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The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 3x3
world, yet started from a Christian base and that frorn the
beginning to the end they assigned a fundamental and central
place to the person of Jesus Christ. They were heretics, but
they were emphatically Christian heretics.
The writings of the early Church Fathers Irenaeus, Tertullian,
Clement, Origen leave us in no doubt as to the widespread
influence of the teaching of Valentinus and his disciples through-
out the Church. His doctrine is known to us directly from a
small number of fragmentary quotations and indirectly, but in
a more complete form, from the full accounts of his ecclesiastical
antagonists, especially Irenaeus. Briefly it may be said that
Valentinus interpreted the world of ordinary human experience
as the consequence of a Fall. Sophia, Wisdom, the youngest
of the thirty Aeons who constitute the Pleroma or totality of
spiritual existence, conceived a passion for direct knowledge of
the Supreme Father—a knowledge reserved for Nov$ Mind,
Novs being one of the pair of Aeons which issued directly from
the primal pair. Though Sophia herself was induced by Horos
("Opo?), 'Bound' or 'limitation', to abandon her design, that
design itself when banished from her mind achieved a quasi-
personal existence of its own and somehow imparted the prin-
ciple of life to matter. Thus it came about that in man there
resides a spiritual seed. To redeem this spiritual seed and to with-
draw it from its material environment to its spiritual home, the
Christ came down in a body of spirit to visit mankind. Now
the Christ exercises a kind of redemptive function even within
the Pleroma, for He is one of a final pair of Aeons who had come
into being to prevent any further disorder in the Pleroma such
as the initial passion of Sophia had originated. This same Christ
visits the human race, which, as we have seen, has issued from
Sophia's illicit thought, and recovers from out of it such as are
capable of salvation.
The Gnostic systems, so difficult for us to appreciate, exer-
cised an intense attractive power upon many minds, and they