chapter  IX
22 Pages

Gnostics and Valentinians in the Church Fathers

ByMark Edwards

Professor Morton Smith, in a recent article, 1 has argued that the term ‘Gnostic’ is designedly employed by Irenaeus in a manner that precludes any fixed or precise determination of its meaning. Having accounted in this way for the fluctuations of modern usage, 2 he pronounces some harsh reflections upon the practice of Irenaeus:

I think it fairly easy to see what St Irenaeus did. With characteristic concern for veracity he picked a few outstanding unpopular heretics … and he set out to represent all other heretics as descendants and secret followers of these loathsome ancestors … In the east …‘gnostic’ remained a term of praise … In polemics against the sects attacked by Irenaeus, however, his usage was followed. 3