Fragments of Ptolemy
Information on Ptolemy
Ptolemy the Gnostic, a heretic of the second century and personal disciple of Valentinus. He was probably still living about 180. No other certain details are known of his life; Harnack's suggestion that he was identical with the Ptolemy spoken of by St. Justin is as yet unproved (Text. u. Untersuch. New. Ser. XIII, Anal. z. ält. Gesch. d. Chr.). He was, with Heracleon, the principal writer of the Italian or Western school of Valentinian Gnosticism. His works have reached us in an incomplete form as follows:
(1) a fragment of an exegetical writing preserved by Irenæus (Adv. Hær., I, viii, 5);
(2) a letter to Flora, a Christian lady, not otherwise known to us.
This letter is found in the
works of Epiphanius (Hær. XXXIII, 3-7). It was written in response to Flora's
inquiry concerning the origin of the Law of the Old Testament. This law, Ptolemy
states, cannot be attributed to the Supreme God, nor to the devil; nor does it
proceed from one law-giver. A part of it is the work of an inferior god; the
second part is due to Moses, and the third to the elders of the Jewish people.
Three different sections are to be distinguished even in the part ascribed to
the inferior god:
(1) The absolutely pure legislation of the Decalogue which was not destroyed, but fulfilled by the Saviour;
(2) the laws mixed with evil, like the right of retaliation, which were abolished by the Saviour because they were incompatible with His nature;
(3) the section which is typical and symbolical of the higher world.
It includes such precepts as circumcision, fasting, and was raised by the Saviour from a sensible to a spiritual plane. The god who is the author of the law, in so far as it is not the product of human effort, is the demiurge who occupies a middle position between the Supreme God and the devil. He is the creator of the universe, is neither perfect, nor the author of evil, but ought to be called just. In his interpretation of the universe, Ptolemy resorted to a fantastic system of eons. Thirty of these, as he believes, rule the higher world, the pleroma. This system becomes the basis of a wild exegesis which discovers in the prologue of St. John's Gospel the first Ogdoad.
(courtesy of http://www.newadvent.org)
In the preface to his work, Irenaeus
states: "I intend, then, to the best of my ability, with brevity and clearness
to set forth the opinions of those who are now promulgating heresy. I refer
especially to the disciples of Ptolemaeus, whose school may be described as a
bud from that of Valentinus."
Here is Irenaeus in Against Heresies 1.8.5.
Further, they teach that John, the disciple of the Lord, indicated the first Ogdoad, expressing themselves in these words: John, the disciple of the Lord, wishing to set forth the origin of all things, so as to explain how the Father produced the whole, lays down a certain principle,-that, namely, which was first-begotten by God, which Being he has termed both the only-begotten Son and God, in whom the Father, after a seminal manner, brought forth all things. By him the Word was produced, and in him the whole substance of the Aeons, to which the Word himself afterwards imparted form. Since, therefore, he treats of the first origin of things, he rightly proceeds in his teaching from the beginning, that is, from God and the Word. And he expresses himself thus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God." [John 1:1-2] Having first of all distinguished these three-God, the Beginning, and the Word-he again unites them, that he may exhibit the production of each of them, that is, of the Son and of the Word, and may at the same time show their union with one another, and with the Father. For "the beginning" is in the Father, and of the Father, while "the Word" is in the beginning, and of the beginning. Very properly, then, did he say, "In the beginning was the Word," for He was in the Son; "and the Word was with God," for He was the beginning; "and the Word was God," of course, for that which is begotten of God is God. "The same was in the beginning with God"-this clause discloses the order of production. "All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made;" [John 1:3] for the Word was the author of form and beginning to all the Aeons that came into existence after Him. But "what was made in Him," says John, "is life." [John 1:3-4] Here again he indicated conjunction; for all things, he said, were made by Him, but in Him was life. This, then, which is in Him, is more closely connected with Him than those things which were simply made by Him, for it exists along with Him, and is developed by Him. When, again, he adds, "And the life was the light of men," while thus mentioning Anthropos, he indicated also Ecclesia by that one expression, in order that, by using only one name, he might disclose their fellowship with one another, in virtue of their conjunction. For Anthropos and Ecclesia spring from Logos and Zoe. Moreover, he styled life (Zoe) the light of men, because they are enlightened by her, that is, formed and made manifest. This also Paul declares in these words: "For whatsoever doth make manifest is light." [Eph. 5:13] Since, therefore, Zoe manifested and begat both Anthropos and Ecclesia, she is termed their light. Thus, then, did John by these words reveal both other things and the second Tetrad, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia. And still further, he also indicated the first Tetrad. For, in discoursing of the Saviour and declaring that all things beyond the Pleroma received form from Him, he says that He is the fruit of the entire Pleroma. For he styles Him a "light which shineth in darkness, and which was not comprehended" [John 1:5] by it, inasmuch as, when He imparted form to all those things which had their origin from passion, He was not known by it. He also styles Him Son, and Aletheia, and Zoe, and the "Word made flesh, whose glory," he says, "we beheld; and His glory was as that of the Only-begotten (given to Him by the Father), full of grace and truth." [compare John 1:14] (But what John really does say is this: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.") Thus, then, does he [according to them] distinctly set forth the first Tetrad, when he speaks of the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia. In this way, too, does John tell of the first Ogdoad, and that which is the mother of all the Aeons. For he mentions the Father, and Charis, and Monogenes, and Aletheia, and Logos, and Zoe, and Anthropos, and Ecclesia. Such are the views of Ptolemaeus.
Irenaeus also refers to the views of
Ptolemy in Against Heresies 1.12.
1. But the followers of Ptolemy say that he [Bythos] has two consorts, which they also name Diatheses (affections), viz., Ennoae and Thelesis. For, as they affirm, he first conceived the thought of producing something, and then willed to that effect. Wherefore, again, these two affections, or powers, Ennoea and Thelesis, having intercourse, as it were, between themselves, the production of Monogenes and Aletheia took place according to conjunction. These two came forth as types and images of the two affections of the Father,-visible representations of those that were invisible,-Nous (i.e., Monogenes) of Thelesis, and Aletheia of Ennoea, and accordingly the image resulting from Thelesis was masculine, while that from Ennoea was feminine. Thus Thelesis (will) became, as it were, a faculty of Enna (thought). For Ennoea continually yearned after offspring; but she could not of herself bring forth that which she desired. But when the power of Thelesis (the faculty of will) came upon her, then she brought forth that on which she had brooded. 2. These fancied beings (like the Jove of Homer, who is represented as passing an anxious sleepless night in devising plans for honouring Achilles and destroying numbers of the Greeks) will not appear to you, my dear friend, to be possessed of greater knowledge than He who is the God of the universe. He, as soon as He thinks, also performs what He has willed; and as soon as He wills, also thinks that which He has willed; then thinking when He wills, and then willing when He thinks, since He is all thought, [all will, all mind, all light, ]155 all eye, all ear, the one entire fountain of all good things. 3. Those of them, however, who are deemed more skilful than the persons who have just been mentioned, say that the first Ogdoad was not produced gradually, so that one Aeon was sent forth by another, but that all the Aeons were brought into existence at once by Propator and his Ennoea. He (Colorbasus) affirms this as confidently as if he had assisted at their birth.Accordingly, he and his followers maintain that Anthropos and Ecclesia were not produced, as others hold, from Logos and Zoe; but, on the contrary, Logos and Zoe from Anthropos and Ecclesia. But they express this in another form, as follows: When the Propator conceived the thought of producing something, he received the name of Father. But because what he did produce was true, it was named Aletheia. Again, when he wished to reveal himself, this was termed Anthropos. Finally, when he produced those whom he had previously thought of, these were named Ecclesia. Anthropos, by speaking, formed Logos: this is the first-born son. But Zoe followed upon Logos; and thus the first Ogdoad was completed. 4. They have much contention also among themselves respecting the Saviour. For some maintain that he was formed out of all; wherefore also he was called Eudocetos, because the whole Pleroma was well pleased through him to glorify the Father. But others assert that he was produced from those ten Aeons alone who sprung from Logos and Zoe, and that on this account he was called Logos and Zoe, thus preserving the ancestral names. Others, again, affirm that he had his being from those twelve Aeons who were the offspring of Anthropos and Ecclesia; and on this account he acknowledges himself the Son of man, as being a descendant of Anthropos. Others still, assert that he was produced by Christ and the Holy Spirit, who were brought forth for the security of the Pleroma; and that on this account he was called Christ, thus preserving the appellation of the Father, by whom he was produced. And there are yet others among them who declare that the Propator of the whole, Proarche, and Proanennoetos is called Anthropos; and that this is the great and abstruse mystery, namely, that the Power which is above all others, and contains all in his embrace, is termed Anthropos; hence does the Saviour style himself the "Son of man."
(courtesy of http://www.earlychristianwritings.com)