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Writings of the Valentinian School
(I would like to acknowledge the work of Gnosis Archive and Terje Bergersen for
making most of these works available on-line.)
Valentinian writings can be divided into two broad groups:
- Exoteric writings: These were works which were intended for wide circulation and
served to attract new students to the school.
- Esoteric writings: These were intended only for initiates into the school. Such
works describe Valentinian speculation in full detail.
Many of the surviving writings of the Valentinian school are available on-line, including:
Writings whose author is known
Writings under the name of a Biblical figure
Writings which may have Valentinian affinities
Non-Valentinian writings used by the schoool
- Gospel of Truth. A meditation
on the Gospel. It offers a demythologized version of his teaching and is intended for wide
circulation. Some scholars question whether the work is by Valentinus.
- Psalms. Only one psalm entitled Summer Harvest survives.
- Epistle to Agathopous. Only a single fragment survives. The work seems to have
dealt with Christology.
- Epistle on Attachments. Only a single fragment survives. The work seem to deal
with the role of Christ in the salvation of the individual.
- On Friends. Only a single fragment survives.
- On the Three Natures. This work on the Trinity is lost.
- Sophia. This esoteric work is lost.
- Letter to Flora. A description of the
position of the school on the Law of Moses. It was widely circulated with the intention of
attracting people to the school.
- A Doctrinal Treatise. This work is quoted in Irenaeus Against Heresies. This is an esoteric work for full members
of the school and for instructional purposes.
- Commentary on the Prologue of John. An
esoteric commentary aimed at full-fledged members of the school.
- Commentary on John. Herakleon (or, Heracleon) was the author of
the first commentary on the Gospel of John. It was intended for public circulation and did
much to enhance the reputation of the school.
- Writings on Numerology These writings are preserved in Irenaeus Against Heresies These writings were intended only for full
members of the school and may be quite confusing for modern readers.
- On the Eight. This esoteric work does not survive.
- On the Images of the Law. This work does not survive.
Anonymous Valentinian Writings
- Anonymous Roman School Treatise. It is preserved in Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies This is an esoteric work which
is sometimes attributed to Herakleon.
- Anonymous Doctrinal Epistle. This work is preserved in Epiphanius Panarion. The
text of second half of the work is badly corrupted.
- Treatise on the Resurrection.This
is a work intended for public circulation. It is sometimes attributed to Valentinus.
- A Valentinian Exposition. The
text of this esoteric work is badly damaged. It is sometimes attributed to Herakleon. The
following liturgical materials are appended to it:
On the Annointing
On Baptism A
On Baptism B
On the Eucharist A
On the Eucharist B
- The Interpretation of Knowledge. This was a publicly circulated work describing the Valentian theory of the Church. The
text is in poor condition.
- Tripartite Tractate. An
esoteric work sometimes incorrectly attributed to Herakleon.
- The Exegesis on the Soul. This
is a publicly circulated work in which the suffering of the ignorant soul is described in
terms very similar to the suffering of Sophia.
- A Valentinian Liturgy. Excerpts from a bilingual Greek-Aramaic liturgy are
preserved in Irenaeus. This liturgy likely originates in Syria. It is often attributed to
the teacher Marcus.
- Commentary on Romans. Fragments from this work are preserved by Origen. It may
have been written by by Herakleon.
- A hymn to Sophia. A fragmentary hymn in Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2074.
- A post-initiation hymn Preserved in Papyrus Berlin 8299.
Valentinian Writings Under the Name of a Biblical Figure
- Acts of John This is a collection of
legends about the apostle compiled by Leucius. It includes several prayers and a
description of the crucifixion which are generally regarded as being of Valentinian
- The Gospel of Philip This is an
anthology of Syrian Valentinian sources. The title is secondary and seems to result from
the fact that Philip is the only apostle mentioned by name in the collection.
- First Apocalypse of James This
work descibes pre and post resurrection conversations between Jesus and his brother James.
It includes excerpts from the Valentinian liturgy known to Irenaeus.
- Second Apocalypse of James This
work describes the martyrdom of James. The work is generally seen as Valentinian in
- Letter of Peter to Philip A
possibly authentic apostolic letter with an apocalypse appended to it. The work concerns
post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to the apostles in the form of a bright light.
- Prayer of the Apostle Paul This
is not a prayer attributed to Paul but rather a prayer which invokes his authority.
Valentinians saw Paul as the ultimate founder of their school.
Writings Which May Have Valentinian Affinities
- The Apocryphon of James This
describes the final conversation Jesus has with James and Peter before he ascends to
heaven. Scholars are sharply divided as to whether this work is Valentinian or Jewish
Christian in origin.
- Authoritative Teaching This
work is similar to the Exegesis on the Soul. It uses a series of metaphors to describe the
condition of the soul. The teaching is consistent with a Valentinian origin.
- Apocalypse of Peter This work
describes conversations and visions revealed by Jesus to Peter. The explicit criticism of
Catholicism indicates a relatively late date. The descriptions of the crucifixion resemble
those in the Acts of John.
- Gospel of Mary This work describes
a revelation by the risen Christ to Mary Magdalen. The teaching is consistent with
- The Psalm of Christ This psalm is sometimes
attributed to Valentinus. Its use by "Naasenes" does not rule out a Valentinian
origin. The description of the suffering of the fallen soul in this psalm closely
resembles Valentinian description of the suffering of Sophia.
- The "Naasene" Preaching This work is preserved in Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies. The so-called Naasene
Preaching makes use of both Christian and pagan sources to support Gnostic Christian
views. The work is written in such a way as to obscure the underlying system. The origin
of the work is problematical. Despite what Hippolytus says, the work does not seem to be
of Naasene origin. Naas (the serpent) is not even mentioned. Some scholars regard it as
Valentinian in character. References to the Thomas literature and apocalypses of James
seem to suggest that it was written in Syria.
- The Teachings of Silvanus This
work is Christian wisdom literature. It contains some strong echoes of Valentinian
- Acts of Thomas Of all of the Thomas
literature, this work shows the greatest influence of Valentinian ideas. The Wedding Hymn
(6-7) seems to assume a myth of Sophia which is absent in other Thomas writings. One
passage describes receiving knowledge of "who I was and who and how I am now, that I
may become again what I was"(15). The resemblance to Theodotus' famous description of
gnosis is clear: "who we are, what we have become...whither are we hastening".
- The Dialogue of the Savior A
highly fragmentary dialog between Jesus and his disciples.
- Thunder: Perfect Mind A hymn in
the form of a monologue by a female divine figure who can be identified as Sophia. Much of
the work consists of paradoxical statements such as "I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin. I am and the daughter." The work seems to assume a
distinction between a lower and higher Sophia similar to that in Valentinian thought.
- The Odes of Solomon Scholars are divided as to
whether this collection of hymns is Valentinian or Jewish Christian in origin. Some
scholars attribute these odes to Valentinus himself.
Non-Valentinian Writings Used by the School
- The Gospel of Thomas A
collection of sayings of Jesus which was widely circulated in Syria and Egypt. Valentinus,
Theodotus, Ptolemy and Herakleon seem to have been familiar with many of these sayings in
- Gospel of the Egyptians This work seems to have been a sayings gospel similar to
the Gospel of Thomas. It was used by Egyptian Christians including Valentinians in the
second and third century. Apart from a few fragments, this work is now lost.
- Proclamation of Peter This was a pseudonymous Christian apologetic work which was
widely circulated in the second century. It was used by Herakleon in his Commentary on the
Gospel of John. Several excerpts from this work survive.
- The Infancy Gospel of Thomas This is
a collection of legends about the childhood of Jesus. It was used by used by Marcus. The
work was a favorite of Catholics and survives virtually intact.
- Allogenes A Sethian
Gnostic work reputedly written by Mesos. It was used by Adelphius and Aquilinus. It occurs
bound together with seven Valentinian works in Nag Hamadi Codex XI.
- Apocalypse of Mesos A lost Sethian work used by Adelphius and Aquilinus. It may
have been similar in character to Allogenes which was also supposedly written by Mesos.
- Apocalypse of Nicotheus A lost work used by Roman Valentinians led by Adelphius
and Aquilinus. Nicotheus was widely revered as a prophet in Sethian, Valentinian and
- Zostrianus A Sethian work used by Adelphius and Aquilinus. It occurs together
with a Valentinian work in Codex VIII at Nag Hammadi.
- Apocalyse of Zoroaster A portion of this work survives in the long version of the
Apocryphon of John (NHC II 15:13-19:8). The surviving excerpt describes the various powers
responsible for the creation of different portions of Adam's body. It may not be Gnostic
in origin. It was used by Sethian authors of the Apocryphon of John as well as
Valentinians such as Adelphius, Aquilinus and Prodicus.
- PlatoThe writings of Plato were highly influential on Valentinus and his
Content authored by David Brons