Volume 63, Issue 1, June 2023
Patricio de Navascués
Aquam, tenebras, abyssum, chaos
acerca de los “ofitas” de Iren., haer. 1, 30, 1
The article discusses the meaning of chaos in the series of four elements introduced by Irenaeus in haer. 1, 30, 1 to characterize the system of the so-called “Ophites”. Contrary to the explanation that renders this Gnostic system dualistic, it is argued here that, in reality, the “Ophites” of Irenaeus anticipates what we find in other Gnostic families (Naassenes, On the Origin of the World, The Hypostasis of the Archonts) and continues the Orphic tradition that appeared in the Theogony of Jerome and Hellanicus, in which the eternal chaos had been domesticated with the Jewish monotheism of Genesis, and, according to which, this chaos would come to be something like a “hollow”, not eternal, which precedes the material world, shelters it and then favors the appearance of the corporeal. Its status as a Principle should always be understood in a derivative sense, with no obstacle to monism: the Primordial Light (Lumen primum), the only absolute principle, provokes the appearance of the region of the shadow (chaos), but it does so indirectly through the intermediate veil (Spiritus Sanctus). Nothing justifies speaking, therefore, of the “Ophite” system as an ontologically dualistic system.