Geoffrey Smith Valentinicates Further

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In a fascinating extension of our interview, Geoffrey Smith and your host discuss a number of Valentinian topics, including:

  • The importance of Irenæus’ Against the Heresies for the drawing of battle-lines in the struggles for second-century Christian identity, including Valentinian identity,
  • The helpfulness of using Justin’s circle at Rome (second-century Christian intellectuals about whom we know quite a bit) for trying to model what Valentinius’ circle at Rome (about whom we know tragically little) might have been like,
  • The elements of esotericism found in early Christianity across the board,
  • The question of whether highly apophatic approaches to god might be a defining feature of early marginalised Christianities, setting them apart to some degree from what was developing into Orthodoxy in the period,
  • The ways in which the cultural and educational institutions of Hellenism are used and abused in the second-century debates over what ‘proper’ Christianity should look like,
  • Two important texts with Valentinian characteristics – the Gospel of Philip from Nag-Hammadi and the Excerpts of Theodotus, a Greek text traveling among the works of Clement of Alexandria – which may have more to teach us about Valentinianism,
  • Another text, the Commentary on the Prologue of John, surviving in a citation by Irenæus, which may be the earliest New Testament commentary which we have from antiquity. This work, possibly by Valentinus’ student Ptolemy, is a reading of John’s prologue which makes the entire text into a metaphysical treatise, with the nouns (‘beginning’, ‘logos’, etc. etc.) as actors in a universal metaphysical drama,
  • And finally, some reflections on the Nachleben of Valentinus and his school in the thought of the Eranos group, Quispel and Jung in particular.

Works Cited in this Episode:

Primary:

  • Flavia Sophê inscription: A Valentinian tombstone from Rome, CIG 4.9595a – see the photograph in the notes for the last episode.
  • Bathhouse inscription: NCE 156 (see image right).
  • Justin Martyr: Justin’s Apology gives us precious data about what a second-century Christian church-service at Rome looked like. The Martyrdom-Account of Justin (which can be found at P.G. VI, 1565-72) describes Justin’s study-circle, which met above the Baths of Martinus. The ‘Dialogue’ mentioned is Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, an important Christian apologetic work which attacks the theology Justin associates with Valentinus.
  • The Gospel of Philip (NHC II): Not really a gospel, and not really much to do with Philip. It is a collection of passages, known from the Nag-Hammadi Coptic library, with Valentinian traits.
  • Excerpts of Theodotus: As we mentioned last time, this mysterious text will return to the podcast when we discuss the angelology of Clement of Alexandria.

Secondary:

  • Recent article shewing that the bridal-chamber motif was a traditional norm in funerary inscriptions: H. Gregory Snyder. ‘A Second-Century Christian Inscription from the Via Latina’ Journal of Early Christian Studies, 19(2):157–95, 2011.
  • Ismo Dunderberg. Beyond Gnosticism: Myth, Lifestyle, and Society in the School of Valentinus. Columbia University Press, New York, NY, 2008.
  • Hal Taussig. A New New Testament: A Bible for the Twenty-First Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA/New York, NY, 2013.