The Hypostasis of the Archons

The Hypostasis of the Archons
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Information on the Hypostasis of The Archons

IN THE REVISED EDITION OF THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY IN ENGLISH, published as The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, the “Hypostasis of the Archons” received the less intimidating title “The Nature of the Rulers.” Others have suggested “The Reality of the Rulers.” However, the title “Hypostasis of the Archons” continues to be preferred as a way to refer to the text in English.

Marvin Meyer writes, “The Nature of the Rulers is a Gnostic treatise classified by scholars as representing Sethian thought, which the author claims is being sent to an undisclosed recipient in order to clarify who the archons, or world rulers, are and how the struggle with the archons is to be carried out. In its present form, the Nature of the Rulers is a Christian text, but most of the material in the text is reflective of Jewish thought, with the typical Hellenistic flourish.

The author of the text, whose identity, like that of the recipient, is unknown, says that he or she is sending the text in response to certain questions that have been raised: ‘I have sent you this writing because you have asked about the real nature of the authorities’ (86,26-27). Preserved as the fourth tractate in Nag Hammadi Codex II (86,20-97,23), the Nature of the Rulers is copied just before On the Origin of the World, another Gnostic text to which the Nature of the Rulers stands in some relation.” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 187)

The Gospel of Truth

The Gospel of Truth
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Information on The Gospel of Truth
S. Kent Brown writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 6, p. 668):

THE DATE AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION REMAIN OBSCURE. Although the work was composed in Greek before it was translated into Coptic, whether it was written in Egypt or elsewhere is uncertain. Allusions to documents known from the NT, such as Matthew (Tuckett 1984) and certain Pauline Epistles (Menard 1972), place the date well into the 2d century, a period that harmonizes with the rising influence of Valentinus. The richly subtle and sophisticated style and organization of the text, designed to invite readers in an inoffensive way to a certain view of Jesus’ salvific role (Attridge 1988), may argue for a later date.

Here is what Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae have to say about the dating of the Gospel of Truth (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 38):

A Valentinian work entitled the “Gospel of Truth” is attested in the Adversus Haereses (3.11.9) of Irenaeus. Unfortunately the heresiologist reveals little about the content of the work, except that it differed significantly from the canonical gospels. Given the general Valentinian affinities of the text of Codex I, it is quite possible that it is identical with the work known to Irenaeus. If so, a date of composition in the middle of the second century (between 140 and 180 C.E.) would be established. On the basis of literary and conceptual affinities between this text and the exiguous fragments of Valentinus, some scholars have suggested that the Gnostic teacher himself was the author. That remains a distinct possibility, although it cannot be definitively established.

Valentinus flourished from c. 140 AD to his death c. 160 AD.

The Gospel of the Egyptians

The Gospel of the Egyptians
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Information on The Gospel of the Egyptians

IN THIS GOSPEL, it seems that Salome, mentioned only by Mark in the New Testament, played a prominent place. The image above is of the women including Salome at the tomb (Mark 16).

The Gospel of the Egyptians is no longer extant but was mentioned by Hippolytus and Epiphanius. Most of our citations come from Clement of Alexandria, and there is also a reference in the Excerpts of Theodotus. The gospel was apparently used in Egypt in the second and third centuries.

Ron Cameron provides these comments in his introduction in The Other Gospels:

Despite the paucity of the extant fragments, the theology of the Gospel of the Egyptians is clear: each fragment endorses sexual asceticism as the means of breaking the lethal cycle of birth and of overcoming the alleged sinful differences between male and female, enabling all persons to return to what was understood to be their primordial and androgynous state. This theology is reflected in speculative interpretations of the Genesis accounts of the Creation and the Fall (Gen. 1:27; 2:16-17, 24; 3:21), according to which the unity of the first man was disrupted by the creation of woman and sexual division. Salvation was thus thought to be the recapitulation of Adam and Eve’s primordial state, the removal of the body and the reunion of the sexes.

This return to the primordial state was said to be accomplished – or at least symbolized – by baptism. In this respect, the Gospel of the Egyptians is to be compared with Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Gal. 3:26-28) and the Corinthians (I Cor. 12:13), which presuppose this baptismal theology but use the tradition differently, interpreting the theme of unity as a social category to refer to the unity of Jews and Greeks, slaves and freedmen, males and females.

The Exegesis on the Soul

The Exegesis on the Soul
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Translated by William C. Robinson Jr.

WISE MEN OF OLD GAVE THE SOUL A FEMININE NAME. Indeed she is female in her nature as well. She even has her womb.

As long as she was alone with the father, she was virgin and in form androgynous. But when she fell down into a body and came to this life, then she fell into the hands of many robbers. And the wanton creatures passed her from one to another and […] her. Some made use of her by force, while others did so by seducing her with a gift. In short, they defiled her, and she […] her virginity.

And in her body she prostituted herself and gave herself to one and all, considering each one she was about to embrace to be her husband. When she had given herself to wanton, unfaithful adulterers, so that they might make use of her, then she sighed deeply and repented. But even when she turns her face from those adulterers, she runs to others and they compel her to live with them and render service to them upon their bed, as if they were her masters. Out of shame she no longer dares to leave them, whereas they deceive her for a long time, pretending to be faithful, true husbands, as if they greatly respected her. And after all this they abandon her and go.

She then becomes a poor desolate widow, without help; not even a measure of food was left her from the time of her affliction. For from them she gained nothing except the defilements they gave her while they had sexual intercourse with her. And her offspring by the adulterers are dumb, blind and sickly. They are feebleminded.

The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth

The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth
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Douglas M. Parrott writes (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 322):–

Evidence that Disc. 8-9 was composed in Egypt is found in references to the city of Diospolis, as well as to hieroglyphic characters and gods with animal faces – all found in the section beginning 61,18. The designation of the mystagogue sa Hermes and Trismegistus also suggests Egypt. A second-century C.E. date for the composition is possible, because of affinities with the thought of the Middle Platonist Albinus.

The reference to “eighth” and “ninth” is to the spheres of the heavens that surround the earth.

The Concept of Our Great Power

The Concept of Our Great Power
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Concept of Our Great Power refers to writing 28 of codex VI of the Nag Hammadi library.

The manuscript is dated from within approximately the middle of the fourth century AD

The text is primarily focused on apocalyptic concepts; it seems to relate back to Christian and even Jewish apocalyptic traditions at different points. Perhaps what makes Concept of our Great Power most Gnostic is its negative attitude toward the Old Testament God, its perspective on the corruption of the physical body, and its emphasis on the ultimate goal of the enlightened soul returning to the Light. The text specifically focuses on certain events such as the creation, the actions of the Redeemer, the antichrist, and the last triumph of the highest Power.

He who would know our great Power will become invisible And fire will not be able to consume him…

The Apocryphon of James

The Apocryphon of James
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Not to be confused with Gospel of James

THE APOCRYPHON OF JAMES, also known by the translation of its title – the Secret Book of James, is a pseudonymous text amongst the New Testament apocrypha. It describes the secret teachings of Jesus to Peter and James, given after the Resurrection but before the Ascension.

A major theme is that one must accept suffering as inevitable. The prominence of James and Peter suggest that the work originated in the Hebrew Christian community. It shows no dependence on canonical texts, and was probably written in the first half of the 2nd century. It has Gnostic affinities but cannot be attributed to any Gnostic sect, and some scholars rule that it is not Gnostic at all.

Origin

The text survives in a single, damaged manuscript as the second section of the Jung Codex, first of the thirteen codices in the Nag Hammadi library. Although the text appears to be a Coptic translation from Greek, the author claims to have written in Hebrew. Because of references to persecution and martyrdom, it is unlikely that the text was written after 313, when Constantine I ended Christian persecution. Other clues in the text point to a composition in the 2nd century, and perhaps in the first half.
Content

The text is framed as an epistle (i.e. a letter) from James to someone else whose name is obscured by the damage to the text. The author describes Jesus expanding on various sayings and answering questions 550 days after the Resurrection, but before the Ascension.

Both James and Peter are given secret instruction, but at the end only James appears to understand what has happened. (As with the Gospel of John 1-20 and the Gospel of Mary, in this book Peter has implicitly failed the Christian movement).

The Apocryphon of John (Long Version)

The Apocryphon of John (Long Version)
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THE TEACHING OF THE SAVIOR, and the revelation of the mysteries and the things hidden in silence, even these things which he taught John, his disciple.

And it happened one day, when John, the brother of James – who are the sons of Zebedee – had come up to the temple, that a Pharisee named Arimanius approached him and said to him, “Where is your master whom you followed?” And he said to him, “He has gone to the place from which he came.” The Pharisee said to him, “With deception did this Nazarene deceive you (pl.), and he filled your ears with lies, and closed your hearts (and) turned you from the traditions of your fathers.”

When I, John, heard these things I turned away from the temple to a desert place. And I grieved greatly in my heart, saying, “How then was the Savior appointed, and why was he sent into the world by his Father, and who is his Father who sent him, and of what sort is that aeon to which we shall go? For what did he mean when he said to us, ‘This aeon to which you will go is of the type of the imperishable aeon, but he did not teach us concerning the latter, of what sort it is.”

Straightway, while I was contemplating these things, behold, the heavens opened and the whole creation which is below heaven shone, and the world was shaken. I was afraid, and behold I saw in the light a youth who stood by me. While I looked at him, he became like an old man. And he changed his likeness (again), becoming like a servant. There was not a plurality before me, but there was a likeness with multiple forms in the light, and the likenesses appeared through each other, and the likeness had three forms.

The Apocalypse of Peter 2

The Apocalypse of Peter 2
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The Nag Hammadi Library

AS THE SAVIOR WAS SITTING IN THE TEMPLE in the three hundredth (year) of the covenant and the agreement of the tenth pillar, and being satisfied with the number of the living, incorruptible Majesty, he said to me, “Peter, blessed are those above belonging to the Father, who revealed life to those who are from the life, through me, since I reminded they who are built on what is strong, that they may hear my word, and distinguish words of unrighteousness and transgression of law from righteousness, as being from the height of every word of this Pleroma of truth, having been enlightened in good pleasure by him whom the principalities sought. But they did not find him, nor was he mentioned among any generation of the prophets. He has now appeared among these, in him who appeared, who is the Son of Man, who is exalted above the heavens in a fear of men of like essence.

But you yourself, Peter, become perfect in accordance with your name with myself, the one who chose you, because from you I have established a base for the remnant whom I have summoned to knowledge. Therefore be strong until the imitation of righteousness – of him who had summoned you, having summoned you to know him in a way which is worth doing because of the rejection which happened to him, and the sinews of his hands and his feet, and the crowning by those of the middle region, and the body of his radiance which they bring in hope of service because of a reward of honour – as he was about to reprove you three times in this night.”

And as he was saying these things, I saw the priests and the people running up to us with stones, as if they would kill us; and I was afraid that we were going to die.

The Apocalypse of Paul

The Apocalypse of Paul
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Translated by George W. MacRae and William R. Murdock

[…] the road. And he spoke to him, saying, “By which road shall I go up to Jerusalem?” The little child replied, saying, “Say your name, so that I may show you the road”. The little child knew who Paul was. He wished to make conversation with him through his words in order that he might find an excuse for speaking with him.

The little child spoke, saying, “I know who you are, Paul. You are he who was blessed from his mother`s womb. For I have come to you that you may go up to Jerusalem to your fellow apostles. And for this reason you were called. And I am the Spirit who accompanies you. Let your mind awaken, Paul, with […]. For […] whole which […] among the principalities and these authorities and archangels and powers and the whole race of demons, […] the one that reveals bodies to a soul-seed.”

And after he brought that speech to an end, he spoke, saying to me, “Let your mind awaken, Paul, and see that this mountain upon which you are standing is the mountain of Jericho, so that you may know the hidden things in those that are visible. Now it is to the twelve apostles that you shall go, for they are elect spirits, and they will greet you.” He raised his eyes and saw them greeting him.

Then the Holy Spirit who was speaking with him caught him up on high to the third heaven, and he passed beyond to the fourth heaven. The Holy Spirit spoke to him, saying, “Look and see your likeness upon the earth.” And he looked down and saw those who were upon the earth. He stared and saw those who were upon the […]. Then he gazed down and saw the twelve apostles at his right and at his left in the creation; and the Spirit was going before them.