Excursus C. The Dyadic Character of A Valentinian Exposition

The Nag Hammadi text A Valentinian Exposition has been said to champion monadic rather than dyadic Valentinianism. Four reasons are generally given: First, the Father is described as being alone, and is called ‘Monad’ (NH 11.2:22.19–23.21). Second, Silence, the usual consort of the Father in Irenaeus’ reports, comes on the scene slowly, through synonyms such as ‘quietness’ (ⲠⲔⲀⲢⲰϤ) and ‘tranquility’ (ⲠⲤϬⲢⲀϨⲦ̄), as if to downplay any notion that Silence is coeval with or consort to the Father, and to make Silence an abstraction, merely the tranquility of the Father’s solitude. Third, it seems that in A Valentinian Exposition the “Uncreated One”—understood to be Only Begotten, the third aeon—generates the second Tetrad on his own, thus imitating the primal solitude of the Father (NH 11.2:29.29–30). [1] That is, by generating without a consort, Only Begotten reveals that the Father is also without consort. Finally, A Valentinian Exposition’s epithet for the Father, “root of all,” the familiar Valentinian designation for the primary Tetrad or the ensuing Ogdoad (NH 11.2:22.20, 33–34; 23.19), seems to enhance the monadic status of the Father. These arguments motivate John Turner and Elaine Pagels to classify the text as monadic Valentinian. [2] The arguments are not persuasive, and they do not reckon with stronger evidence for the dyadic character of the text.
First, although the Father seems to be called ‘Monad,’ he is also said to exist in the Monad ( Ϩ̅Ⲛ̅ ⲦⲘⲞⲚⲀⲤ), and even to exist in the Dyad and pair ([ Ϩ̅Ⲛ̅ ⲦⲆ] Ⲩ̣ⲀⲤⲀⲨⲰϨ̅Ⲛ̅ ⲠⲤⲀⲈⲒϢ; NH 11.2:22.21, 26). Later on, an unidentified subject, presumably the Father, is said to exist in the Monad, Dyad, and Tetrad (NH 11.2:25.19–20). How can an entity be in something, yet be that something as well? How can such a solitary entity dwell in the Dyad or Tetrad?
The paradox may be explained by the two passages that seem to declare that the Father is the Monad. A close examination shows that, just like The Tripartite Tractate, A Valentinian Exposition creates a complex synthesis of monism and dualism. The first passage, based upon Turner’s reconstruction [ⲚⲈϤϢⲞⲞ]Ⲡ̣ Ⲙ̄ⲘⲞⲚⲀⲤ, more likely means “[he existed] monadically,” than “[he was] the Monad” (NH 11.2:22.24). [3] The verb Turner supplies depends not on the manuscript—the fragmentary blip taken to be Ⲡ̣ leaves much to be desired—but on analogy with the second passage, where some unspecified subject is said to be “[the] Root [of the All] and Monad (ⲀⲨⲰⲘⲞⲚⲀⲤ̣ [ⲠⲈ]) without any[one] before him” (NH 11.2:23.19–21). [4] But here the lack of the definite article before ⲘⲞⲚⲀⲤ suggests that the subject is not the Monad but a monad, i.e. something acting qua unit. Elsewhere in A Valentinian Exposition, important reified entities such as the Monad are always identified with the definite article. Further, although the Father has no one who exists before him, this is not the same as saying “[He dwells alone].” [5] So the notion that the Father exists equally in the Monad, Dyad, and Tetrad I take to mean that the Father exists in several ways—monadically, dyadically, and tetradically. The text is asserting not so much what the Father is, but his modes of existence and action.
Silence (ⲦⲤⲒⲄⲎ) only appears to take the stage slowly, on page 22 (the second argument for classifying A Valentinian Exposition as monadic). Nearly the entire upper half of the page, the beginning of the treatise, is missing. This missing text is the proper basis for determining the status of Silence and whether or not she is introduced at the outset. On page 22, no relationship is explicitly established among Silence, Quietness (line 22), and Tranquility (line 23), so it is impossible to say whether the author means the latter two terms to delay the introduction of the former, as Turner suggests. [6] If ⲦⲤⲒⲄⲎ was introduced in the upper part of the folio, the later occurrence of ⲠⲔⲀⲢⲰϤ and ⲠⲤϬⲢⲀϨⲦ̄ would only amplify, not attenuate, Silence’s role as consort of the Father. Even if Silence was not introduced at the top of the folio, the order of the extant text mirrors the presentation of Irenaeus’ extended Valentinian system, which was dyadic. In that system, Depth, the first aeon, “abides in great rest and peace” (ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ καὶ ἠρεμίᾳ πολλῇ γεγονέναι). Silence is then introduced in the next sentence. In Irenaeus’ report, the delay in introducing Silence does not diminish the system’s dyadic character. Indeed, the order ἡσυχία, ἠρεμία, Σιγή mirrors exactly ⲠⲔⲀⲢⲰϤ, ⲠⲤϬⲢⲀϨⲦ̄, ⲦⲤⲒⲄⲎ.
There is evidence that Silence plays the same important role in A Valentinian Exposition that she does in Irenaeus’ first Valentinian system. She forms with the Ineffable the primal Dyad, and is second to him (NH 11.2:22.26; 29.31–33; 23.21–22), thereby suggesting a dyadic more than a monadic model. Also, the will of the Father, according to A Valentinian Exposition, is to allow nothing to happen in the Pleroma without a syzygy. This would be strange counsel if the Father himself were not the archetype (NH 11.2:36.28–31).
According to Turner’s edition, “[the Uncreated One] projected Word and Life,” thus crediting Only Begotten—the third member of the primal Tetrad—with the generation of the first syzygy of the second Tetrad (NH 11.2:29.29–30). The reconstructed text seems to suggest that Only Begotten creates the syzygy on his own, just as the Father dwells in monadic solitude, although neither Turner nor Pagels is completely clear on this matter. [7] This reconstruction, however, contradicts other parts of A Valentinian Exposition, as well as Irenaeus’ extended system, which in so many other respects harmonizes well. For both Irenaeus’ Valentinians and A Valentinian Exposition, the first Tetrad, not Only Begotten alone, projects the second Tetrad (NH 11.2:29.25–26, 35–37; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.11.1; see n7). In contrast, the monadic Valentinianism of Hip-polytus has no Tetrad in its upper emanations, since they are grouped only in pairs, not Tetrads. Indeed, A Valentinian Exposition declares against the monadic Valentinians of Hippolytus that there are a total of thirty emanations, not twenty-eight, before Wisdom’s fall. Turner’s reconstruction of 29.29 is debatable; other readings consistent on every level with the text’s meaning and grammar can be supplied so as to place A Valentinian Exposition on the dyadic side of Valentinian thought. [8]
The fourth argument for the monadic theology of A Valentinian Exposition is based on the observation that the epithet “Root of All” is applied only to the Father. This is unconvincing on its own. Given that Irenaeus’ Valentinian (and dyadic) system calls Νούς “source of all” and the Forefather “root without source,” this may be yet further evidence for a modified dyadic system at the heart of A Valentinian Exposition. [9] An epithet is meant to summarize, not explain, the status of its subject. In A Valentinian Exposition the title “root of all” is never explained in securely read text, and therefore I believe it unwise to use it as a determining factor.
Based on all the evidence above, it seems to me that A Valentinian Exposition falls on the dyadic side of Valentinianism, even though it attempts to preserve a unique, monadic quality in the Father, as many dyadic Valentinian systems do.


[ back ] 1. ‘Uncreated One’ is probably not the likely name. See Thomassen 2006:232n53.
[ back ] 2. Turner 1990:96–99, 160–161 (at 29.25–30, 29.29–35).
[ back ] 3. Crum 1962:578–579. I thank Janet Timbie for her suggestions, here and throughout this section.
[ back ] 4. Translations of this text are Turner’s. For the broken letter see Robinson 1973:28.
[ back ] 5. NH 11.2:22.24–25, 38; 23.20–21; 22.22. See Turner 1990:97. In Robinson 1973:28, there is no apparent survival of what Turner indicates to be Ϥ̣̅, so the entire conjecture, [ⲈϤ̅ϢⲞⲞⲠⲞⲨⲀⲈⲈⲦ̅Ϥ̅, depends upon the editor’s conjecture that a monadic system is at work.
[ back ] 6. Turner 1990:97.
[ back ] 7. Turner suggests that the “non-creature” could be the syzygy Only Begotten and Truth (1990:161), but this seems to render pointless his distinction between dyadic and monadic Valentinian accounts of the generation of the second Tetrad (1990:160). After all, the parallels Turner presents differ only as to whether the entire primal Tetrad, or merely the syzygy Only Begotten–Father–Mind/Truth, projects the second Tetrad. But this distinction has nothing to do with whether the system is monadic or dyadic. Even if A Valentinian Exposition says Only Begotten has alone begotten the second Tetrad, this conforms more closely to the dyadic Valentinian account at Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.1.1 (which has two Tetrads) than it does with the monadic one at Hippolytus Refutation of All Heresies 6.29.6–7 (which has no Tetrads: the upper level of the Pleroma has six entities).
[ back ] 8. Turner reads []Ⲓ̣Ⲁ̣ [ⲠⲀⲦⲤⲰ]Ⲱ̣ⲚⲦ ̣[Ⲛ̅ⲆⲈ Ⲁ]Ϥ̣̅ⲦⲈⲨⲞ. In Robinson 1973 only the Ⲛ is clear in the second word. The stroke interpreted as Ⲱ̣ appears too far below the baseline to be an omega. Cf. the omegas at lines 32, 33. There may be several ways to restore the middle of the line; I might suggest one, [Ϩ̅Ⲛ̅ ⲦⲘⲀϨ]Ⲥ̣Ⲛ̅Ⲧ̣[Ⲉ Ⲛ̅ⲆⲈ Ⲁ]Ϥ̣̅ⲦⲈⲨⲞ (“secondarily he projected” or “in the second he projected”). This option originates from the observation that the “Second” has already been reified as a modality on p. 23. There, the unspecified subject (Turner, postulates the Father or Root of All [1990:154]) does various things on three different levels: coming forth in the realm of the 360th; revealing his will in the Second; and spreading himself in the Fourth (23.26–31). This so-called Second may be Silence herself (cf. 22.26–27), or it may be the second syzygy, which dwells in, and originates from, Silence (23.21–22). In Irenaeus’ report, Only Begotten, the male part of the second syzygy, projects the third, Word and Life (Against Heresies 1.1.1). In the interests of brevity, Irenaeus may have omitted any mention of Truth’s participation; thus the original idea would have been that the entire second syzygy projects the second Tetrad. This notion is echoed by Hippolytus Refutation of All Heresies 6.29.6–7. Thus, in my reconstruction, an unspecified subject (the entire primal Tetrad? the Father alone?) projects Word and Life in a second phase of emanations, or by means of the Second—again this could be Silence or the second syzygy. This suggestion presumes that the top half of fol. 29 specified the context and meaning of “Second.” Something should happen “first,” such as what is specified at 25.20–21, where something—apparently the Father—“first brings forth” Only Begotten and Limit. This reconstruction provides a meaning quite consonant with dyadic Valentinianism. I mean to suggest not that this is the only way to reconstruct the text, but that we need not let our presumption that A Valentinian Exposition comes from monadic Valentinianism—a presumption built upon a false dichotomy—determine the restoration of the text. On the complexities of the “Second” in A Valentinian Exposition, see Turner 1990:155–156.
[ back ] 9. Νούς: Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.1.1, ἀρχὴν τῶν πάντων. Forefather: Against Heresies 1.2.1, τὴν ἄναρχον ῥίζαν.