The Tripartite Tractate

The Tripartite Tractate
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BIRGER A. PEARSON WRITES, “The Tripartite Tractate is the only completely preserved systematic treatise of Valentinian gnosis that has come down to us. It is a very lengthy treatise of eighty-eight pages–in the Nag Hammadi corpus only Zostrianos (VIII,1) is longer–and presents the entire mythological story of pleromatic origins, divine devolution leading to creation, and ultimate reintegration into the divine Pleroma. The text is divided by scribal decoration in the manuscript into three parts. Since no title is given to this treatise in the manuscript, the first editors called it Tractatus Tripartitus, or in English, Tripartite Tractate. The three main segments correspond to three major acts in the mythological drama. Part I (51,1-104,3) has an account of the primal Father and his aeons. Part II (104,4-108,12) deals with the creation of humanity and Adam’s fall. Part III (108,13-138,17) presents the Savior’s incarnation and human responses to his coming, culminating in the final restoration.” (Ancient Gnosticism, p. 184)

Einar Thomassen writes, “The importance of this tractate is above all that it contains a version of the Valentinian system that is distinctly Valentinian at the same time that it differs on many points from the well-known systems reported by the church fathers. For this reason, it helps us understand better what are the constant and indispensible features of the Valentinian systems and what are the constant and indispensable features of the Valentinian systems and what are individual and local variations.