E-Mail Questions and Comments, RelSt
535 (Gnosticism), Spring 2005
[added to the file in reverse order, most recent first; simple notices
of minutes posted are not included]
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005
Subject: WrapUp time
I've added the four book reviews that were sent to me in electronic
form to the course page (with links from the minutes), and still need
the remainder, if you want to be published (Doug, Liza, William,
Caroline). If you are absolutely POSITIVE that your machine is not
infected, you can send your formatted review as an attachment (or drop
off a disk). That saves me some work, while also raising my anxiety
In updating the course home page and adding a link to reviews, I
noticed that I largely ignored the course outline as presented there,
as things went along. If you haven't yet looked at the week-by-week
qustions and suggestions, it might be a useful way to do some
reviewing, in addition to going back through the minutes. I'd hate to
waste a good course outline!!
Now I'll need to create a site for your papers, which I look forward to
reading. It has been a most enjoyable course for me, so keep up the
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2005
Subject: Latest Formal Due Date
Some of you have asked about "due dates" for your papers, etc.
If you need to have everything wrapped up in time for graduation, I'll
need to have all grading information in hand by the end of the exam
period, 6 May (Friday). That means: research paper in by Tuesday, 3
May, giving time for an exit interview by the end of Friday the
6th, or (in extreme cases) Monday the 9th (when I'm supposed to hand in
If you are not graduating and need more flexibility, I'll hand in an
"Incomplete" on the grade sheet, which gives you an extension for a few
weeks at least. I'll be taking an Incomplete on my taxes, too.
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2005
Subject: Pearson and Goodspeed/Grant
Thanks to Deb, here is some pertinent information about library copies
of two books we discussed in class yesterday:
> Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2005 10:12:01 -0400
> From: "Debra J. Bucher" <email@example.com>
> Subject: Pearson and Goodspeed/Grant
> FYI--Here's the Franklin record for the Pearson book reviewed
> class. The Goodspeed/Grant record is below that.
Pearson, Birger Albert.
Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt /
Birger A. Pearson.
> > Publisher:
New York : T & T Clark International, c2004.
> > Description: Book
xv, 302 p. : ill., 1 map ; 23 cm.
> > LC Subject(s): Church history
Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600.
Egypt Church history.
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Studies in antiquity and Christianity.
> > Other Series Title:
Studies in antiquity & Christianity
> > Web
Link: Table of
> > Call Number: BR190 .P43
Available, check location
Goodspeed, Edgar Johnson, 1871-1962.
A history of early Christian literature. Rev. and enl.
by Robert M. Grant.
[Chicago] University of Chicago Press 
> Description: Book
ix, 214 p. 22 cm.
> LC Subject(s): Christian literature,
Early--History and criticism.
Bibliography: p. 203-210.
> Other Contributors:
Grant, Robert McQueen, 1917-
Van Pelt Library
> Call Number: BR67 .G58 1966
Available, check location
Van Pelt Library
> Call Number: BR67 .G58 1966
Checked Out. Due 05-17-05 (Use BorrowDirect+ or Place
Request to Recall).
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2005
Subject: Last Week's Minutes are up
My version of Liza's minutes from last week is now available, with
expanded coverage of the great punctuation/quotation marks debate! Buy
American? -- or perhaps "Why American?"
There is also an excellent sympathetic review of Eisenman's theories
about the naming of "apostles" and especially about Jacob/James,
brother of Jesus, which ought to be of value for our discussions. I've
added this link to it, for your enlightenment (and for others who may
consult the minutes) --
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2005
Subject: Minutes, Reviews, Indices
As we approach crunch time for your research papers, I'm fulfilling a
promise made earlier in the term. The Index from NHL (first edition)
has now been scanned and is available, warts and all (lots of
formatting inconsistencies) at
Hopefully it will be useful to some of you, and we can all contribute
ways to make it better (I've already added a few entries, and will do
more as time permits).
I've also started to upload your book reviews -- Tom's first -- at
(not yet in html)
If you haven't given me yours yet in electronic form, and if you are
willing for it to be published in this manner, please get it to me.
Finally, the most recent minutes and assignments for the remainder of
the course are available in the usual web slot. (The minutes from this
week's class are still in process.)
Happy spring. Have a good weekend.
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005
Subject: Class Preparation
If you have time, please notice that the Kraft-Timbie review from which
we have been working includes two supplementary appendices concerning
references in the NHL to the death, and the incarnation, of the Savior.
The second appendix was just added, thanks to a note from Virginia
Wayland, and I've fleshed out the first appendix as well, which was
only a list of locations before.
In class we will resume the discussion of how the "historical" claims
about Jesus are handled in the NHL, and then move on to the
comments in the review about other "NT" type of connections (Acts,
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005
From: Lynn Smith <lynnjsmith@ATT.NET>
Subject: Re: obscurity and beyond,
Since this has been forwarded to all in class, I cannot let it rest.
So, been thinking about my grammatical explanation, and decided that
obscurius following preposition per, is actually accusative case
as required after prep per, though obscurum is nominative. Maybe most
people won't really care since it is not the subject we are actually
studying, but I cannot let the incorrect stand. Mea culpa.
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005
Subject: obscurity and beyond, with
Thanks, Lynn, for straightening out this obscurity! And for next week,
please lets plan on continuing to work through the next sections of the
review, especially the materials on creation. We'll also look further
at the ways in which Jesus and his earliest followers are depicted,
with an eye also to non-NHL perspectives.
> Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 01:09:11 +0000
> Subject: obscurity and beyond
> At least I always know where to find answers to Latin--Now if I
could only have the same luck setting up my new Dell laptop!
> Disappointed I am to find that there was no gerund in the phrase
which you quoted perfectly (but of course you already knew that!) so
here is the grammatical analysis anyway, just to prove I am a bona fide
former Latin adj prof.
> obscurum per obscurius
> neuter singular nominative ("the obscure thing")
> preposition ("through")
> neuter singular comparative nominative ("more obscure thing")
[Thus, explaining what is obscure by means of what is more obscure.]
> Thanks again for another challenging and fun class.
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005
Subject: Re: Norea/Noraia (more)
Thanks to William for his contribution. Also, in patching some of this
material into the M.R.James update, I came across this relevant passage
from the original book by James (pp.12f):
Epiphanius (Heresy, 26) has a good deal to say about a Book of Noria,
the wife of Noah, which was used by the Borborite Gnostics. He abuses
them for calling her Noria instead of Bath Enos (which in Jubilees,
4.28 is the name of Noah's mother), and relates (presumably on the
authority of the Book) that, as they say, "she  often tried to be
with Noe in the ark" (when it was being built, I understand), "and was
not permitted, for the Archon who created the world wished to destroy
her with all the rest in the flood; and she, they say, seated herself
on the ark and set fire to it, not once or twice, but often, even a
first, second, and third time. Hence the making of Noe's ark dragged on
for many years, because it was so often burnt by her. For, say they,
Noe was obedient to the Archon, but Noria revealed (proclaimed) the
Upper Powers and Barbelo, who is of the Powers, and opposed to the
Archon, like the other Powers, and taught that the elements that had
been stolen from the Mother above by the Archon who made this world and
the other gods, angels, and demons who were with him, should be
collected from the Power that resides in bodies."
The matter about Barbelo and the Archon is, of course, Gnostic from the
beginning; but it is curious to notice that in later legend Noah's wife
is often referred to as trying to thwart him. A story is current in two
widely separate tongues, Slavonic and English, which shows this. [He
then tells those stories, where Norea tries to keep Noah from
succeeding by other means.]
RAK note: Norea's attempt(s) to destroy the ark may have been
understood as aiming at the purging of material humanity, while Noah is
supported by the creator archon who wants to get rid of Norea and
preserve the human race over which he/she presides. But the creator
archon wins this battle. Strange?
> I tried to dig up some more about "Or" (light, fire) --
In Jastrow's dictionary I find NURA or NUR (nun vav resh) with the
meaning of "fire" -- perhaps connected to the verb NHR (nun hay resh)
"to shine" (and thus in Hifil "to enlighten"! also "to remember"); the
same consonants with slightly different vocalization can mean "a
river." If you prefer the root AUR (ayin vav resh) and its deritives,
you have the idea of stirring, waking up, becoming active. Then there
is the better known AOR (as in the creation story, let there be
"light"), as you note below, with meanings that include "fire" and
"breaking forth" (as dawn). Great fun, these dictionaries. If I were a
semitic speaker looking for meaning in Norea's name and activities, I'd
find plenty of stimulating connections! (The ancients collected this
sort of information -- Philo has lots of such etymologies, and the
"Onomastica" of Eusebius and Jerome are well known, and hardly
original; we even have some papyri fragments of older versions.)
> Aleph-Vav-Resh is the Hebrew root that connotes both light and, in
> form, making light when it appears in the hiphil or causitive
binyamin. This is
> a relevant passage from the "right side" of the Ginza Rba, the
> canonical text:
> When twenty-five ages (generations) pass, the world will be
destroyed by water.
> Mankind will be separated from their bodies through a separation
> water. For it has been written down for that the bodies have to
die by water
> and the souls ascend to the light, except Nu (Noah), the man, and
> wife, and Sum (Shem), lam (Ham?), lapit (Japheth), the sons of Nu,
who will be
> saved from death by by water From them the world again has to be
> Here, the production of light seems to assume more than a material
> light in this case seems to be the aether or kavod that permeates
> Realm, and also symbolizes perfect knowledge. The posession of a
> or the production of light is associated, at least in Ancient Near
> tradition according to Prof. Eichler, with Gods (Dingir in
Akkadian) and kings
> who enjoy the mandate of Heaven (such a Hamurapi and
Ashurbanipal). Here, in
> Mandaean literature, Norea/Nuraita is held to be the wife of Noah,
> noted in class was a possiblity for this character. One wonders if
there is any
> particular theological "payoff" for one of the other tradition.
> Norea's presence helps to resolve the difficulties of the Genesis
> relation to the marriages of the first humans. What I find
> this particular passage is its departure from the Bible, where God
> never again destroy the world by water. Ancient near eastern
> leaves the question open as to the return of the flood waters
> Zoroastrian tradition as well, I can't remember the details of the
> Gayomart (the Adam of the Zoroastrians) that well, go to a site
> sacred-texts and look at a work called the "Zend-Avesta" and you
should find an
> old but serviceable translation there).
> William Babcock
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005
Subject: Re: Norea/Noraia
Thanks, Virginia. This is useful information, for incorporation in some
form into the "New James" project. It is especially relevant in that
there appears to have been a book or books associated with her name
(thus "lost apocrypha," to use the terminology of M. R. James), as well
as the brief tractate that you mention (2 pages or less!) in NHL 9.2,
"The Thought of Norea" -- although it does not seem to have a separate
title (at least not at the end).
> In the Hypostasis of the Archons (translated by Bentley Layton)
> 91.31-92.18, Adam knew Eve and she bore Seth, then Eve bears
> says 'He has begotten on [me a] virgin as an assistance [for] many
> generations of mankind'. She (Norea) is the virgin whom the
> not defile.
Anyone need a research paper theme? The defiling activity of "the
forces" (and its relationship to the traditions summarized in Genesis
6.1-4) would be a possibility -- the role of female figures in gnostic
cosmogenies, or the like, if you need something broader.
> The birth of Seth follows Gen 4.25 (sort of, at least in English).
> In 92.14, Orea (=Norea?) comes to Noah wanting to board the ark,
> he refuses, and she blows on the ark causing it to be consumed by
I wonder whether the "Or" ("light") part of her name gives this
association with fire production? Any comments from our semiticist
> In 92.19-93.2 the chief ruler tries to rape Norea, but she cries
> the Holy One, the God of the Entirety for rescue.
> 93.3-97.20 is a revelation dialogue between Eleleth and Norea.
> last part is different in form than what precedes???]
> Norea is not in On the Origin of the World, but 102.10 says 'But
> feminine names are in the First Book of Noraia'. The
> refer to the seven who appeared in Chaos as androgynous beings.
For the male powers, there is "the Archangelikh of Moses the Prophet,"
and for the female, "the First Book of Noraia" -- which probably is the
same as "the First Logos/Discourse of Noraia" mentioned a few lines
later. Is the implication that there were other Noreia books/discourses
> The Thought of Norea does not say anything about her birth (or
> necessarily that she is a person).
> Stroumsa discusses this in connection with the theme of
> between the sons of God and the daughters of men. He
> story about Norea with traditions about Noah's wife.
This strange tradition reflected in Genesis 6.1-4 is widely attested in
the ancient sources, variously interpreted. Very strange and
> I continue to be somewhat bewildered by the Gnostic tendency to
> proliferation of heavens with a greater proliferation of aeons,
> and authorities.
> The view that the one who said 'It is I who am God; there is none
> is blind and arrogant (Hyp. Arch. 86.30-31; Apocr. Jn. 13.8-9;
> in On Origin of World 100.30-32) seems to me to be essentially the
> objection of a polytheist to monotheism. It seems rooted in
> inability to deny the reality of the many gods (however they might
> called). This collision does not have to be Christian, or
belong to the
> Christian era - although it seems to me to belong to the attempt
> convert Gentiles to either Judaism or Christianity (as opposed to
> syncretism with surrounding polytheistic religions). This
> conversion or influence seems maybe more accessible in the texts
> themselves than 'earlier' or 'later' since there is very
> historical information in the texts to hang anything on?
Hummm. Extracting some sort of "theological" motivation from this
material is difficult, but also fun. In the long run, our theoretical
gnostics are all monotheistic -- or should I say "monadistic"? Their
fight is with the idea that the created material world could be
sanctioned by the ultimate deity, which for them is an effervescing
(emanating) unknowable monad to whom/which all must ultimately
return (salvation as annihilation?).
But in the short run, it is easy to conjecture that the presence of
"many gods" in a largely polytheistic world could be a factor in the
gnostic mythologies that develop as alternative explanations in
contrast to the idea that the one god created it all. It might well
have been more attractive to mythologically oriented religionists in
the Greco-Roman (and Parthio-Persian) worlds to have all these
divinized forces and names than to reduce everything to a creator god
and angelic forces. But whether an identifiable polemic against
monotheism stands behind it all seems to me unlikely, except perhaps as
part of a larger, more complex picture ("culture-clash"). The
anti-gnostic spokespersons seem much more uptight about challenges to
their monotheism than vice versa. But maybe that is just how things
came to be expressed. Turning Auseinandersetzungsgeschichte
(confrontational episodes) into Geschichte (historical synthesis) is a
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005
Subject: After Spring Break
Check the "Minutes" file for the assignments for next class, and the
schedule of in-class reviews (no more than 15 minutes each!), which is
still under development. Please send me any corrections or updates!
Why wasn't Tom getting the emails? I had him as TICURLEY rather than
TJCURLEY (a textcritical error caused by lower case handwriting and
inattention). Hopefully he will get this and rejoice. And I need to
update the class email file (did you notice that there was one?!) so
he/you can catch up.
Have a productive and/or restful break!
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005
Thanks, again, Virginia. This is significantly similar to the calendar
attested in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, except as far as we know, the
DSS people only added 4 days to their 360 day (12 times 30) base, and
thus got out of sync more quickly. Since their calendar was also tied
to agricultural cycles, it is not clear how they brought it back into
syncronization when necessary.
For more on that situation, see
> While I was researching the date of Easter last semester, I
> the following Egyptian/Alexandrian calendar from Bede's Reckoning
> Time. I thought I would send it to you because it may help
to give some
> context for the 12 to 72 to 360 progression in Eugnostos -
> the connection to time in 83.22-84.11.
> The Egyptians had 12 months of 30 days each, and the 5 remaining
> the year were called epagomena (a sixth day was added every 4
> account for the 'leap year'. These occurred in late August
> 24-29/30). The year began with Thoth (Aug 29 to Sept. 27)
> Phaophi (Sept 28), Hathyr (Oct 29), Choiac (Nov 27), Tybi (Dec
> Mecheir (Jan 26), Phamenoth (Feb 25), Pharmouthi (Mar 27), Pachons
> 26), Payni (May 26), Epieph (June 25), and Mesore (July 25).
> To the extent that the progression from Immortal Man to Son of Man
> son of Son of Man, then to six androgynous pairs (12 powers) who
> six androgynous pairs (72 powers not 144!) who reveal 5 spiritual
> (now 360 powers) (83.2-20), reflects the subdivision of the year
> months and months into days, the insistance on 72 in the
> stage might represent a deconstruction of the 'normal' view of
> The connection between time, the motions of sun, moon and stars,
> pagan religion that we call astrology is far beyond what I am
> to explain. However, the following (questionable)
explanation of hours
> gives a sort of indication:
> The priests who regulated the calendars were given the title
> "Overseers of the Hours". In the first dynasties as writing spread
> through the country, the lunar religious calendar was simplified
> twelve months of thirty days with five days added to the beginning
> because the religious calendar was too cumbersome to use for
> transactions. This new calendar is called the civil calendar and
> earliest form of our modern western counterpart. Because the year
> actually about a quarter of a day longer than this averaged civil
> it gradually goes out of synchron-ization with the observable
> year and so both the lunar and religious calendars were used side
> side throughout Egyptian history. The development of the hour also
> out of the need to provide for religious rites to occur at their
> time (at actual sunrise on any given day, for example). The sungod
> traverses the netherworld where he is confronted by demons and
> who attempt to impede his progress to be reborn at sunrise. Spells
> in the Valley of the Kings (the Book of Gates, for example) help
> through twelve portals or hours of the night. Re had to recite the
> of each Gate, Gate Keeper, and his assistant demigods in order to
> safely to the next one. Dr. Wells pointed out that the Book of
> simply a mnemonic device ensuring that the proper sequence of
> constellations which came out of the Underworld would be
> correctly (i.e., the recitations at each Gate). It would work to
> hours in the following manner.
> Observations of a single star show that it rises four minutes
> day so that in the ideal case observations of twenty-four stars
> spaced across the sky would be needed to make accurate predictions
> sunrise throughout the year in which a given star would be used to
> the hour before sunrise. That star could serve as a "Herald" for
> only 15 days before it rose 2 hours before sunrise and thus had to
> replaced by the next star in the series. Since it would be
> recognize which bright stars were which rising near the same place
> the horizon, star groups or patterns of stars surrounding the
> star would be needed to aid recognition. The brightest star of a
> particular group represents the Gate Keeper. The other fainter
> the pattern, or constellation, are the attendants or demigods. The
> on the horizon where they rose would be the Gate itself. Writing
> the names of all these deities and the stories associated with
> became the Book of Gates. The usual number is 12 gates,
> the 12 hours of night, but variants with eight or ten gates also
> known to exist. These would simply represent star clocks with 8 or
> constellations used to predict sunrise. From:
> The Origins of Egyptian Calendars and Their Modern Legacy
> It is interesting to note that this section is one of those that
> markedly different in Sophia of Jesus Christ.
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2005
Subject: Assignment review
Since we won't be getting the minutes from today's class in time for
next week, I've added a paragraph with the assignments for next week on
the "minutes" page, and appropriate links. Here is the plan/hope:
Assignment: familiarize yourselves with codex 3 materials; we will also
take a closer look at the Gospel of Thomas. For some "variety" outside
the NHL texts, become more familiar with the "Secret Gospel of Mark,"
and the Odes of Solomon (some of which are quoted in Pistis Sofia; see
also Mead's introduction to the latter).
You will note that codex 3 contains another "Sofia" text, not to be
confused with the "Pistis Sofia," known and studied before the NHL was
discovered. You may spell it "Sophia" if you like (that's become
traditional), but the "ph" is a single Greek letter, so you can rebel
with me if you like.
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2005
Subject: Who's Who in Tripartite
Well, William won the Latin prize for speed of response (you all knew
it was Latin, right?), although that shouldn't stop anyone else from
replying with more nuanced idiom, or even humorous renderings.
Now back to Virginia's incisive contributions. This is probably the
longest, so I'll rearrange it a bit. After describing what she finds in
the Tractate about the main cosmic and sub-cosmic agents (see below),
> Have I got the characters/realms in reasonable disorder?
Readers must judge for themselves -- I'll append her descriptions --
but on the whole I think the answer is yes. This is a very difficult
text, not only for what it seems to say, but for how it relates to
other "gnostic" positions, Valentinian or not. The brief introduction
in the NHL volume by Elaine Pagels and Harry Attridge is worth a close
(re)reading in this regard. Note, for example, their claim that "the
author of the Tripartite Tractate interprets the divine being (here
called the pleroma, literally the "fullness") in terms of only three
primary members -- Father, Son, and Church -- a theological innovation
that Tertullian attributes to the western Valentinian teacher
Of course, that is too simple, and can't address the confusing details
in the descriptions and derivations found in the Tripartite Tractate.
My own reading of this material is colored by acquaintance with
Platonic and Aristotleian thought, which I see behind such distinctions
as "image" (basically positive, produced by right thought) and
"likeness" (basically negative, imitative, inauthentic) at the level of
the Archon of the cosmos (see 100.19ff; is there an interpretation of
Genesis 1.26 somewhere in the background?). Basic to all existence is
the self-existing unknowable "Father" like Aristotle's Unmoved Mover,
or perhaps better, Unfound Sought-one (see 71.8ff). The Monogenes
Father/Son is the point of possible knowledge of existence, from whom
emanate all sorts of Archons and existences -- the Pleroma and
Totatality. A rupture takes place somewhat mysteriously, which involves
a fallen Logos who finds his way back as a Redeemed Redeemer, and
ultimately is responsible for permitting the "organization" under the
cosmic Archon in which we live -- subject to various laws and
constraints as well as capable of connecting to the Pleromic (etc.)
realms. "Church" plays almost no role in part one of the Tractate,
where all this is laid out. (Thus contributing, perhaps, to Virginia's
question about different authors for the different parts.)
Enough on that situation, for now. Virginia raises a telling second
issue about all this:
This cosmology seems to be different from the Valentinian Exposition in
that this text is unrelentingly homosexual - there is no male-female
duality at all. The first man manages to fall with no help from
Eve. The defective Logos brings himself forth "weak as a female
nature which has abandoned its virility" (78.8-13) and the ones who
take form according to the image of the Pleroma, "having fathers who
are the ones who gave them life, each one being a copy of each one of
the faces, which are forms of maleness, since they are not from the
illness which is femaleness" (94.15-20). 'Female' in these two
sole instances seems to indicate a defective male, not a separate
sex. Even 'begetting' in this text has the (asexual) sense of
thought begetting thought in a stream of consciousness, or a plant
growing up from the root. Am I overreacting? This does not
seem consistent with the idea that women had a greater role in gnostic
circles, but rather that the role of women varied among different
gnostic groups as much as (and maybe more than) anywhere else.
Right on! There are circles, and there are circles. Perhaps this
Treatise comes from a highly ascetic male (monastic?) version of
gnosis, for whom the involvement of femaleness even at the level of
pleromic syzygies is unpalatable. Sometimes it is fun (maybe even
instructive) to try to turn such evidence into sociological realities,
and this text encourages that. See also Attridge/Pagels in their NHL
introduction: "this author, unlike Valentinus, declares that the Father
is 'alone, without any companion,' encompassing within himself all the
qualities that other Valentinian sources attribute to feminine elements
of the divine being (that is, the Mother, Silence, Grace)."
Finally, for now, another observation from Virginia:
> When I look beyond the wierd cosmology, the problem that the
author seems to
> be trying to explain is the existence of conflict/war/fighting in
> the harmony/unity/brotherly love that he thinks is ideal. [see
Perhaps not trying to explain it as much as to present a message about
how it can be overcome, while accepting it as a reality. Has our
ascetic (monastic?) gnostic experienced such disharmony from which he
has fled, perhaps even connecting it in part to female influences -- or
at least been conditioned to see the world in these terms? There are
some interesting parallels elsewhere in the ancient world(s).
> [VW continues] When man comes along his nature partakes of all of
> least if he is spiritual) and so he is at war within himself but
> enables him to become a seed/offshoot of the Church aeon (compare
> at war with the Flesh in 1Cor 2.6-3.3; and the rulers in Eph
2.1-10; and the
> church in Eph 4.-5.3. This author understands it differently
than Paul, but I
> think they are addressing the same issue.) Can you think of
a better passage?
The Pauline corpus is full of such battles, whether at an internalized
individual level (e.g. Romans 7) or in the community (spirit/flesh in
Gal 5-6 as well as 1 Cor) or in the world at large (your Eph passages,
or also Col on the "powers"). Harmony and community are themes
elsewhere as well (Acts, Hebrews, Barnabas, etc.), but the detailed
language in our Tractate is indeed striking. I imagine that I hear
apocalyptic rumblings in the background ("gnosis is frustrated
apocalyptic," R. M. Grant, more or less).
> [VW] The emphasis on the brotherly love/unity/community aspect of
> salvation/godliness seems to reflect a different orientation than
> on Truth/knowledge in the Gospel of Truth and also contrasts with
> pointedly private revelation in the Apocryphon of James. But
> someone/somepeople collected them into the same codex, do you know
> were all copied by the same hand? Does the observation that they
> collected in the same codex imply that they were considered
> in some way? The codex does not seem to have a polemical
> as Tertullian preserving some of Marcion's arguments, or Justin
> Trypho's arguments). This would be a good time for you to
tell me about
> codex technology and inspiration or lack thereof.
I don't know whether codex 1 is all in the same hand (probably not).
There is little reason to think that there were clear and discoverable
organizational principles behind such collections in this period (all
sorts of mixtures exist), although one might engage in the potentially
circular argument that the fact of making such a collection implies
some sort of similar attitudes of authority to the works gathered. I'm
skeptical, although there is no way to rule that possibility out at
this point. Some of the Nag Hammadi codex covers were carefully made,
and even match each other, so the idea of a conscious collection may be
even broader than each single codex. How wide? Why? Who knows??
Finally, VW asks about possible Auseinandersetzungsgeschichte (conflict
history) considerations behind this text:
> In another direction, this text was copied at about the time that
> in Alexandria was divided between Bishop Meletius of Lycopolis and
> Peter of Alexandria over the question of whether those who lapsed
> persecution in 301 could be reinstated. That conflict could
provide a context
> for understanding why the issue of brotherly love/unity and the
> important to the person who copied the text. Do you have any
insight into the
> relationship between text transmission and sitz im leben?
This also arises in
> connection with Rufinus' translation of the Pseudo-Clementines
Locating these texts in history with any precision is problematic. You
rightly ask about when it was copied -- that is less impossible to
determine, judging from the form of writing (paleography), the format
of the codex (codicology), the linguistic features employed, etc., than
when the basic original text was generated. If this was originally a
Greek text (or texts), when was it translated into Coptic? Did the
translator make modifications (this sometimes happens)? Did previous or
later copyists make modifications (as also happens)? When we have but a
single manuscript, as here, everything along those lines is basically
guesswork. My intuition is that this material is older than the early
4th century, and that its conflict language is not so unusual that I
couldn't feel comfortable placing it in a setting familiar with
apocalyptic themes combined with ethical and social concerns. But I
couldn't feel comfortable manufacturing an exact socio-historical
setting from these clues. I could write a historical novel, perhaps,
and make it all fit (like Keith Hopkins, A World of Gods), but I
woudn't want to pretend it was responsible history.
You've all been patient, if you've come this far. Still, I promised to
append the detailed disquisitions that led to such questions, so here
they are (with some repetitions for the sake of continuity):
Second, there seem to be three levels of creation (as well as the
'Valentinian' idea of three kinds of men). If I am reading the
text correctly, at the end of the first section (108.12 [sic!]) there
are angelic orders (some of the angels are fallen), but still no
creation in the physical sense.
Third, (and this is where I am confused) when the Logos begets himself
as a perfect unity (77-78), he fractures and begets the likenesses and
the one who runs on high. After this there is a defective Logos,
the aeon Logos, and the two orders of the likenesses and those of the
thought which have been begotten by the two Logoses(?) Logoi?.
The Logos of the Aeons repents and the Totality brings forth the fruit
that is the Son (is this Jesus? is this the Savior?) who reveals
himself to all of the aeons (gently) and the defective Logos and the
likenesses and thoughts (like lightening) (87-90). When the
fruit/Son appears, the Pleroma of the Logos becomes real (the
likenesses and the thoughts seem to become angels in some sense, and
now there are two distinct realms). This realm is set in order by
the Logos (the aeon one?, the defective one?) and culminates with the
establishment of an Archon who seems to be the demiurge and also the
thought of the Logos concerning the Father.
At the end of this I think we have: the Totality with Father,
preexistent Son, and aeons (contained in the Father) and the Pleroma of
the Logos with Demiurge, those of the likenesses, and those of the
thought (contained in the fruit/Son); and also an aeon-Logos and a
In Part 2, the Logos (which one?) creates the spiritual souls of men,
the Demiurge creates the psychic souls, and the beings of the likeness
create the hylic souls. Everyone helps to create the first
man. The Demiurge (aided or opposed? - the text is confused here)
by the serpent engineers the expulsion of man from paradise and death =
Part 3 deals with salvation and seems more like the other texts (less
When I look beyond the wierd cosmology, the problem that the author
seems to be trying to explain is the existence of conflict/war/fighting
in contrast to the harmony/unity/brotherly love that he thinks is
ideal. The ideal is reflected in the unity of the aeons in the
Totality which is contained in and glorifies the Father (who they come
to know by glorifying him). (72-74) The defect comes from the
separation of the Logos from the unity (which the text blames on free
will (75.35-38) and begets those of the likenesses who are fighters,
warriors, troublemakers, apostates, lovers of power, etc
(80.4-24). Those of the thought are in harmony with each other,
because of the thought/prayer of Logos toward the aeons (his
brothers)and through them, the Father (81.31-82.24; 83.26-33) but at
war with those of the likeness who were brought forth by the arrogant
thought (84.6-24). They are also in some sense at war with the
limit that preserves the peace of the realm of the aeons. The
fruit/Son that comes into being by the Father's response to the prayer
of the aeons for their brother enables the (defective Logos) to bring
order to the confusion of the warring likenesses and thoughts (98-104).
When man comes along his nature partakes of all of
these (at least if he is spiritual) and so he is at war within himself
but salvation enables him to become an seed/offshoot of the Church
aeon (compare the Spirit at war with the Flesh in 1Cor 2.6-3.3;
and the rulers in Eph 2.1-10; and the church in Eph 4.-5.3. This
author understands it differently than Paul, but I think they are
addressing the same issue.) Can you think of a better passage?
The Church exists at all three levels in this text
and seems to be characterized by unity and glorifying the
Father/Son. (I am still sorting this out.) It seems to me
that this image of the Church in the Totality and the spiritual ones in
the Church is a very different image for the same reality?? that is
represented in Rev. 7.9-17. (That might be stretching it, the
understanding of heaven in Revelations [sic!] and in the Tripartite
Tractate is fundamentally different.)
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005
Subject: Tripartite Tractate format
> I am having trouble with the Tripartite Tractate - first of all,
it seems to
> be 'tripartite' in every direction. In the most obvious, the
text is divided
> into three sections. In the Nag Hammadi Library version,
these sections are
> separated by rows of asterisks, but the line numbers are
> are no skipped lines between sections. The end lines of the
section seem to
> stop in the middle of the line, maybe.) Could these be
separate texts by the
> same author? Are there any clear references to this text?
To my knowledge, there are no references to this text in earlier
writers. Yes, they could be separate texts (by the same or different
authors) that were juxtaposed by someone (already in Greek? or only in
Coptic?) and then copied into the codex that has survived. I think that
they are written in the same Coptic hand, although I'm arguing from
silence (none of the sources I've consulted comment on different
copyists being involved).
I can't find a reproduction of the original pages, so this is
guesswork, but I suspect that there is a visible break (either a blank
space or a "decorative" line such as can be seen at the ends of some
other texts -- check
for example, the end of the Apocryphon of John, but with no indication
of the decorative line in the NHL edition. Incidentally, I was wrong
about "titles" when I said they usually came at the start and at the
finish of a work; they are usually only at the finish, as on that page,
which shows the start of the Gospel of Thomas). I thought this might
also be evidenced by counting the lines in the surrounding pages, but
it seems that there is too much variation (34-39 lines) to be sure.
Since I did the work, here are the figures:
page 99 has 36 lines,
100 has 39,
101 has 35,
102 has 34,
103 has 39,
104 (where the new section starts) has 35,
105 has 38,
106 has 37,
107 has 37,
108 (start of the third section) has 37,
109 has 37.
So you'd need to see the pages to be sure, or look at a major study of
the work that ought to comment on such matters.
I was wrong in an earlier posting that mentioned the French/Laval
series. There is a similar English series, called "Nag Hammadi Studies"
(NHS) and the pertinent volumes in it for codex 1 are NHS 22-23:
Attridge, H., ed. Nag Hammadi Codex I
(The Jung Codex): Introductions, Texts, Translations, Indices.
NHS, eds. M. Krause et al. XXII. (The Coptic Gnostic
Library, ed. J.M. Robinson). Leiden: Brill, 1985.
Attridge. H., ed. Nag
Hammadi Codex I (The Jung Codex): Notes. NHS, eds. M.
Krause et al. XXIII. (The Coptic Gnostic Library, ed.
J.M. Robinson). Leiden: Brill, 1985.
See the relevant web page
Mea magna culpa! Nemo sine crimine? (Figure it out! Extra credit?)
William Babcock responded
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 21:39:35 -0500 (EST)
> My great crime! is no one without sin? (I had six years of latin
> degrees of quality in my youth which I've promptly forgotten in
> studying semitic languages (which I've fallen in love with) but
> whatever refuse of latin remains in my head tells me).
Close. I think in this idiom, culpa is closer to error/mistake than to
crime; and crimine isn't quite "sin," but more like "fault" (something
one might be accused of -- thus crime and criminal?). But if any extra
credit is actually attached, you are the winner!
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005
Subject: Archaeology of Nag Hammadi?
Virginia asks: "Is there a good book about the archaeology of Nag
I don't know. A google search draws me to the home page of Gary Lease,
who wrote "Nag Hammadi: Archaeology." In The Anchor Bible Dictionary,
ed. David Noel Freedman, Gary Herion, et al., vol. 4, 982-84. New York:
and also "The Fourth Season of the Nag Hammadi Excavation, 21 December
- 15 January 1980." Goettinger Miszellen 41 (1980): 75-85.
So this seems like a good place to start!
Searching for "Nag Hammadi Excavation" will get you a few other items,
including Bastian Van Eldern's article in Biblical Archaeologist 42
(1979), pp. 225-31, and if you put an "s" on "Excavation," you will
find a nice web page devoted to bibliography on the subject --
What would we do (quickly) without google et sim.? Dig into it (if you
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005
Subject: Commentaries on Nag Hammadi
Virginia also had asked about commentaries on the Apocryphon of John,
and by extension on the rest of the Nag Hammadi writings. She notes:
> I found a commentary on the Apocryphon of James by Marvin Meyer,
> with the parable references. Other opinions still wanted.
If you can do French, check out the BCNH project (Bibliothe`que copte
de Nag Hammadi) at Laval University in Canada --
Thus far about 30 volumes of text, translation (French), introduction,
commentary, notes, and indices have appeared.
I don't know of a similarly ambitious and coordinated project in
English, although there are commentaries for several of the works, and
multiple studies for some like Gospel of Thomas or Gospel of Truth. If
you can do German ....
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005
Subject: GPhilip, God as "man-eater"
I have a series of questions from Virginia, none of them about Santa
Claus. Rather than trying to stuff them all into one response, I'll try
to divide and conquer. Easy stuff first!
> In the Gospel of Philip, when it says "God is a man-eater"
(63.1)... Is it
> possible that this is connected to the growth of the martyr
tradition in some
Many things are possible, and traditions about martyrs in the Jesus
movements go back to Stephen (Acts 7) if not John Baptist and
Joshua/Jesus himself. After Christianity is able to have a more public
face with the support of Constantine (and the intrests of his mother,
Helene!), martyr traditions and sites seem to have multiplied. Not that
there weren't plenty of earlier martyrs and local sites, with
traditions focusing especially on the Neronic persecution (after the
fire in 64), Ignatius (before 116), Marcus Aurelius (165, who helped
Justin obtain his second name), Decius (252 -- note the Donatist crisis
in North Africa), and Diocletian (303). So something written in the 2nd
or 3rd centuries could well reflect such issues. If other similarly
"gnostic (Valentinian)" texts support such an interpretation, that
strengthens the case.
For myself, until I see such evidence of concern about martyrdom in
those circles, I'll be less inclined to interpret the text that way.
Indeed, if the tradition behind this passage puts little value on
material, historical, physical life, it might just mean that life in
this world is "sacrificed" in the process of obtaining redemption
(reunification). On the other hand, if the "God" of this passage is the
lesser creator God, it could be a negative commentary on the operations
of that God, or of humans in relation to that God.
Or something else.
Subject: PS on G.Phil 63.1
Layton (Gnostic Scriptures) cross references this verse with G.Philip
54.31 and following, which also talks about human and animal sacrifices
and ends with the statement "man/humanity was offered up dead to god;
and became alive."
For those of you who like puzzles, fill in the blanks in this section.
Here are my suggestions (I've tried to preserve the physical line
... There exist forces/powers
that [ ] man/humanity, not wanting
him/it to [ ] so that they might
[ ] For if man/humanity
[ ] be any sacrifices
[ ] and animals will not be offered
 to the forces/powers. Indeed, [ ] the animals are those
who sacrifice to them. They were indeed offering
them up alive, but when they
offered them up they died. As for man, they offered
him up to God dead, and he lived.
Layton's reconstruction (slightly adjusted):
... There exist forces
that [ ] human beings, not wanting
them to [attain salvation] so that they might become
[ ] For if human beings
[there will not] be any sacrifices
[ ] and animals will not be offered
 to the forces. Indeed, the ones to whom offerings used to be made
were animals. They were indeed offered
up alive, but when they had been
offered up, they died. Human beings were offered
him up to god dead, and they became alive.
RAK's guesses (without reference to the Coptic!):
... There exist forces/powers
that [exercise control over] man/humanity, not wanting
him/it to [attain salvation] so that they might
[remain in control.] For if man/humanity
[attains salvation, there will not] be any sacrifices
[needed to be offered] and animals will not be offered up
 to the forces/powers. Indeed, [they are] the animals who were
sacrificed to them. They were indeed offering them
up alive, but when they
offered them up they died. As for man, they offered
him up to God/god dead, and he lived.
I do not pretend to know who is the "he/it" or the "they" in most of
this, especially at the end. Ambiguity is the mother of gnosis (you
heard it here!). Nor do I think martyrdom is a prime concern here,
although it could lurk in the background if it was on the author's or
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2005
Subject: Minutes #02 !
Doug has set a very high standard for promptness as well as accuracy.
The second set of minutes are available on the web site, with some
interesting links (that I've added) as well.
Check out all the pictures
at various stages in his illustrious career. And if you read the
bio-sketches for him (there are three in the same file), the second and
third are more to the point than the first, which concerns itself less
with his scholarly efforts than with how some of his statements could
be taken as playing into Nazi ideology (Harnack died in 1930, I hasten
to add, on the eve of the Nazi rise to power). O tempores O mores.
I couldn't find a picture of Zahn.
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005
From: Robert Kraft <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Gnosticism and Apocalyptic
After class, Virginia raised the following questions that will be of
> The question I was trying to think of had to do with the
> between gnosticism and apocalyptic in early Christianity.
The two seem
> to share some important features:
> 1. the present world is viewed as utterly corrupt;
> 2. God is removed from this present reality;
> 3. salvation must come about by an act of God;
> 4. only the elect will be saved;
> 5. there is some kind of special revelation made to a
> concerning the salvation of the elect.
> There also seem to be some important differences:
> 1. The present world is corrupt in its essence/being for
> world is corrupted by wicked men for apocalyptic.
> 2. The elect are saved by sharing in the divine nature and
> removed from this world for Gnostics; while the elect are saved by
> judgement of God in apocalyptic.
> 3. Salvation is a change in the nature of the elect (soul to
> ignorant to knowing) for the Gnostics. That is, salvation is
> individual. Salvation involves a purification of the world in
> apocalyptic, and therefore applies to the community of the
> 4. For Gnostics, salvation is spatial/dimensional, they are
> from the physical world into a spiritual one. In
> is temporal, and will occur in some (end of historical) future.
Robert M. Grant is credited with the theory that Gnosticism is a
development from frustration with apocalyptic hopes. A quick google
search led to Michael Kaler's review of Bart Ehrman's Lost
Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
(2003), with the following comments on this subject:
Furthermore, the hypothesis that Gnosticism arose from a failed Jewish
apocalypticism, which Ehrman presents, is by no means certain. The two
literary genres certainly have a great deal in common, and as far as we
know apocalypticism does predate Gnosticism, and gnostic works
(particularly Sethian) use a great many apocalyptic motifs. However, is
this a case of Gnosticism being created by frustrated apocalypticists
to explain why the eschaton did not come as planned or a case of
literary borrowings between two groups with similar concerns? The
latter idea is at least as possible as the former. There is at present
no convincing consensus on the origins of Gnosticism: the apocalyptic
derivation is one possibility among many and should have been signaled
[and his footnote 3: For a good summation of the similarities, and also
for a critique of the well-known theory of R. M. Grant that Gnosticism
developed out of frustrated apocalyptic hopes in the aftermath of the
first Jewish Revolt, see Keller, "Das Problem des Bo"sen in Apokalyptik
und Gnostik," in Gnosis and
Gnosticism: Papers Read at the Seventh
International Conference on Patristic Studies (Oxford, September
8thoe13th 1975) (ed. M. Krause; NHS 8;
Leiden: Brill, 1977), 70-90.]
[back to RAK] My recollection is that Grant abandoned that explanation
-- Jean Danielou is said to have agreed with "the early Grant" idea, in
a presentation at the Messina congress, I think (anecdotal evidence!).
My own take on it is that (1) it sounds like a stretch, and (2) what
sort of evidence could be offered for such a development among the
actual participants? Perhaps Mani comes close, with his interest in
apocalyptic texts and his radical dualism. And it needs to be said that
there are so many varieties of "apocalyptic" attested in the surviving
materials that it would not be an impossible development
to expect cosmic eradication to take place enroute to the reunification
of the scattered sparks of deity (and perhaps for later adherents to
drop the apocalyptic aspects?). To put it another way, certain types of
apocalypticism do not seem incompatible with certain types of
gnosticism, although actually showing historical (not just conceptual)
derivation of the latter from the former would seem difficult. Let's
look for possible evidence as we read the texts. (I suppose I'll have
to return to this in the "Early Christian
Apocalypticism" course next fall!)
> Also, the time at which the Nag Hammadi codices were written and
> buried makes one think of Arius and the rise of Arianism at least
> much as Gnosticism. (This is a puzzled comment, I don't know
what to do
> with it other than to keep in mind that maybe all these heresies
> fit into neat little compartments.)
Forget the neat compartments. Arianism does seem to have shared certain
"Platonic" approaches also found in some gnostic groups (perhaps Jesus
Christ as creative "demiurge" would be close to Arius' position), but I
don't think that the Arians embraced the more radical forms of dualism
that tend to typify "gnosticisms." On the other hand, I'm not sure what
constituted "salvation" for Arius and his followers -- that is, did it
take place on the level of the created world? Was the created world to
be "redeemed" as such?
> Will we be able to focus on some of the cosmogenic texts later on
My privilege. Let the floods (of email questions) begin! -- and
remember that if you hit the reply button to class messages, your reply
will go to everyone on the list, not just to me.