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It was not created by a sovereign divine act, but came into being as a byproduct of the fall of Sophia. The passions of the 'second Sophia' could not simply be destroyed. They had to be transformed by the heavenly saviour, by the 'first Sophia' and by the demiurge in a series of successive acts of formation into cosmic substances. The foetus born by Sophia in another version of the myth is called formless because there was no male partner to form it with his semen. The author draws on the Aristotelian theory of sexual reproduction.38 But formation (morphosis) can also mean the Gnostic instruction.

There is only one text in which creation out of nothing appears. In the Coptic Tripartite tractate,39 we read an exuberant description of God's omnipotence: 'nor is there a primordial form, which he uses as a model as he works; nor is there any difficulty which accompanies him in what he does; nor is there any material which is at his disposal, from which he creates what he creates; nor any substance within him from which he begets what he begets.'40 Here the familiar arguments for creation out of nothing appear: God is neither in need of a model for his work nor of material stuff, nor is there an emanation from his substance. This text probably is not older than the third century. At this time creation out of nothing was no longer an object of debate, but a recognised expression for the boundless power of God.

Plato, Genesis and matter Justin Martyr

Between 130 and 160, Gnostic teachers could regard themselves as the leading intellectuals of Christianity. During the same period, however, a growing number of theologians belonging to the 'great church' took the offensive against heresy. Connecting philosophical training with biblical insight, they became equal opponents to heretical teaching. The person who represents this gradual change was Justin Martyr.41 Originating from Samaria, he was a Christian teacher in Rome. Justin wrote on many subjects. He addressed pagans, Jews and heretics, and he tried to win his readers for the Christian faith by means of philosophical arguments, for he was convinced that Christianity was the one true philosophy which had existed before it was split up in different schools.

40 Tripartite tractate 53, lines 27-35 (trans. H. W. Attridge and D. Mueller, NHL, 61).

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