with, and the use of, the New Testament Scriptures are assumed, must be received with very great caution. The uncritical and inaccurate character of the Fathers rendered them peculiarly liable to be misled by foregone devout conclusions.

Eusebius states that Agrippa Castor, who had written a refutation of the doctrines of Basilides, "says that he had composed twenty-four books upon the Gospel." [322:3] This is interpreted by Tischendorf, without argument, and in a most arbitrary and erroneous manner, to imply that the work was a commentary upon our four canonical Gospels; [322:4] a conclusion the audacity of which can scarcely be exceeded. This is, however, almost surpassed by the treatment of Dr. Westcott, who writes regarding Basilides: "It appears, moreover, that he himself published a Gospel -- a 'Life of Christ,' as it would perhaps be called in our days, or 'The Philosophy of Christianity' [322:5] -- but he admitted the historic truth of all the facts contained in the canonical Gospels, and used them as Scripture. For, in spite of his peculiar opinions, the testimony of Basilides to our 'acknowledged' books is comprehensive and clear. In the few pages of his writings which remain there are certain references to the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John," [322:6] etc. Now, such representations as these, made in the absence of any explanation of the facts, or any statement of the reasons for such unqualified assertions, and totally ignoring the whole of the discussion with regard to the supposed quotations of Basilides in the work commonly ascribed to Hippolytus, and the adverse results of learned criticism, must be condemned as only calculated to mislead readers unacquainted with the facts of the case.

We know from the evidence of antiquity that Basilides made use of a Gospel, written by himself, it is said, but certainly called after his own name. [323:1] An attempt has been made to explain this by. suggesting that perhaps the work mentioned by Agrippa Castor may have been mistaken for a Gospel; but the fragments of that work which are still extant [323:2] are of a character which precludes the possibility that any writing of which they formed a part could have been considered a Gospel. Various opinions have been expressed as to the exact nature of the Gospel of Basilides. Neander affirmed it to be the Gospel according to the Hebrews which he brought from Syria to Egypt; [323:3] whilst Schneckenburger held it to be the Gospel according to the Egyptians. [323:4] Others believe it to have at least been based upon one or other of these Gospels. There seems most reason for the hypothesis that it was a form of the Gospel according to the Hebrews which was so generally in use.

Returning to the passage already quoted, in which Eusebius states, on the authority of Agrippa Castor, whose works are no longer extant, that Basilides had composed a work in twenty-four books on the Gospel (to euangelion), and to the unwarrantable inference that this must have been a work on our four Gospels, we must add that, so far from deriving his doctrines from our Gospels or other New Testament writings, or acknowledging their authority, Basilides professed that he received his knowledge of the truth from Glaucias, "the interpreter of Peter," whose disciple he claimed to be, [323:5] and thus practically sets Gospels aside and prefers tradition. Basilides also claimed to have received from a certain Matthias the report of private discourses which he had heard from the Saviour for his special instruction. [323:6] Agrippa Castor further stated, according to Eusebius, that in his Exêgêtika Basilides named for himself, as prophets, Barcabbas and Barcoph (Parchor), [324:1] as well as invented others who never existed, and claimed their authority for his doctines. [324:2] With regard to all this Dr. Westcott writes: "Since Basilides lived on the verge of the apostolic times, it is not surprising that he made use of other sources of Christian doctrine besides the canonical books. The belief in Divine Inspiration was still fresh and real," [324:3] etc. It is apparent, however, that Basilides, in basing his doctrines upon tradition and upon these apocryphal books as inspired, and in having a special Gospel called after his own name, which, therefore, he clearly adopts as the exponent of his ideas of Christian truth, completely ignores the canonical Gospels, and not only does not offer any evidence for their existence, but proves, on the contrary, that he did not recognise any such works as of authority. There is no ground, therefore, for Tischendorf's assumption that the commentary of Basilides "on the Gospel" was written upon our Gospels, but that idea is negatived in the strongest way by all the facts of the case. The perfectly simple interpretation of the statement is that long ago suggested by Valesius, [324:4] that the Commentary of Basilides was composed upon his own Gospel, whether it was the Gospel according to the Hebrews or the Egyptians.

Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Basilides used the word "Gospel" in a peculiar sense. Hippolytus, in the work usually ascribed to him, writing of the Basilidians and describing their doctrines, says: "When therefore it was necessary, he (?) says, that we, the children of God, should be revealed, in expectation of whose revelation, he says, the creation groaned and travailed, the Gospel came into the world, and passed through every principality and power and dominion, and every name that is named," etc. "The Gospel, therefore, came first from the Sonship, he says, through the Son, sitting by the Archon, to the Archon, and the Archon learnt that he was not the God of all things, but begotten," [324:5] etc. "The Gospel, according to them, is the knowledge of supramundane matters," [324:6] etc. This may not be very intelligible, but it is sufficient to show that "the Gospel" in a technical sense [324:7] formed a very important part of the system of Basilides. Now, there is nothing whatever to show that the twenty-four books which he composed "on the Gospel" were not in elucidation of the Gospel as technically understood by him, illustrated by extracts from his own special Gospel and from the tradition handed down to him by Glaucias and Matthias.

The emphatic assertion of Dr. Westcott, that Basilides "admitted the historic truth of all the facts contained in the canonical Gospels," is based solely upon the following sentence of the work attributed to Hippolytus: "Jesus, however, was generated according to these (followers of Basilides), as we have already said. [325:1] But when the generation which has already been declared had taken place, all things regarding the Saviour, according to them, occurred in like manner as they have been written in the Gospel." [325:2] There are, however, several important points to be borne in mind in reference to this passage. The statement in question is not made in connection with Basilides himself, but distinctly in reference to his followers, of whom there were many in the time of Hippolytus and long after him. It is, moreover, a general observation, the accuracy of which we have no means of testing, and upon the correctness of which there is no special reason to rely. The remark, made at the beginning of the third century, that the followers of Basilides believed that the actual events of the life of Jesus occurred in the way in which they have been written in the Gospels, is no proof that either they or Basilides used or admitted the authority of our Gospels. The exclusive use by anyone of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, for instance, would be perfectly consistent with the statement. No one who considers what is known of that Gospel, or who thinks of the use made of it in the first half of the second century by perfectly orthodox Fathers, can doubt this. The passage is, therefore, of no weight as evidence for the use of our Gospels. Dr. Westcott himself admits that in the extant fragments of Isidorus, the son and disciple of Basilides, who "maintained the doctrines of his father," he has "noticed nothing bearing on the books of the New Testament." [325:3] On the supposition that Basilides actually wrote a Commentary on our Gospels, and used them as Scripture, it is indeed passing strange that we have so little evidence on the point.

We must now examine in detail all of the quotations, and they are few, alleged to show the use of our Gospels; and we shall commence with those of Tischendorf. The first passage which he points out is found in the Stromata of Clement of Alexandria. Tischendorf guards himself, in reference to these quotations, by merely speaking of them as "Basilidian" (Basilidianisch),[326:1] but it might have been more frank to have stated clearly that Clement distinctly assigns the quotation to the followers of Basilides (oi de apo Basileidou), [326:2] and not to Basilides himself. [326:3] The supposed quotation, therefore, even if traced to our Gospels, could not prove anything in regard to Basilides. The passage itself, compared with the parallel in Matt. 19:11-12, is as follows:

STROM. 3:1 § 1 MATT. 19:11-12
They say the Lord answered: All men cannot receive this saying. 11. But he said unto them: All men cannot receive this saying, but only they to whom it is given.
For there are some who are eunuchs from birth, others by constraint. 12. For there are eunuchs which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs which were made eunuchs by men, etc.
Ou pantes chôrousi ton logon touton, eisi gar eunouchoi, oi men ek genetês, oi de ex anankês. Ou pantes chôrousi ton logon touton, all' ois dedotai, eisin gar eunouchoi oitines ek koilias mêtros egennêthêsan outôs, kai eisin eunochoi oitines eunouchisthêsan hupo tôn anthrôpôn, k.t.l.

Now, this passage, in its affinity to, and material variation from, our first Gospel, might be quoted as evidence for the use of another Gospel, but it cannot reasonably be cited as evidence for the use of Matthew. Apologists, in their anxiety to grasp at the faintest analogies as testimony, seem altogether to ignore the history of the creation of written Gospels, and to forget the existence of the polloi of Luke.

The next passage referred to by Tischendorf [326:4] is one quoted by Epiphanius, [326:5] which we subjoin in contrast with the parallel in Matt. 7:6.

HAER. 24:5. MATT. 7:6.
And therefore he said: Cast not ye pearls before swine, neither give that which is holy unto dogs. Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Mê balête tous margaritas emposthen tôn choirôn, mêde dote to agion tois kusi. Mê dôte to agion tois kusin, mêde balête tous margaritas humôn emposthen tôn choirôn, k.t.l.

Here, again, the variation in order is just what one might have expected from the use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews or a similar work, and there is no indication that the passage did not end here, without the continuation of our first Synoptic. What is still more important, although Tischendorf does not mention the fact, nor otherwise hint a doubt than by introducing this quotation also as "Basilidianisch," instead of directly ascribing it to Basilides himself, this passage is not attributed by Epiphanius to that heretic. It is introduced into the section of his work directed against the Basilidians, but he uses, like Clement, the indefinite and as, in dealing with all these heresies, there is continual interchange of reference to the head and the later followers, there is no certainty who is referred to in these quotations, and, in this instance, nothing to indicate that this passage is ascribed to Basilides himself. His name is mentioned in the first line of the first chapter of this "heresy," but not again before this occurs in chapter 5. Tischendorf does not claim any other quotations.

Dr. Westcott states: "In the few pages of his (Basilides') writings which remain there are certain references to the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke," [327:1] etc. One might suppose from this that the "certain" references occurred in actual extracts made from his works, and that the quotations, therefore, appeared set in a context of his own words. This impression is strengthened when we read as an introduction to the instances: "The following examples will be sufficient to show his method of quotation." [327:2] The fact is, however, that these examples are found in the work of Hippolytus, in an epitome of the views of the school by that writer himself, with nothing more definite than a subjectless phêsi to indicate who is referred to. The only examples Dr. Westcott can give of these "certain references" to our first and third Synoptics do not show his "method of quotation" to much advantage. The first is not a quotation at all, but a mere reference to the Magi and the Star. "But that everything, he says (phêsi), has its own seasons, the Saviour sufficiently teaches when he says: … and the Magi having seen the star," [327:3] etc. This, of course, Dr. Westcott considers a reference to Matt. 2:1-2, but we need scarcely point out that this falls to the ground instantly if it be admitted, as it must be, that the Star and the Magi may have been mentioned in other Gospels than the first Synoptic. We have already seen, when examining the evidence of Justin, that this is the case. The only quotation asserted to be taken from Luke is the phrase: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee," [327:4] which agrees with Luke 1:35. This again is introduced by Hippolytus with another subjectless "he says," and, apart from the uncertainty as to who "he" is, this is very unsatisfactory evidence as to the form of the quotation in the original text, for it may easily have been corrected by Hippolytus, consciously or unconsciously, in the course of transfer to his pages. We have already met with this passage as quoted by Justin from a Gospel different from ours.

As we have stated, however, none of the quotations which we have considered are directly referred to Basilides himself, but they are all introduced by the utterly vague expression, "he says" (phêsi) without any subject accompanying the verb. Now, it is admitted that writers of the time of Hippolytus, and notably Hippolytus himself, made use of' the name of the founder of a sect to represent the whole of his school, and applied to him, apparently, quotations taken from unknown and later followers. The passages which he cites, therefore, and which appear to indicate the use of Gospels, instead of being extracted from the works of the founder himself, in all probability were taken from writings of Gnostics of his own time. Dr. Westcott admits the possibility of this, in writing of other early heretics. He says: "The evidence that has been collected from the documents of these primitive sects is necessarily somewhat vague. It would be more satisfactory to know the exact position of their authors, and the precise date of their being composed. It is just possible that Hippolytus made use of writings which were current in his own time without further examination, and transferred to the apostolic age forms of thought and expression which had been the growth of two, or even of three, generations." [328:1] So much as to the reliance to be placed on the work ascribed to Hippolytus. It is certain, for instance, that, in writing of the sect of Naaseni and Ophites, Hippolytus perpetually quotes passages from the writings of the school, with the indefinite phêsi[328:2] as he likewise does in dealing with the Peratici, [328:3] and Docetae, [328:4] no individual author being named; yet he evidently quotes various writers, passing from one to another without explanation, and making use of the same unvarying phêsi. In one place, [328:5] where he has "the Greeks say" (phasin oi Hellênes), he gives, without further indication, a quotation from Pindar. [328:6] A still more apt instance of his method is that pointed out by Volkmar, [328:7] where Hippolytus, writing of "Marcion, or some one of his hounds," uses, without further explanation, the subjectless phêsi to introduce matter from the later followers of Marcion. [328:8] Now, with regard to Basilides, Hippolytus directly refers not only to the heretic chief, but also to his disciple Isidorus and all their followers, [329:1] (kai Isidôros kai pas ho toutôn choros), and then proceeds to use the indefinite "he says," interspersed with references in the plural to these heretics, exhibiting the same careless method of quotation, and leaving complete uncertainty as to the speaker's identity. On the other hand, it has been demonstrated by Hilgenfeld that the gnosticism ascribed to Basilides by Hippolytus, in connection with these quotations, is of a much later and more developed type than that which Basilides himself held [329:2] as shown in the actual fragments of his own writings which are still extant, and as reported by Irenaeus, [329:3] Clement of Alexandria, [329:4] and the work Adversus omnes Haereses, annexed to the Praescripto Haereticorum of Tertullian, which is considered to be the epitome of an earlier work of Hippolytus. The fact probably is that Hippolytus derived his views of the doctrines of Basilides from the writings of his later followers, and from them made the quotations which are attributed to the founder of the school. In any case there is no ground for referring these quotations with an indefinite phêsi to Basilides himself.

Of all this there is not a word from Dr. Westcott, [329:5] but he ventures to speak of "the testimony of Basilides to our 'acknowledged' books," as "comprehensive and clear." [329:6] We have seen, however, that the passages referred to have no weight whatever as evidence for the use of our Synoptics. The formulae (as to eirêmenon to that compared with Luke 1:35, and hôs gegraptai, hê graphê with references compared with some of the Epistles) which accompany these quotations, and to which Dr. Westcott points as an indication that the New Testament writings were already recognised as Holy Scripture, [329:7] need no special attention, because, as it cannot be shown that the expressions were used by Basilides himself, they do not come into question. If anything were required to complete the evidence that these quotations are not from the works of Basilides himself, but from later writings by his followers, it would be the use of such formulae, for, as the writings of pseudo-Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Papias, Hegesippus, and others of the Fathers, in several ways positively demonstrate, the New Testament writings were not admitted, even amongst orthodox Fathers, to the rank of Holy Scripture until a very much later period.

Much of what has been said with regard to the claim which is laid to Basilides by some apologists as a witness for the Gospels and the existence of a New Testament Canon, and the manner in which that claim is advanced, likewise applies to Valentinus, another Gnostic leader, who, about the year 140, came from Alexandria to Rome, and flourished till about AD 160. [330:1] Very little remains of the writings of this Gnostic, and we gain our only knowledge of them from a few short quotations in the works of Clement of Alexandria, and some doubtful fragments preserved by others. We shall presently have occasion to refer directly to these, and need not here more particularly mention them.

Tischendorf, the self-constituted modern Defensor fidei[330:2] asserts, with an assurance which can scarcely be characterised otherwise than as an unpardonable calculation upon the ignorance of his readers, that Valentinus used the whole of our four canonical Gospels. To do him full justice, we shall, as much as possible, give his own words; and, although we set aside systematically all discussion regarding the fourth Gospel for separate treatment hereafter, we must, in order to convey the full sense of Dr. Tischendorf's proceeding, commence with a sentence regarding that Gospel. Referring to a statement of Irenaeus, that the followers of Valentinus made use of the fourth Gospel, Tischendorf continues: "Hippolytus confirms and completes the statement of Irenaeus, for he quotes several expressions of John, which Valentinus employed. This most clearly occurs in the case of John 10: 8; for Hippolytus writes: 'Because the prophets and the law, according to the doctrine of Valentinus, were only filled with a subordinate and foolish spirit, Valentinus says: On account of this, the Saviour says: All who came before me were thieves and robbers.'" [330:3] Now this, to begin with, is a practical falsification of the text of the Philosophumena, which reads: "Therefore, all the Prophets and the Law spoke under the influence of the Demiurge, a foolish God, he says, (they themselves being) foolish, knowing nothing. On this account, he says, the Saviour saith: All who came before me," etc. [331:1] There is no mention of the name of Valentinus in the passage, and, as we shall presently show, there is no direct reference in the whole chapter to Valentinus himself. The introduction of his name in this manner into the text, without a word of explanation, is highly reprehensible. It is true that in a note Tischendorf gives a closer translation of the passage, without, however, any explanation; and here again he adds, in parenthesis to the "says he," "namely, Valentinus." Such a note, however, which would probably be unread by a majority of readers, does not rectify the impression conveyed by so positive and emphatic an assertion as is conveyed by the alteration in the text.

Tischendorf continues: "And as the Gospel of John, so also were the other Gospels used by Valentinus. According to the statement of Irenaeus (1:7, § 4), he found the said subordinate spirit which he calls Demiurge, Masterworker, emblematically represented by the Centurion of Capernaum (Matt. 8:9, Luke 7:8); in the dead and resuscitated daughter of Jairus, when twelve years old (Luke 8:41), he recognised a symbol of his 'Wisdom' (Achamoth), the mother of the Masterworker (1:8, § 2); in like manner, he saw represented in the history of the woman who had suffered twelve years from the bloody issue, and was cured by the Lord (Matt. 9:20), the sufferings and salvation of his twelfth primitive spirit (Aeon) (1:3, § 3); the expression of the Lord (Matt. 5:18) on the numerical value of the iota ('the smallest letter') he applied to his ten aeons in repose." [331:2] Now, in every instance where Tischendorf here speaks of Valentinus by the singular "he," Irenaeus uses the plural "they," referring not to the original founder of the sect, but to his followers in his own day; and the text is thus again in every instance falsified by the pious zeal of the apologist. In the case of the Centurion: "they say" (legousi) that he is the Demiurge; [331:3] "they declare" (diêgountai) that the daughter of Jairus is the type of Achamoth; [331:4] "they say" (legousi) that the apostasy of Judas points to the passion in connection with the twelfth aeon, and also the fact that Jesus suffered, in the twelfth month after his baptism; for they will have it (boulontai) that he only preached for one year. The case of the woman with the bloody issue for twelve years, and the power which went forth from the Son to heal her, "they will have to be Horos" (einai de tautên ton Horon thelousin). [331:5] In like manner they assert that the ten aeons are indicated (sêmainesthai legousi) by the letter "iota," mentioned in the Saviour's expression, Matt. 5:18. [332:1] At the end of these and numerous other similar references to this chapter to New Testament expressions and passages, Irenaeus says: "Thus they interpret," etc. (hermêneuosin eirêthai). [332:2] The plural "They" is employed throughout.

Tischendorf proceeds to give the answer to his statement which is supposed to be made by objectors. "They say: all that has reference to the Gospel of John was not advanced by Valentinus himself, but by his disciples. And in fact, in Irenaeus, 'they -- the Valentinians -- say,' occurs much oftener than 'he -- Valentinus -- says.' But who is there so sapient as to draw the line between what the master alone says, and that which the disciples state without in the least repeating the master?" [332:3] Tischendorf solves the difficulty by referring everything indiscriminately to the master. Now, in reply to these observations, we must remark, in the first place, that the admission here made by Tischendorf, that Irenaeus much more often uses "they say" than "he says" is still quite disingenuous, inasmuch as invariably, and without exception, Irenaeus uses the plural in connection with the texts in question. Secondly, it is quite obvious that a Gnostic writing about AD 185-195 was likely to use arguments which were never thought of by a Gnostic writing at the middle of the century. At the end of the century the writings of the New Testament had acquired consideration and authority, and Gnostic writers had therefore a reason to refer to them, and to endeavour to show that they supported their peculiar views, which did not exist at all at the time when Valentinus propounded his system. Tischendorf, however, cannot be allowed the benefit even of such a doubt as he insinuates, as to what belongs to the master and what to the followers. Such doubtful testimony could not establish anything, but it is in point of fact also totally excluded by the statements of Irenaeus himself.

In the preface to the first book of his great work, Irenaeus clearly states the motives and objects for which he writes. He says: "I considered it necessary, having read the commentaries (hupomnêmasi) of the disciples of Valentinus, as they call themselves, and having had personal intercourse with some of them and acquired full knowledge of their opinions, to unfold to thee," etc., and he goes on to say that he intends, to set forth "the opinions of those who are now teaching heresy; I speak particularly of the followers of Ptolemaeus, whose system is an offshoot of the school of Valentinus." [332:4] Nothing could be more explicit than this statement that Irenaeus neither intended nor pretended to write upon the works of Valentinus himself, but upon the commentaries of his followers of his own time, with some of whom he had had personal intercourse, and that the system which he intended to attack was that actually being taught in his day by Ptolemaeus and his school, the offshoot from Valentinus. All the quotations to which Tischendorf refers are made within a few pages of this explicit declaration. Immediately after the passage about the Centurion, he says, "such is their system" (toiautês de tês hupotheseôs autôn susês), and three lines below he states that they derive their views from unwritten sources (ex agraphôn anaginôskontes). [333:1] The first direct reference to Valentinus does not occur until after these quotations, and is for the purpose of showing the variation of opinion of his followers. He says: "Let us now see the uncertain opinions of these heretics, for there are two or three of them, how they do not speak alike of the same things, but contradict one another in facts and names." Then he continues: "For the first of them, Valentinus, having derived his principles from the so-called Gnostic heresy, and adapted them to the peculiar character of his school, declared this," etc. [333:2] And after a brief description of his system, in which no Scripture allusion occurs, he goes on to compare the views of the rest, and in chap. 12 he returns to Ptolemaeus and his followers (Ho Ptolemaios, kai oi sun autô, k.t.l.).

In the preface to Book II., he again says that he has been exposing the falsity of the followers of Valentinus (qui sunt a Valentino), and will proceed to establish what he has advanced; and everywhere he uses the plural "they," with occasional direct references to the followers of Valentinus (qui sunt a Valentino). [333:3] The same course is adopted in Book III., the plural being systematically used, and the same distinct definition introduced at intervals. [333:4] And again, in the preface to Book IV., he recapitulates that the preceding books had been written against these, "qui sunt a Valentino" (§ 2). In fact, it would almost be impossible for any writer more frequently and emphatically to show that he is not, as he began by declaring, dealing with the founder of the school himself, but with his followers living and teaching at the time at which he wrote.

Dr. Westcott, with whose system of positively enunciating unsupported and controverted statements we are already acquainted, is only slightly outstripped by the German apologist in his misrepresentation of the evidence of Valentinus. It must be stated, however, that, acknowledging, as no doubt he does, that Irenaeus never refers to Valentinus himself, Dr. Westcott passes over in complete silence the supposed references upon which Tischendorf relies as his only evidence for the use of the Synoptics by that Gnostic. He, however, makes the following extraordinary statement regarding Valentinus: "The fragments of his writings which remain show the same natural and trustful use of Scripture as other Christian works of the same period; and there is no diversity of character in this respect between the quotations given in Hippolytus and those found in Clement of Alexandria. He cites the Epistle to the Ephesians as 'Scripture,' and refers clearly to the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John, to the Epistles to the Romans," [334:1] etc.

We shall now give the passages which he points out in support of these assertions. [334:2] The first two are said to occur in the Stromata of the Alexandrian Clement, who professes to quote the very words of a letter of Valentinus to certain people regarding the passions, which are called by the followers of Basilides "the appendages of the soul." The passage is as follows: "But one only is good, whose presence is the manifestation through the Son, and through Him alone will the heart be enabled to become pure, by the expulsion of every evil spirit from the heart. For many spirits dwelling in it do not allow it to be pure, but each of them, while in diverse parts they riot there in unseemly lusts, performs its own works. And, it seems to me, the heart is somewhat like an inn. For that, also, is both bored and dug into, and often filled with the ordure of men, who abide there in revelry, and bestow not one single thought upon the place, seeing it is the property of another. And in such wise is it with the heart, so long as no thought is given to it, being impure, and the dwelling-place of many demons, but as soon as the alone good Father has visited it, it is sanctified and shines through with light, and the possessor of such a heart becomes so blessed that he shall see God." [335:1] According to Dr. Westcott, this passage contains two of the "clear references" to our Gospels upon which he bases his statement-namely, to Matt. 5:8 and to Matt. 19:17.

Now, it is clear that there is no actual quotation from any evangelical work in this passage from the Epistle of Valentinus, and the utmost for which the most zealous apologist could contend is that there is a slight similarity with some words in the Gospel, and Dr. Westcott himself does not venture to call them more than "references." That such distant coincidences should be quoted as evidence for the use of the first Gospel shows how weak is his case. At best such vague allusions could not prove anything; but when the passages to which reference is supposed to be made are examined, it will be apparent that nothing could be more unfounded or arbitrary than the claim of reference specially to our Gospel, to the exclusion of other Gospels then existing, which, to our knowledge, contained both passages. We may, indeed, go still further, and affirm that, if these coincidences are references to any Gospel at all, that Gospel is not the canonical, but one different from it.

The first reference alluded to consists of the following two phrases: "But one only is good (eis de estin agathos) ... the alone good Father" (ho monos agathos patêr). This is compared with Matt. 19:17: [335:2] "Why askest thou me concerning good? There is one that is good" (eis estin ho agathos). [335:3] Now, the passage in the epistle, if a reference to any parallel episode, such as Matt. 19:17, indicates, with certainty, the reading: "One is good, the Father" (eis estin agathos ho patêr). There is no such reading in any of our Gospels. But, although this reading does not exist in any of the canonical Gospels, it is well known that it did exist in uncanonical Gospels no longer extant, and that the passage was one upon which various sects of so-called heretics laid great stress. Irenaeus quotes it as one of the texts to which the Marcosians, who made use of apocryphal Gospels, [335:4] and notably of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, gave a different colouring: eis estin agathos, ho patêr[335:5] Epiphanius also quotes this reading as one of the variations of the Marcionites: eis estin agathos, ho Theos, ho patêr[335:6] Origen likewise remarks that this passage is misused by some heretics: "Velut proprie sibi datum scutum putant (haeretici) quod dixit Dominus in Evangelio: Nemo bonus nisi unus Deus pater." [336:1] Justin Martyr quotes the same reading from a source different from our Gospels, eis estin agathos ho patêr, mou, k.t.l.[336:2] and in agreement with the repeated similar readings of the Clementine Homilies, which likewise derived it from an extra-canonical source, ho gar agathos eis estin, ho patêr[336:3] The use of a similar expression by Clement of Alexandria, [336:4] as well as by Origen, only serves to prove the existence of the reading in extinct Gospels, although it is not found in any MS. of any of our Gospels.

The second of the supposed references is more diffuse: "One is good, and through him alone will the heart be enabled to become pure (hê kardia kathara genesthai) … but when the alone good Father has visited it, it is sanctified and shines through with light, and the possessor of such a heart becomes so blessed that he shall see God" (kai outô makarizetai ho echôn tên toiautên kardian, hoti opsetai ton theon). This is compared [336:5] with Matt. 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (makarioi oi katharoi tê kardia, hoti autoi ton theon opsontai). It might be argued that this is quite as much a reference to Psalm 24:3-6 as to Matt. 5:8; but even if treated as a reference to the Sermon on the Mount, nothing is more certain than the fact that this discourse had its place in much older forms of the Gospel than our present canonical Gospels, and that it formed part of the Gospel according to the Hebrews and other evangelical writings in circulation in the early Church. Such a reference as this is absolutely worthless as evidence of special acquaintance with our first Synoptic. [336:6]

Tischendorf does not appeal at all to these supposed references contained in the passages preserved by Clement, but both the German and the English apologist join in relying upon the testimony of Hippolytus, [336:7] with regard to the use of the Gospels by Valentinus, although it must be admitted that the former does so with greater fairness of treatment than Dr. Westcott. Tischendorf does refer to, and admit, some of the difficulties of the case, as we shall presently see, whilst Dr. Westcott, as in the case of Basilides, boldly makes his assertion, and totally ignores all adverse facts. The only Gospel reference which can be adduced even in the Philosophumena, exclusive of one asserted to be to the fourth Gospel, which will be separately considered hereafter, is advanced by Dr. Westcott, for Tischendorf does not refer to it. The passage is the same as one also imputed to Basilides: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee"; which happens to agree with the words in Luke 1:35; but, as we have seen in connection with Justin, there is good reason for concluding that the narrative to which it belongs was contained in other Gospels. In this instance, however, the quotation is carried further and presents an important variation from the text of Luke. "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore the thing begotten of thee shall be called holy", [337:1] (dio to gennômenon ek sou hagion klêthêsetai). The reading of Luke is: "Therefore also the holy thing begotten shall be called the Son of God" (dio kai to gennômenon hagion klêthêsetai uios Theou). It is probable that the passage referred to in connection with the followers of Basilides may have ended in the same way as this, and been derived from the same source. Nothing can be clearer than the fact that this quotation is not taken from our third Synoptic, inasmuch as there does not exist a single MS. which contains such a passage.

We again come to the question: Who really made the quotations which Hippolytus introduces so indefinitely? We have already, in speaking of Basilides, pointed out the loose manner in which Hippolytus and other early writers, in dealing with different schools of heretics, indifferently quote the founder or his followers without indicating the precise person referred to. This practice is particularly apparent in the work of Hippolytus when the followers of Valentinus are in question. Tischendorf himself is obliged to admit this. He asks: "Even though it be also incontestable that the author (Hippolytus) does not always sharply distinguish between the sect and the founder of the sect, does this apply to the present case?" [337:2] He denies that it does in the instance to which he refers, but he admits the general fact. In the same way, another apologist, speaking of the fourth Gospel (and, as the use of that Gospel is maintained in consequence of a quotation in the very same chapter as we are now considering, only a few lines higher up, both the third and fourth are in the same position) is forced to admit: "The use of the Gospel of John by Valentinus cannot so certainly be proved from our refutation-writing (the work of Hippolytus). Certainly, in the statement of these doctrines it gives abstracts, which contain an expression of John (10:8), and there cannot be any doubt that this is taken from some writing of the sect. But the apologist, in his expressions regarding the Valentinian doctrines, does not seem to confine himself to one and the same work, but to have alternately made use of different writings of the school, for which reason we cannot say anything as to the age of this quotation; and from this testimony, therefore, we merely have further confirmation that the Gospel was early (?) [338:1] used in the School of the Valentinians," [338:2] etc. Of all this not a word from Dr. Westcott, who adheres to his system of bare assertion.

Now, we have already quoted [338:3] the opening sentence of Book 6:35 of the work ascribed to Hippolytus, in which the quotation from John 10:8, referred to above, occurs; and ten lines further on, with another intermediate, and equally indefinite, "he says" (phasi), occurs the supposed quotation from Luke 1:35, which, equally with that from the fourth Gospel, must, according to Weizsäcker, be abandoned as a quotation which can fairly be ascribed to Valentinus himself, whose name is not once mentioned in the whole chapter. A few lines below the quotation, however, a passage occurs which throws much light upon the question. After explaining the views of the Valentinians regarding the verse, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee," etc., the writer thus proceeds: "Regarding this there is among them (autois) a great question, a cause both of schism and dissension. And hence their (autôn) teaching has become divided, and the one teaching, according to them (kat' autous), is called Eastern (anatolikê), and the other Italian. They from Italy, of whom is Heracleon and Ptolemaeus, say (phasi) that the body of Jesus was animal, and, on account of this, on the occasion of the baptism, the Holy Spirit, like a dove, came down -- that is, the Logos from the Mother above, Sophia -- and became joined to the animal, and raised him from the dead. This, he says (phasi), is the declaration (to eirêmenon)" -- and here, be it observed, we come to another of the "clear references" which Dr. Westcott ventures, deliberately and without a word of doubt, to attribute to Valentinus himself [338:4] -- "This, he says, is the declaration: 'He who raised Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies,' [339:1] that is animal. For the earth has come under a curse: 'For dust, he says (phasi), thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.' [339:2] On the other hand, those from the East (oi d' au apo tês anatolês), of whom is Axionicus and Bardesanes, say (legousin) that the body of the Saviour was spiritual, for the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, that is the Sophia and the power of the Highest," [339:3] etc.

In this passage we have a good illustration of the mode in which the writer introduces his quotations with the subjectless "he says." Here he is conveying the divergent opinions of the two parties of Valentinians, and explaining the peculiar doctrines of the Italian school "of whom is Heracleon and Ptolemaeus," and he suddenly departs from the plural "they" to quote the passage from Romans 8:11, in support of their views, with the singular "he says." Nothing can be more obvious than that "he" cannot possibly be Valentinus himself, for the schism is represented as taking place amongst his followers, and the quotation is evidently made by one of them to support the views of his party in the schism; but whether Hippolytus is quoting from Heracleon or Ptolemaeus, or some other of the Italian [339:4] school, there is no means of knowing. Of all this, again, nothing is said by Dr. Westcott, who quietly asserts, without hesitation or argument, that Valentinus himself is the person who here makes the quotation.

We have already. said that the name of Valentinus does not occur once in the whole chapter (6:35) which we have been examining and, if we turn back, we find that the preceding context confirms the result at which we have arrived, that the phêsi has no reference to the Founder himself, but is applicable only to some later member of his school, most probably contemporary with Hippolytus. In 6:21, Hippolytus discusses the heresy of Valentinus, which he traces to Pythagoras and Plato; but in ch. 29 he passes from direct reference to the Founder to deal entirely with his school. This is so manifest that the learned editors of the work of Hippolytus, Professors Duncker and Schneidewin, alter the preceding heading at that part from "Valentinus" to, "Valentiniani." At the beginning of ch. 29 Hippolytus writes: "Valentinus, therefore, and Heracleon and Ptolemaeus and the whole school of these (heretics) ... have laid down, as the fundamental principle of their teaching, the arithmetical system. For, according to these," etc. And a few lines lower down, "There is discernible amongst them, however, considerable difference of opinion. For many of them, in order that the Pythagorean doctrine of Valentinus may be wholly pure, suppose, etc., but others," etc. He shortly after says that he will proceed to state their doctrines as they themselves teach them (mnêmoneusantes hôs ekeinoi didaskousin eroumen). He then continues: "There is, he says (phêsi)," etc., quoting evidently one of these followers who want to keep the doctrine of Valentinus pure, or of the "others," although without naming him, and three lines further on again, without any preparation, returning to the plural "they say" (legousin), and so on through the following chapters, "he says" alternating with the plural, as the author apparently has in view something said by individuals, or merely expresses general views. In the chapter (34) preceding that which we have principally been examining, Hippolytus begins by referring to "the Quaternion according to Valentinus"; but after five lines on it he continues: "This is what they say: tauta estin ha legousin," [340:1] and then goes on to speak of "their whole teaching" (tên pasan autôn didaskalian), and lower down he distinctly sets himself to discuss the opinions of the school in the plural: "Thus these (Valentinians) subdivide the contents of the Pleroma," etc. (outôs outoi, k.t.l.), and continues, with an occasional "according to them" (kat' autous), until, without any name being mentioned, he makes use of the indefinite "he says" to introduce the quotation referred to by Dr. Westcott as a citation by Valentinus. himself of "the Epistle to the Ephesians as Scripture." [340:2] "This is, he says, what is written in Scripture," and there follows a quotation which, it may merely be mentioned, as Dr. Westcott says nothing of it, differs considerably from the passage in the Epistle 3:14-18. Immediately after, another of Dr. Westcott's quotations from 1 Cor. 2:14 is given, with the same indefinite "he says," and, in the same way, without further mention of names, the quotations in ch. 35 compared with John 10:8 and Luke 1:35.There is, therefore, absolutely no ground for referring the phêsi to Valentinus himself; but, on the contrary, Hippolytus shows, in the clearest way, that he is discussing the views of the later writers of the sect, and it is one of these, and not the Founder himself, whom he thus quotes.

We have been forced by these bald and unsupported assertions of apologists to go at such length into these questions, at the risk of being very wearisome to our readers; but it has been our aim as much as possible to make no statements without placing before those who are interested the materials for forming an intelligent opinion. Any other course would be to meet such assertion by mere denial, and it is only by bold and unsubstantiated statements, which have been simply and in good faith accepted by ordinary readers who have not the opportunity, if they have even the will, to test their veracity, that apologists have so long held their ground. Our results regarding Valentinus so far may be stated as follows: the quotations which are so positively imputed to Valentinus are not made by him, but by later writers of his school; and, moreover, the passages which are indicated by the English apologist as references to our two synoptic Gospels not only do not emanate from Valentinus, but do not agree with our Gospels, and are apparently derived from other sources.

The remarks of Dr. Westcott with regard to the connection of Valentinus with our New Testament are on a par with the rest of his assertions. He says: "There is no reason to suppose that Valentinus differed from Catholic writers on the Canon of the New Testament." [341:1] We might ironically adopt this sentence, for as no writer of the time of Valentinus recognised any New Testament Canon at all, he certainly did not in this respect differ from the other writers of that period. Dr. Westcott relies upon the statement of Tertullian, but even here, although he quotes the Latin passage in a note, he does not fully give its real sense in his text. He writes in immediate continuation of the quotation given above: "Tertullian says that in this he differed from Marcion, that he at least professed to accept 'the whole instrument,' perverting the interpretation, where Marcion mutilated the text." Now, the assertion of Tertullian has a very important modification, which, to anyone acquainted with the very unscrupulous boldness of the "Great African" in dealing with religious controversy, is extremely significant. He does not make the assertion positively and of his own knowledge, but modifies it by saying: "Nor, indeed, if Valentinus seems to use the whole instrument (neque enim si Valentinus integro instrumento uti videtur),"  [341:2] etc. Tertullian evidently knew very little of Valentinus himself, and had probably not read his writings at all. His treatise against the Valentinians is avowedly not original, but, as he himself admits, is compiled from the writings of Justin, Miltiades, Irenaeus, and Proclus. [341:3] Tertullian would not have hesitated to affirm anything of this kind positively, had there been any ground for it; but his assertion is at once too uncertain, and the value of his statements of this nature much too small, for such a remark to have any weight as evidence. Besides, by his own showing, Valentinus altered Scripture (sine dubio emendans), [342:1] which he could not have done had he recognised it as of canonical authority. We cannot, however, place any reliance upon criticism emanating from Tertullian.

All that Origen seems to know on this subject is that the followers of Valentinus (tous apo Oualentinou) have altered the form of the Gospel (metacharaxantes to euangelion). [342:2] Clement of Alexandria, however, informs us that Valentinus, like Basilides, professed to have direct traditions from the Apostles, his teacher being Theodas, a disciple of the Apostle Paul. [342:3] If he had known any Gospels which he believed to have apostolic authority, there would clearly not have been any need of such tradition. Hippolytus distinctly affirms that Valentinus derived his system from Pythagoras and Plato, and "not from the Gospels" (ouk apo tôn euangeliôn), and that consequently he might more properly be considered a Pythagorean and Platonist than a Christian. [342:4] Irenaeus, in like manner, asserts that the Valentinians derive their views from unwritten sources (ex agraphôn anaginôskontes), [342:5] and he accuses them of rejecting the Gospels, for, after enumerating them, [342:6] he continues: "When, indeed, they are refuted out of the Scriptures, they turn round in accusation of these same Scriptures, as though they were not correct, nor of authority ... For (they say) that it (the truth) was not conveyed by written records, but by the living voice." [342:7] In the same chapter he goes on to show that the Valentinians not only reject the authority of Scripture, but also reject ecclesiastical tradition. He says: "But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which is from the Apostles, which has been preserved through a succession of Presbyters in the Churches, they are opposed to tradition, affirming themselves wiser not only than Presbyters, but even than the Apostles, in that they have discovered the uncorrupted truth. For (they say) the Apostles mixed up matters which are of the law with the words of the Saviour, etc … It comes to this, they neither consent to Scripture nor to tradition. (Evenit itaque, neque Scripturis jam, neque Traditioni consentire eos.)" [342:8] We find, therefore, that even in the time of Irenaeus the Valentinians rejected the writings of the New Testament as authoritative documents, which they certainly would not have done had the Founder of their sect himself acknowledged them. So far from this being the case, there was absolutely no New Testament Canon for Valentinus himself to deal with, and his perfectly orthodox contemporaries recognised no other Holy Scriptures than those of the Old Testament.

Irenaeus goes still further, and states that the Valentinians of his time not only had many Gospels, but that they possessed one peculiar to themselves. "Those indeed who are followers of Valentinus," he says, "again passing beyond all fear, and putting forth their own compositions, boast that they have more Gospels than there actually are. Indeed, they have proceeded so far in audacity that they entitle their not long written work, agreeing in nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, the Gospel of Truth, so that there cannot be any Gospel among them without blasphemy." [343:1] It follows clearly, from the very name of the Valentinian Gospel, that they did not consider that others contained the truth, and indeed Irenaeus himself perceived this, for he continues: "For if what is published by them be the Gospel of Truth, yet is dissimilar from those which have been delivered to us by the Apostles, any may perceive who please, as is demonstrated by these very Scriptures, that that which has been handed down from the Apostles is not the Gospel of Truth." [343:2] These passages speak for themselves. It has been suggested that the "Gospel of Truth" was a harmony of the four Gospels. [343:3] This cannot by any possibility have been the case, inasmuch as Irenaeus distinctly says that it did not agree in anything with the Gospels of the Apostles. We have been compelled to devote too much space to Valentinus, and we now leave him with the certainty that in nothing does he afford any evidence even of the existence of our synoptic Gospels.

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