The Monad in early Christian gnostic writings is an adaption of concepts of the Monad in Greek philosophy to Christian gnostic belief systems.

The term monad comes from the Greek feminine noun monas (nominative singular, μονάς), "one unit," where the ending -s in the nominative form resolves to the ending -d in declination.[1]

In some gnostic systems the Supreme Being is known as the Monad, the One, The Absolute Aiōn teleos (The Perfect Æon, αἰών τέλεος), Bythos (Depth or Profundity, Βυθός), Proarchē (Before the Beginning, προαρχή), and Hē Archē (The Beginning, ἡ ἀρχή) and The ineffable parent. The One is the high source of the pleroma, the region of light. The various emanations of The One are called æons.

According to Theodoret's book on heresies (Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium i.18) the Arab Christian Monoimus (150-210) used the term Monad was the highest god which created lesser gods, or elements (similar to æons). In some versions of Christian gnosticism, especially those deriving from Valentinius, a lesser deity known as the Demiurge had a role in the creation of the material world in addition to the role of the Monad. In these forms of gnosticism, the God of the Old Testament is often considered to have been the Demiurge, not the Monad, or sometimes different passages are interpreted as referring to each.

This Monad is the spiritual source of everything which emanates the pleroma, and could be contrasted to the darkness of pure matter.

Historical background

According to Hippolytus, this view was inspired by the Pythagoreans, for whom the first thing that came into existence was referred to as the Monad, which begat the dyad, which begat the numbers, which begat the point, begetting lines, etc.[2] Pythagorean and Platonic philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry condemned Gnosticism (see Neoplatonism and Gnosticism) for their treatment of the monad or one.

For a long time, legend persisted that a young man by the name of Epiphanes was the leader of the Monadic Gnosticism who died age 17. However, scholars think the legend may have come from misunderstanding of the Greek word epiphanēs which may have been mistaken as a personal name if in text, when in fact the Greek means distinguished, as in a distinguished teacher.[3]

See also


  1. Francis E. Peters Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon 1970 p42
  2. Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.
  3. Mead, G.R.S. 1900. "Epiphanes, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, pp. 232-235, available online by The Gnostic Society Library.