Simplicity and the Problem of Contradiction: Ptolemy and the Legacy of Marcion

Andrew Radde‐Gallwitz

in Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574117
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722110 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

Simplicity and the Problem of Contradiction: Ptolemy and the Legacy of Marcion

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Chapter 1 focuses on the role divine simplicity played in the debates surrounding Marcion of Sinope, the second‐century theologian who distinguished the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New. After reviewing the responses to Marcion offered by Tertullian and Irenaeus of Lyons, particular attention is given to Ptolemaeus Gnosticus (Ptolemy), who like the others sought to avoid attributing contradictory motives to God. Ptolemy achieved this by distinguishing between a first God, who is simple and uninvolved with creation, and a second God, who is complex and involved with matter and the created order. The chapter engages a commonplace modern objection to divine simplicity, that the idea is incompatible with the biblical portrayal of God as active in the world. It notes that ancient theologians like Ptolemy had resources for responding to this that are no longer available. Ptolemy could distinguish a first God and second, active God. Most importantly, however, Ptolemy and the modern objector agree that simplicity is inconsistent with activity. It is left to subsequent chapters to demonstrate how Basil and Gregory reject this assumption without falling into contradiction.

Keywords: Marcion of Sinope; Tertullian; Irenaeus of Lyons; Ptolemaeus Gnosticus; contradiction; Numenius of Apamea

Chapter.  7568 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity ; Christian Theology

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