Christianity / Orientations / Heresy /
Other spelling: Valentinism
Valentianism would become a very popular and influential orientation, surviving as a strong group into the 4th century, while a few scattered and isolated groups existed still in the 5th century. Its success is well illustrated by the extensive material that still exists from both its supporters and opponents.
Valentinius, its founder, was probably born in Lower Egypt, but very little is known of him, except that he received a Greek education in Alexandria. It was here that he became a Christian, in a variant strongly influenced by Gnosticism.
Only fragments of Valentinius' writings have survived, but some writings of other Valentinian authors have in complete versions. The most noteworthy are The Gospel of Philip and the Letter to Rheginos. Most likely, also the Tripartite Tractate is a Valentinian scripture.
The doctrines that Valentinius developed were clearly Gnostic, and he derived his secret teachings partly from the letters of St. Paul and the Gospel of John, but also from extra-Biblical scriptures from Gnostic writers.
Valentianism was typically Gnostic in its teachings of a fall in Creation, and the ultimate redemption of Sophia. Valentianism taught that there was a pre-existent perfect and ultimate aeon in the invisible heights. The universe concept of Pleroma was by Valentianism defined to hold 30 aeons, forming 15 pairs. 8 pairs form a leading ogdoad, consisting of aeons like "primal depth", "thought", "silence", "word", "life" and "church". From this arise "wisdom", Sophia, and from Sophia comes "Christ" and "Holy Spirit".
According to the typical Gnostic world view, the world was a trap for Sophia. Christ's crucifixion was the central sacrifice aiming at the redemption of Sophia. The ultimate goal of Valentianism was the end of the world. This would come about when all spiritual material had been perfected through knowledge. Man's contribution to this was to help detach his own spirit from the soul, allowing it to become united with the spiritual heavenly mother.
Valentianism strongly promoted the idea that man himself had the ability to deduct the ultimate truth by his own efforts. Still, the human heart was the abode of evil spirits preventing us from becoming pure.
Interestingly, as part of its theology Valentianism defines 3 Christ figures or dimensions, while typical Christian conflicts had been over Christ's two natures. In Valentianism he has a spiritual, a psychic and a bodily figure.
Several of the ceremonies of the Valentinians were unique, and could only be attended by initiates. The most important ritual among the Valentinians was the spiritual marriage, in which a mystic rite was performed inside a newly prepared bridal chamber.
Valentianism is closely linked to Docetism, another variation of Gnostic Christianity. There is also strong but superficial similarities to Pelagianism. An offshoot of Valentianism would be Marcionism.