The Treatise on The Resurrection

The Treatise on The Resurrection

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MALCOM L. PEEL WRITES (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 52): “The importance of this short, eight-page, didactic letter lies in its witness to a distinctively unorthodox interpretation of Christian teaching about survival after death. By the late second century, the probable time of its composition, Christians – whether Gnostic or orthodox – were struggling with certain challenges and questions. Was such survival philosophical demonstrable (as Socrates had argued in the Phaedo)? What form might it take? (Immortality of the soul? Resurrection of the body? Reincarnation?) When would such survival be experienced? (At death? At Christ’s final return? Perhaps even before death?) The New Testament teaching was somewhat ambiguous on several of these points, though within the great church there seemed general agreement on at least two matters: the prototype and basis of hope for such survival was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of individuals would entail their retention of personal identity.”

The Thunder Perfect Mind

The Thunder Perfect Mind

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PAUL-HUBERT POIRIER COMMENTS, “Thunder takes the form of a discourse, composed for the most part of self-predications in the first-person singular (Coptic anok pe/te, Greek ego eimi) interspersed with exhortations and reproaches addressed to an unidentified audience. The speaker remains unnamed, but many features in the text show that the person or entity speaking is a feminine being. This characteristic explains why the tractate was at first compared with the Isis aretalogies – the self-proclamations in which the goddess Isis presents herself and lists her feats – or with the public addresses of female Wisdom in the Jewish scriptures (Proverbs 8:4-36; Sirach 24:3-22), but these parallels remain only partial.” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 367)

Bentley Layton writes, “The Thunder – Perfect Intellect (‘Thunder, Perfect Mind’) is a riddlesome monologue spoken by the immanent Savior, here represented as a female character and identifiable as ‘afterthought,’ a manifestation of wisdom and Barbelo in gnostic myth. In gnostic myth the role of afterthought – also known as ‘life’ (Zoe), the female instructing principle, and the holy spirit – is to assist both Adam and all humankind, in order to recollect the power stolen by Ialdabaoth (BJn 20:14f) and now dispersed in the gnostic race. She is immanent in all gnostics who have the holy spirit (BJn 25:20f).

Although the monologue consists almost entirely of self-descriptions and exhortations directed to the reader, three short passages refer to the mythic setting of the Savior’s words: (1) she has been sent from ‘the power’ or Barbelo (cf. BJn 4:26f) and is immanent within humankind (13:2f); (2) she continues in her mission to ‘cry out’ and summon members of the gnostic race (19:28f); (3) souls that respond will gain liberation from the material world and ascend to a place in the metaphysical universe where the speaker herself resides, and will not suffer reincarnation (21:27f).

The Three Steles of Seth

The Three Steles of Seth

Translated by James R. Robinson

THE REVELATION OF DOSITHEOS ABOUT THE THREE STELES OF SETH, the Father of the living and unshakable race, which he (Dositheos) saw and understood. And after he had read them, he remembered them. And he gave them to the elect, just as they were inscribed there. Many times I joined in giving glory with the powers, and I became worthy of the immeasurable majesties. Now they (the steles) are as follows:-

The First Stele of Seth

I bless thee, Father Geradama(s), I, as thine (own) Son, Emmacha Seth, whom thou didst beget without begetting, as a blessing of our God; for I am thine (own) Son. And thou art my mind, O my Father. And I, I sowed and begot; but thou hast seen the majesties. Thou hast stood imperishable. I bless thee, Father. Bless me, Father. It is because of thee that I exist; it is because of God that thou dost exist. Because of thee I am with that very one. Thou art light, since thou beholdest light. Thou hast revealed light. Thou art Mirotheas; thou art my Mirotheos. I bless thee as God; I bless thy divinity. Great is the good Self-begotten who stood, the God who had already stood.

Thou didst come in goodness; thou hast appeared, and thou hast revealed goodness. I shall utter thy name, for thou art a first name. Thou art unbegotten. Thou hast appeared in order that thou mightest reveal the eternal ones. Thou art he who is. Therefore thou hast revealed those who really are. Thou art he who is uttered by a voice, but by mind art thou glorified, thou who hast dominion everywhere. Therefore the perceptible world too knows thee because of thee and thy seed. Thou art merciful.

The Thought of Norea

The Thought of Norea

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BIRGER A. PEARSON WRITES, “This little writing of only fifty-two lines of Coptic text is a poetic composition in four parts. It lacks a title in the manuscript; the title employed here is a phrase occuring toward the end of the tractate (29,3). The Thought of Norea (hereafter abbreviated as Norea) is closely related to Hyp. Arch., which actually provides a setting for the text. In Hyp. Arch., Norea is represented as crying out for help (92,33-93,2), at which point the angel Eleleth intervenes. The first part of Norea is a prayer addressed to the divine hierarchy, beginning with the ‘Father of all’ and Ennoia (Barbelo in the Sethian system). The second part of the tractate begins, ‘It is Norea who cries out to them’ (27,21-22); her prayer is heard, and she is assured of being ‘joined to all of the imperishable ones’ (20,11).” (Ancient Gnosticism, p. 78)

Marvin Meyer writes, “The Thought of Norea, Three Forms of First Thought, and the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit seem to assume or stress the innocence of Epinoia / Sophia such that her restoration to the Light no longer requires repentance for her unintentional but arrogant generation of the world creator without the aid of her appointed consort, as described in the Secret Book of John. Indeed, the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit goes a step further than Three Forms of First Thought by attributing the origin of the archons Sakla and Nebruel to Gamaliel and Gabriel, the ministers of the two highest of the Four Luminaries, while Sophia’s function is merely limited to producing the matter over which they rule. So also in the treatise Zostrianos (9,1-11,1) Sophia serves as the model for worldly things but is not the source of the world creator who shapes it.” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 608)

Birger A. Pearson states that the text “can provisionally be assigned to late second- or early third-century Egypt.” (Ancient Gnosticism, p. 79)

The Testimony of Truth

The Testimony of Truth

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Birger A. Pearson writes, “The original title of this tractate, if there was one, is unknown. It is possible that a title was supplied at the end of the tractate, but the last two pages of the codex are lost. The title now in regular use has been editorially assigned on the basis of a major theme found in the tractate (‘word of truth,’ 31,8; ‘true testimony,’ 45,1), part of its polemical thrust. The author is intent upon presenting his version of the truth – a radically encratic Gnostic Christianity – and contrasting this with the false opinions and practices of his ‘heretical’ opponents. His polemics are presented in the form of rhetorical antitheses (light-darkness, knowledge-ignorance, incorruptibility-corruption, etc.).

The author’s opponents are easily identifiable on the basis of how they are described. They consist for the most part of members of the catholic (‘orthodox’) church, who clearly constitute a majority of Christians in the author’s locale. Interestingly enough, the author’s opponents also include fellow Gnostics, such as the Valentinians, Basilidians, Simonians, and others, with whose practices he vehemently disagrees.” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 613)

Birger A. Pearson asks, “Who was this man? He was surely well schooled in the Valentinian tradition, even though he included Valentinians among his opponents, so we might look upon him as an ex-member of the Valentinian school. As it happens, Clement of Alexandria provides us with information in his Miscellanies (3.85-95) on a teacher of radical encratism, Julius Cassianus, who is said to have ‘departed from the school of Valentinus,’ presumably because he had come to disagree with Valentinian practices.

The Teachings of Silvanus

The Teachings of Silvanus

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BIRGER A. PEARSON WRITES, “The Teachings of Silvanus is the only non-Gnostic tractate in Nag Hammadi Codex VII and one of the few non-Gnostic tractates in the corpus as a whole. In form, it is a wisdom writing similar to classical Hebrew wisdom compendia such as the biblical book of Proverbs or the deuterocanonical Ecclesaisticus (Sirach). In such literature a teacher offers instruction and admonition to a pupil whom he refers to as his ‘son.’ The tractate also utilizes two other literary genres common in early Hellenistic Judaism, the ‘diatribe’ form, derived from popular Stoic and Cynic philosophy, and the ‘Hellenistic hymn,’ in which praises are offered up to God or to personified Wisdom. Pagan examples of the latter are the hymns or aretalogies associated with the cult of the Greco-Egyptian goddess Isis.” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 499)

P. Bruns writes, “A Coptic treatise in the Nag Hammadi library (NHC 7, 4) contains the teachings of a certain Silvanus. It contains a hortatory address with sapiental teachings of Jewish-Egyptian provenance and a gnostic anthropology and christology. Redemption takes place through the acquisition of a liberating knowledge that is brought by Christ the redeemer and enables those living an enslaved existence to free themselves from the bondage of the material through asceticism and mortification and to make the journey hom to the divine pleroma.” (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 537)

Birger A. Pearson writes, “There can be no question where this author was active, namely, Alexandria. Although the original Greek version of the Teachings of Silvanus as we know it in translation has been dated to the fourth century, after the Council of Nicea in 325, it more likely comes from a time before Nicea. Since the tractate reflects knowledge of the teachings of Origen, it should probably be dated to sometime after his death in 254, sometime in the late third century. What is important to remember, however, is that the tractate contains very early material, including traditions that could even go back to first-century Alexandrian Christianity.” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, pp. 502-503)

The Sophia of Jesus Christ

The Sophia of Jesus Christ

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THE SOPHIA OF JESUS CHRIST IS CLEARLY DEPENDENT ON EUGNOSTOS THE BLESSED, both of which were unearthed at Nag Hammadi (in two differing copies for each). The Sophia of Jesus Christ transforms Eugnostos into a dialogue with Jesus. Douglas M. Parrott places the two side by side in his translation for the book The Nag Hammadi Library in English edited by Robinson.

Parrott writes: “The notion of three divine men in the heavenly hierarchy appears to be based on Genesis 1-3 (Immortal Man = God; Son of Man = Adam [81,12]; Son of Son of Man, Savior = Seth). Because of the presence of Seth (although unnamed in the tractate), Eugnostos must be thought of as Sethian, in some sense.

However, since it is not classically gnostic and lacks other elements of developed Sethian thought, it can only be characterized as proto-Sethian. Egyptian religious thought also appears to have influenced its picture of the supercelestial realm.

The probable place of origin for Eugnostos, then, is Egypt. A very early date is suggested by the fact that Stoics, Epicureans and astrologers are called “all the philosophers.” That characterization would have been appropriate in the first century BC, but not later. Eugnostos and Soph. Jes. Chr. may have influenced the Sethian-Ophites, as described by Irenaeus. Some have proposed an influence by Eugnostos on Valentinianism.

Because of the dating of Eugnostos, it would not be surprising if Soph. Jes. Chr. had been composed soon after the advent of Christianity in Egypt – the latter half of the first century AD. That possibility is supported by the tractate’s relatively non-polemical tone.”

The Sentences of Sextus

The Sentences of Sextus

Translated by Frederik Wisse

(157) […] is a sign of ignorance.

(158/159) Love the truth, and the lie use like poison.

(160) May the right time precede your words.

(161/162) Speak when it is not proper to be silent, but speak concerning the things you know (only) then when it is fitting.

(163a) The untimely word is characteristic of an evil mind.

(163b) When it is proper to act, do not use a word.

(164a) Do not wish to speak first in the midst of a crowd.

(164b) While it is a skill to speak, it is also a skill to be silent.

(165a) It is better for you to be defeated while speaking the truth, than to be victorious through deceit.

(165b) He who is victorious through deceit is defeated by the truth.

(165c) Untrue words are a characteristic of evil persons.

(165d) There has to be a great crisis before the lie is necessary.

(165e) When there is someone, while you speak the truth, even if you lie there is no sin.

(165f) Do not deceive anyone, especially him who needs advice.

(166) Faithful is he who is first with all good works.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

Translated by James Brashler, Peter A. Dirkse and Douglas M. Parrott

This the Prayer That They Spoke:

“We give thanks to You! Every soul and heart is lifted up to You, undisturbed name, honoured with the name ‘God’ and praised with the name ‘Father’, for to everyone and everything (comes) the fatherly kindness and affection and love, and any teaching there may be that is sweet and plain, giving us mind, speech, (and) knowledge: mind, so that we may understand You, speech, so that we may expound You, knowledge, so that we may know You. We rejoice, having been illuminated by Your knowledge. We rejoice because You have shown us Yourself. We rejoice because while we were in (the) body, You have made us divine through Your knowledge.

“The thanksgiving of the man who attains to You is one thing: that we know You. We have known You, intellectual light. Life of life, we have known You. Womb of every creature, we have known You. Womb pregnant with the nature of the Father, we have known You. Eternal permanence of the begetting Father, thus have we worshiped Your goodness. There is one petition that we ask: we would be preserved in knowledge. And there is one protection that we desire: that we not stumble in this kind of life.”

When they had said these things in the prayer, they embraced each other and they went to eat their holy food, which has no blood in it.

The Interpretation of Knowledge

The Interpretation of Knowledge

Translated by John D. Turner

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… they came to believe by means of signs and wonders and fabrications. The likeness that came to be through them followed him, but through reproaches and humiliations before they received the apprehension of a vision they fled without having heard that the Christ had been crucified. But our generation is fleeing since it does not yet even believe that the Christ is alive. In order that our faith may be holy (and) pure, not relying upon itself actively, but maintaining itself planted in him, do not say: “Whence is the patience to measure faith?”, for each one is persuaded by the things he believes. If he disbelieves them, then he would be unable to be persuaded. But it is a great thing for a man who has faith, since he is not in unbelief, which is the world.

Now the world is the place of unfaith and the place of death. And death exists as …

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… likeness and they will not believe. A holy thing is the faith to see the likeness. The opposite is unfaith in the likeness. The things that he will grant them will support them. It was impossible for them to attain to the imperishability […] will become […] loosen […] those who were sent […]. For he who is distressed will not believe. He is unable to bring a great church, since it is gathered out of a small gathering.

He became an emanation of the trace. For also they say about the likeness that it is apprehended by means of his trace. The structure apprehends by means of the likeness, but God apprehends by means of his members. He knew them before they were begotten, and they will know him. And the one who begot each one from the first will indwell them. He will rule over them. For it is necessary for each one …