The Teachings of Silvanus

The Teachings of Silvanus

Information on The Teachings of Silvanus

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)