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Irenaeus and The Great Cucumber

Irenaeus of Lyons died on this day in 195. Since he is best known for his arguments against the gnostic heresies of his day, particularly the version espoused by Valentinus, I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate the anniversary of his death with one of my favorite passages from Against Heresies – The Great Cucumber – in which he mocks gnosticism for its arbitrary and complex hierarchy of divine beings.

There is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all thought, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd;  and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude…. (Against Heresies 1.11.4)

and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd
and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from
themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a
Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a
Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth
the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus.2804 For if it is fitting that that language
which is used respecting the universe be transformed to the primary Tetrad, and if any one may
assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more
credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all?and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd

and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from

themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a

Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a

Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth

the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus.2804 For if it is fitting that that language

which is used respecting the universe be transformed to the primary Tetrad, and if any one may

assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more

credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all?