Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume I/IRENAEUS/Against Heresies: Book II/Chapter XII.
Chapter XII.—The Triacontad of the heretics errs both by defect and excess: Sophia could never have produced anything apart from her consort; Logos and Sige could not have been contemporaries.
1. We may remark, in the first place, regarding their Triacontad, that the whole of it marvellously falls to ruin on both sides, that is, both as respects defect and excess. They say that to indicate it the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years. But this assertion really amounts to a manifest subversion of their entire argument. As to defect, this happens as follows: first of all, because they reckon the Propator among the other Æons. For the Father of all ought not to be counted with other productions; He who was not produced with that which was produced; He who was unbegotten with that which was born; He whom no one comprehends with that which is comprehended by Him, and who is on this account [Himself] incomprehensible; and He who is without figure with that which has a definite shape. For inasmuch as He is superior to the rest, He ought not to be numbered with them, and that so that He who is impassible and not in error should be reckoned with an Æon subject to passion, and actually in error. For I have shown in the book which immediately precedes this, that, beginning with Bythus, they reckon up the Triacontad to Sophia, whom they describe as the erring Æon; and I have also there set forth the names of their [Æons]; but if He be not reckoned, there are no longer, on their own showing, thirty productions of Æons, but these then become only twenty-nine.
2. Next, with respect to the first production Ennœa, whom they also term Sige, from whom again they describe Nous and Aletheia as having been sent forth, they err in both particulars. For it is impossible that the thought (Ennœa) of any one, or his silence (Sige), should be understood apart from himself; and that, being sent forth beyond him, it should possess a special figure of its own. But if they assert that the (Ennœa) was not sent forth beyond Him, but continued one with the Propator, why then do they reckon her with the other Æons —with those who were not one [with the Father], and are on this account ignorant of His greatness? If, however, she was so united (let us take this also into consideration), there is then an absolute necessity, that from this united and inseparable conjunction, which constitutes but one being, there should proceed an unseparated and united production, so that it should not be dissimilar to Him who sent it forth. But if this be so, then just as Bythus and Sige, so also Nous and Aletheia will form one and the same being, ever cleaving mutually together. And inasmuch as the one cannot be conceived of without the other, just as water cannot [be conceived of] without [the thought of] moisture, or fire without [the thought of] heat, or a stone without [the thought] of hardness (for these things are mutually bound together, and the one cannot be separated from the other, but always co-exists with it), so it behoves Bythus to be united in the same way with Ennœa, and Nous with Aletheia. Logos and Zoe again, as being sent forth by those that are thus united, ought themselves to be united, and to constitute only one being. But, according to such a process of reasoning, Homo and Ecclesia too, and indeed all the remaining conjunctions of the Æons produced, ought to be united, and always to co-exist, the one with the other. For there is a necessity in their opinion, that a female Æon should exist side by side with a male one, inasmuch as she is, so to speak, [the forthputting of] his affection.
3. These things being so, and such opinions being proclaimed by them, they again venture, without a blush, to teach that the younger Æon of the Duodecad, whom they also style Sophia, did, apart from union with her consort, whom they call Theletus, endure passion, and separately, without any assistance from him, gave birth to a production which they name “a female from a female.” They thus rush into such utter frenzy, as to form two most clearly opposite opinions respecting the same point. For if
Bythus is ever one with Sige, Nous with Aletheia, Logos with Zoe, and so on, as respects the rest, how could Sophia, without union with her consort, either suffer or generate anything? And if, again, she did really suffer passion apart from him, it necessarily follows that the other conjunctions also admit of disjunction and separation among themselves,—a thing which I have already shown to be impossible. It is also impossible, therefore, that Sophia suffered passion apart from Theletus; and thus, again, their whole system of argument is overthrown. For they have yet again derived the whole of remaining [material substance], like the composition of a tragedy, from that passion which they affirm she experienced apart from union with her consort.
4. If, however, they impudently maintain, in order to preserve from ruin their vain imaginations, that the rest of the conjunctions also were disjoined and separated from one another on account of this latest conjunction, then [I reply that], in the first place, they rest upon a thing which is impossible. For how can they separate the Propator from his Ennœa, or Nous from Aletheia, or Logos from Zoe, and so on with the rest? And how can they themselves maintain that they tend again to unity, and are, in fact, all at one, if indeed these very conjunctions, which are within the Pleroma, do not preserve unity, but are separate from one another; and that to such a degree, that they both endure passion and perform the work of generation without union one with another, just as hens do apart from intercourse with cocks.
5. Then, again, their first and first-begotten Ogdoad will be overthrown as follows: They must admit that Bythus and Sige, Nous and Aletheia, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia, do individually dwell in the same Pleroma. But it is impossible that Sige (silence) can exist in the presence of Logos (speech), or again, that Logos can manifest himself in the presence of Sige. For these are mutually destructive of each other, even as light and darkness can by no possibility exist in the same place: for if light prevails, there cannot be darkness; and if darkness, there cannot be light, since, where light appears, darkness is put to flight. In like manner, where Sige is, there cannot be Logos; and where Logos is, there certainly cannot be Sige. But if they say that Logos simply exists within (unexpressed), Sige also will exist within, and will not the less be destroyed by the Logos within. But that he really is not merely conceived of in the mind, the very order of the production of their (Æons) shows.
6. Let them not then declare that the first and principal Ogdoad consists of Logos and Sige, but let them [as a matter of necessity] exclude either Sige or Logos; and then their first and principal Ogdoad is at an end. For if they describe the conjunctions [of the Æons] as united, then their whole argument fails to pieces. Since, if they were united, how could Sophia have generated a defect without union with her consort? If, on the other hand, they maintain that, as in production, each of the Æons possesses his own peculiar substance, then how can Sige and Logos manifest themselves in the same place? So far, then, with respect to defect.
7. But again, their Triacontad is overthrown as to excess by the following considerations. They represent Horos (whom they call by a variety of names which I have mentioned in the preceding book) as having been produced by Monogenes just like the other Æons. Some of them maintain that this Horos was produced by Monogenes, while others affirm that he was sent forth by the Propator himself in His own image. They affirm further, that a production was formed by Monogenes— Christ and the Holy Spirit; and they do not reckon these in the number of the Pleroma, nor the Saviour either, whom they also declare to be Totum (all things). Now, it is evident even to a blind man, that not merely thirty productions, as they maintain, were sent forth, but four more along with these thirty. For they reckon the Propator himself in the Pleroma, and those too, who in succession were produced by one another. Why is it, then, that those [other beings] are not reckoned as existing with these in the same Pleroma, since they were produced in the same manner? For what just reason can they assign for not reckoning along with the other Æons, either Christ, whom they describe as having, according to the Father’s will, been produced by Monogenes, or the Holy Spirit, or Horos, whom they also call Soter (Saviour), and not even the Saviour Himself, who came to impart assistance and form to their Mother? Whether is this as if these latter were weaker than the former, and therefore unworthy of the name of Æons, or of being numbered among them, or as if they were superior and more excellent? But how could they be weaker, since they were produced for the establishment and rectification of the others? And then, again, they cannot possibly be superior to the first and principal Tetrad, by which they were also produced; for it, too, is reckoned in the number above mentioned.
These latter beings, then, ought also to have been numbered in the Pleroma of the Æons, or that should be deprived of the honour of those Æons which bear this appellation (the Tetrad).
8. Since, therefore, their Triacontad is thus brought to nought, as I have shown, both with respect to defect and excess (for in dealing with such a number, either excess or defect [to any extent] will render the number untenable, and how much more so great variations?), it follows that what they maintain respecting their Ogdoad and Duodecad is a mere fable which cannot stand. Their whole system, moreover, falls to the ground, when their very foundation is destroyed and dissolved into Bythus, that is, into what has no existence. Let them, then, henceforth seek to set forth some other reasons why the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years, and [explain in some other way] the Duodecad of the apostles; and [the fact stated regarding] her who suffered from an issue of blood; and all the other points respecting which they so madly labour in vain.
- The text vacillates between “dicemus” and “dicamus.”
- This sentence is confused in the Latin text, but the meaning is evidently that given above.
- It is difficult to see the meaning of “iterum” here. Harvey begins a new paragraph with this sentence.
- ἐνδιάθετος —simply conceived in the mind—used in opposition to προφορικός, expressed.
- Harvey remarks that “the author perhaps wrote Ορον (Horos), which was read by the translator ῞Ολον (totum).”
- Since Soter does not occur among the various appellations of Horos mentioned by Irenæus (i. 11, 4), Grabe proposes to read Stauros, and Massuet Lytrotes; but Harvey conceives that the difficulty is explained by the fact that Horos was a power of Soter (i. 3, 3).
- Irenæus here, after his custom, plays upon the word Bythus (profundity), which, in the phraseology of the Valentinians, was a name of the Propator, but is in this passage used to denote an unfathomable abyss.