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THE HEREAFTER IN THE GNOSTIC RELIGION

THE HEREAFTER IN THE GNOSTIC RELIGION BY DINA RIPSMAN EYLON, PH.D.

Introduction This study deals with Gnostic beliefs in the afterlife as found in the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, which were discovered in Upper Egypt in 1945, merely two years before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.1 Having lain dormant for a millennium, both contain some historical clues to the development of early Christianity and shed new light on the sectarian religious movements of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Nag Hammadi texts are contemporary with the formation of the Talmudic literature, and as early Christian writings they are viewed as having Jewish roots. Schuyler Brown claims that Gnosticism, as reflected in the Nag Hammadi literature, drew on Jewish speculation (Midrash) about the creation story of Genesis:
The origins of gnosis are probably in Jewish speculation on the first chapter of Genesis speculation that flowed naturally from the parent faith into Christianity. Since the Genesis story of creation has incorporated folkloric materials about the loss of innocence through the acquisition of knowledge (gnosis; cf, Gen 3:7), it provided a spring board for speculation about the causes of the human predicament and the knowledge of one s true origin in which alone salvation and liberation are to be found.2

Research on these Gnostic texts reveals a unique belief-system, which was perpetrated by Gnostic monks who laboriously translated a large selection of Greek manuscripts into the Coptic language, never realizing that most would survive only in Coptic. Today, because the Nag Hammadi manuscripts are available also in English translation, scholars are not restricted to the records of the Church Fathers or Christian Heresiologists, such as Justin, Irenaeus of Lyons, Hippolytus of Rome, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, or Origen.

James M. Robinson, The Discovering and Marketing of Coptic Manuscripts: The Nag Hammadi Codices and the Bodmer Papyri, in Roots of Egyptian Christianity, eds. Birger A. Pearson and James E. Goehring, Studies in Antiquity & Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1992), 2-25. 2 Schuyler Brown, Religious Imagination Then and Now, The Bible Today 29 (July 1991): 240.

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As noted above, this study presumes that there is a relationship or correlation between Gnosticism and Judaism. In an article written more than two decades ago, Birger Albert Pearson notes that much has been written on the question of the origins of Gnosticism and the relationship of Gnosticism to Judaism. While investigating this theory, Pearson rediscovered the works of the late nineteenth-century Jewish scholar, Moritz Friedlander, who suggested that Gnosticism originated in Judaism. More specifically, Gnosticism was a pre-Christian phenomenon, which originated in antinomian circles in the Jewish community of Alexandria. From there, suggests Pearson, Gnosticism spread northward to Judea.3 Friedlanders theory is based on his reading of Philo. Unfortunately, the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library (NHL) was unknown to him. Pearson remedies this situation by integrating supporting evidence from the newly discovered Gnostic corpus into Friedlanders arguments. Moreover, he postulates that if one could find in Philo some clear examples of polemics directed against specifically Gnostic theologoumena against Gnostic teachings concerning the inferior Demiurge, for example then Friedlanders case for the existence of Jewish Gnostics in Alexandria could be made airtight.4 After further weighing Friedlanders thesis against his own, Pearson concludes that Gnosticism is a pre-Christian phenomenon, which is rooted in Judaism.5 However, in his opinion, Friedlanders work is lacking in the treatment and in-depth analysis of the historical, social, and political aspects of the rise of Gnosticism.6
3

Birger Albert Pearson, Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity, Studies in Antiquity and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 10-28. [This article was first published in Studia Philonica 2 (1973): 23-39.] See also Moritz Friedlander, Der vorchristliche judische Gnosticismus (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1898). (Reprinted Farnborough: Gregg International, 1972.); Birger A. Pearson, The Problem of Jewish Gnostic Literature, in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism & Early Christianity, eds. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgson, Jr. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986), 15-35. In this article, Pearson stressed again the same argument: The Nag Hammadi discoveries have decisively put to rest the old idea that Gnosticism is a Christian heresy in its origins. The massive array of Jewish traditions found in many Nag Hammadi texts have brought the issue of the relationship between Gnosticism and Judaism to the foreground of the discussion, even if most (but not all!) of the Nag Hammadi texts in question appear in Christian dress. (Ibid., 15) For other supporters of this theory, see A.F.J. Klijn, Jewish Christianity in Egypt, in The Roots of Egyptian Christianity, eds. Birger A. Pearson and James E. Goehring, Studies in Antiquity & Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 161-75; G. Kretschmar, Zur religionsgeschichtlichen Einordnung der Gnosis, Evangelische Theologie 13 (1953): 354-61. 4 Pearson, Gnosticism, 21. 5 Ibid., 27 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 2 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

THE HEREAFTER IN THE GNOSTIC RELIGION

Definitions of Gnosis and Gnosticism The various definitions presented below reflect the scholarship on Gnosticism since the discovery of the NHL in 1945. Hans Jonas first published his book on Gnosticism in 1934, eleven years before the discovery. Gnosticism, in his view, could be seen as having a dualistic-anticosmic spirit in general, laced with questionable Jewish and Hellenistic elements of which the latter undermines the former.7 Kurt Rudolph bases his definition primarily on the proceedings of the 1966 Messina academic conference on the origins of Gnosticism. He distinguishes between two different terms: 1) Gnosis, a knowledge given by revelation, which has been made available only to the elect who are capable of receiving it, and therefore has an esoteric character,8 and 2) Gnosticism, a term conceived in the eighteenth century C.E., which should be understood as the Gnostic systems of the second and third centuries9 and is really just a particular form of Gnosis. His dual definition reflects a particular viewpoint, which is based on his socio-theological study of Gnosticism.10 Other scholars like Elaine Pagels shift from sociological, anthropological or philosophical definitions of Gnosticism into another field, the psychology of the Gnostic believer: As the gnostics use the term, we translate it as insight, for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself...at the deepest level, [it] is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of Gnosis.11 Gilles Quispel, influenced by the theories of Carl G. Jung, claims that until the discovery of the NHL, it was impossible to prove that Gnosticism grew out of Judaism. But the new evidence from the NHL unmistakably points in this direction. At the Eranos Foundation in Ascona, Switzerland (1971), Quispel delivered a paper in which he cited Gnostic rituals as having Jewish roots. Moreover, for Quispel, Gnosis is based on the
6

For a slightly different view, see Robert McQueen Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (New York: Harper & Row, 1996). In a letter to Birger A. Pearson [January 28, 1973], Gershom Scholem related his latest conviction that Gnosticism did in fact arise from within Judaism. (Pearson, Gnosticism, 27.) 7 Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity (Boston: Beacon Press, 1991), 33. Jonas revised the 1934 edition, published originally in German, for the English translation, which first appeared in 1958. 8 Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, trans. Robert McLachlan Wilson (New York: HarperSan Francisco, 1987), 55. 9 Ibid., 56. 10 Ibid., 57. 11 Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), xix, 124. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 3 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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idea that there is something in man, his unconscious spirit, which is related to the ground of being. In order to restore the wholeness it has lost, the deity has an interest in redeeming this spiritual principle in man [humanity].12 Similarly, Schuyler Brown, drawing on psychological terminology and Jungian theory, sees Gnosis as introverted religious knowledge.13 Brown illustrates his definition with references from Pauline theology: All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection. (Philippians 3:10)14 In an attempt to explain the rise of Gnosticism, Walter Wink perceives it as a reaction by various Jewish rebels writing about their daily struggles with powers beyond their control to the harsh Roman military occupation of the Middle East. They understood the powers mythologically as a dichotomy between heaven and earth. And more importantly, they were interpreted in terms of the Roman political oppression: Gnosticism provided a stunning revelation of the actual spirituality of the Roman World. The Powers featured in Gnosticism the Demiurge (Creator) and his Archons (rulers) were, to some degree at least, the symbolic distillate of the negative experiences of Roman rule.15 Wink traces the rise of Gnosticism to the Jewish apocalyptic and wisdom literature. As visual symbols became internalized, the Gnostics vented their hostility towards the Roman powers in their writings.16 Gershom G. Scholem discusses the existence of Jewish Gnosticism in several of his books, commenting that Gnosticism is a rather loose term.17 Scholem identifies the term Gnosticism as the religious movement that proclaimed a mystical esotericism for
12

Gilles Quispel, The Birth of the Child in Jewish and Gnostic Man, Eranos Lectures, no. 3 (Dallas, Texas: Spring Publications, 1973), 4. 13 Schuyler Brown, Gnosis, Theology and Historical Method, in Hellenization Revisited: Shaping a Christian Response within the Greco-Roman world, ed. Wendy E. Helleman (Lenham: University Press of America, 1994), 279-91. 14 NEB translation as quoted in Brown s article. 15 Walter Wink, Cracking the Gnostic Code: The Powers in Gnosticism (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), 67. 16 This is argued also in Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, 27-38. Grant suggested that the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. was a contributing factor to the rise of Gnosticism, but later withdrew his suggestion. See also Edwin Masao Yamauchi, Jewish Gnosticism, in Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions: Festschrift for Gilles Quispel, eds. Roelof van del Broek and M. J. Vermasseren (Leiden: Brill, 1981), 490-91. 17 Gershom G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradition (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1965), 1.

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the elect based on illumination and the acquisition of a higher knowledge of things heavenly and divine. It is to this knowledge that the very term Gnosis, meaning knowledge, that is to say, knowledge of an esoteric and at the same time soteric (redeeming) character, alludes.18 In summary, the esoteric nature and the diversity that are presented in the Gnostic writings themselves explain the variations among the above definitions. Intrinsically, Gnosis or Gnosticism conveys a dualistic viewpoint: one from the inside out, i.e., the way the Gnostic believers view themselves and the other from the outside in, i.e., the way their critics view them. The persons who are described as practicing the teachings of the NHL in the early centuries of the first millennium were called Gnostics because they claimed to know the nature of divinity in a particular way that was not known to people outside their communities. Early Research Research into the nature and the characteristics of Gnosticism had begun long before the discovery of the NHL. According to Kurt Rudolph, historical research started as early as 1699 with Gottfried Arnold, followed by Isaac de Beausobre (1734-39) and Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1739-58). The turning point occurred towards the middle of the 19th century with Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860) who interpreted the Gnostic religion through Hegelian eyes.19 These German historians characterize Gnosticism as a remote branch of Christianity that is greatly influenced by Eastern traditions. Two later historians, Adolph von Harnack (1851-1930) and Adolf Hilgenfeld (? -1884) respectively identify Hellenistic and Samaritan elements in Gnosticism.20 A new development in modern research on Gnosticism has occurred with the discovery of the NHL and the publication of Hans Jonas book, The Gnostic Religion (1958). Jonas breaks away from the quest for the Gnostic origin into its philosophical and religious aspects. The subtitle of his book, The Message of the Alien God and the Beginning of Christianity, is very significant because it re-connects Gnosticism to early

18 19

Ibid. Rudolph, Gnosis, 30-4. 20 Brown, Gnosis, Theology and Historical Method, 279-91.

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Christianity. Jonas places Gnosticism in a particular spiritual climate that helps in its characterization. From then on modern research into Gnosticism has flourished and reached a high level of prolificacy:
First, all the phenomena, which we noted in connection with the original wave, are of a decidedly religious nature; and this, as we have repeatedly stated, is the prominent characteristic of the second phase of Hellenistic culture in general. Second, all these currents have in some way to do with salvation: the general religion of the period is a religion of salvation. Third, all of them exhibit an exceedingly transcendent (i.e., transmundane) conception of God and in connection with it an equally transcendent and otherworldly idea of the goal of salvation. Finally, they maintain a radical dualism of realms of being - God and the world, spirit and matter, soul and body, light and darkness, good and evil, life and death - and consequently an extreme polarization of existence affecting not only man [human being] but reality as a whole: the general religion of the period is a dualistic transcendent religion of salvation.21

The Gnostic Communities and Their Theology Among the growing number of Gnostic scholars, Kurt Rudolph stands out in his efforts to identify the major characteristics of the Gnostic community and its cultic practices. Rudolph believes that Gnosis is not just a body of literature22 but has to be understood, in social terms, as a unique community, leading its own way of life. Thanks to the Nag Hammadi material, he adds, this [the study of Gnosticism] is now a more fruitful exercise than was possible earlier.23 Yet, despite this assertion, Rudolph cannot distance himself from the Heresiologists position and continues to depict the Gnostic community as essentially pagan. Relying exclusively on the accounts of the Heresiologists and treating them as genuine historical records is risky for academic scholarship. Frederik Wisse recommends caution when using early Christian literature for historical investigations:
To account historically for this group of writings [early Christian literature] is far more difficult than is generally realized. Some of them may fit comfortably into one of the factions identified on the basis of polemic and historical texts, but many do not...It is far from clear what relationship of such writings was to the different theological, ethical, ritual and organizational positions current in Christian churches at the time of their writing. 24
21 22

Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 31-32. Rudolph, Gnosis, 204. 23 Ibid., 205. 24 Frederik Wisse, The Use of Early Christian Literature as Evidence for Inner Diversity and Conflict, in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism & Early Christianity, 181.

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The Gnostics in the NHL refer to themselves variously as Valentinians, Basilidians, or the Simonians. Similarly, they identify themselves in sectarian terms, such as the chosen, the elect or the children (or sons) of the light. They claim to originate from an unchanging aeon, free of earthly elements, and therefore better human beings. According to Kurt Rudolph, they also identify themselves as the primordial generation or the elite of mankind.25 The Gnostics sense of community was characterized by their feeling of connection to the heavenly church the aeon of the church above a combination of the words word [logos] and life. This church existed before the creation and admitted only pre-creation spirits who were reborn in the pneumatics (perfect ones, chosen ones or psychics). Rudolph admits that a sociology of gnosis...[is] at the moment still only in its infancy. We can only look into a few characteristic features here.26 He quotes from The Book of Thomas the Contender (NHL II 7) illustrating the double structure and the polarization of the Gnostic society, which consisted, on the one hand, of the beginners or small ones and, on the other hand, of the perfect ones or chosen ones. Irenaeus and Tertullian, states Rudolph, exposed the missionary character of the sect, which drew to them the uneducated or semi-educated. The leaders of the sect, accordingly, could be described as rootless intellectuals with no political influence, who had a more or less philosophical and above all mythological culture, which won adherents from the plebeian classes.27 Rudolph continues to say that the Gnostic communities practiced black magic, astrology, and philosophical eclecticism. However, he fails to provide actual references for such behavior. Moreover, even though scholarship may benefit from new evidence, which is emerging from the NHL, Kurt Rudolph relies continuously upon the accounts of the Church Fathers, particularly Irenaeus of Lyons, known for his overt hostility to the Gnostics. Rudolph compares the Gnostic communities to the mystery cults of Late Antiquity as both had control over their internal affairs, appointed their own leaders, had their own initiation rites and
25 26

Ibid., 206. Ibid., 208. 27 Ibid., 209.

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sacraments and codes of secrecy.28 Yet, this portrayal of the Gnostic phenomenon is difficult. How can one segregate the Gnostics as a cult in a period when Christianity was merely a cult itself? Rudolphs marginalization of Gnosticism from what he calls the core of Christianity, fails to identify his presumed and elusive core of Christianity. Furthermore, the NHLs saturation with images of Jesus, salvation, and revelation motifs could seriously challenge the validity of Rudolphs claims concerning the marginality and pagan nature of Gnosticism.29 Attempting to determine the socioeconomic background of Egyptian Christianity, Henry A. Green explains the difficulties in obtaining reliable data from the Christian Bible and other related early Christian sources. Green suggests that the social degradation carried by this [Roman] fiscal reform contributed significantly to the development of salvation religions, such as Gnosticism and Christianity.30 Though Greens study is limited to the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., his investigative model could serve as an example to the use of other ancient documents not pertaining to early Christian sources.31 Greens conclusions are noteworthy:
The use of sociological models to map the interaction between social classes and the intersection of economy and Christian ideology has the potential of bringing forth a wealth of data to the analysis of orthodoxy and heresy, Catholic, Coptic and gnostic Christianity in Roman Egypt. ...Their social position in the stratification system may help us to understand more specifically how early Egyptian Christianity adjusted to the commanding ethos of its contemporary world.32

The Soul and the Afterlife in the Nag Hammadi Literature The Gnostic treatise, The Exegesis on the Soul [third century C.E.] is a short composition about the sexual adventures of the soul, portrayed as a prostitute, after her
28 29

Ibid., 214-5. For more information on the social aspects of early Christianity, see John Gager, Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christianity (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975); Henry A. Green, The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism (Ph.D. diss., St. Andrews University, 1982); E. A. Judge, The Social Pattern of Christian Groups in the First Century: Some Prolegomena to the Study of the New Testament of Social Organization (London: Tyndale Press, 1960); Abraham Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity, 2d ed., (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983). See also Joseph Dan, The Ancient Jewish Mysticism (Tel Aviv: MOD Books, 1993), 42-62. 30 Henry A. Green, The Socio-Economic Background of Christianity in Egypt, in The Roots of Egyptian Christianity, 110. 31 Ibid., 103, 104, 106, 108. 32 Ibid., 113.

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fall to this world. Divided into two main parts, the treatises first part describes the souls life until it/she decides to repent; while the second part, mainly theological, is loaded with phrases and quotes from the Christian and Hebrew Bibles and Homers Odyssey (4.260264). The authors unique style of biblical exegesis is well demonstrated in the way the biblical prophet Jeremiah describes the relationship between Jerusalem and God (Jeremiah 3:1-4). While ignoring the biblical symbolism and textual connotation of Jeremiah 3:1-4, the treatises author reinterprets the scene as the relationship between the human soul and the Unknown Father, employing the same method with the remaining biblical citations.33 Worth noting is a depiction of the souls repentance and its/her transformation, which are understood as part of a spiritual resurrection. Embarking on a long journey of repentance and ascent to heaven, she34 reaches a higher spiritual world and is saved after she meets her Father. The souls salvation depends entirely on repentance and divine mercy, enabling her to return to her divine source. In this process three notions are taken for granted: 1) The source of the soul is pure and divine. She becomes defiled as she falls down to this world. 2) The soul is eternal. Despite her fall, she longs to return to her heavenly source. In the higher spheres, the soul maintains an intimate relationship, devoid of definition or description, with the Father. 3) The souls upward journey is regarded as either a resurrection, or a kind of a spiritual salvation.35 The notion of reincarnation is not entirely new to the Mandeans, a Gnostic community still surviving in present-day Iraq. One of their religious texts depicts the soul as entering and leaving the body. But while existing in the body, it feels imprisoned, O Soul, arise, go forth, enter the body and be chained in the palace. (Left Ginza III 1). Similarly, another text states, I proceeded and entered the body and let myself be fettered in the palace. From the day on which I entered the body, I was his bride in the ages; His bride was I in the ages, and the evil ones from the depths were angry with me. (Left Ginza III 9).36

33 34

For example, Hosea 2:2-7; Ezekiel 16:23-26. Grammatically, the Coptic text refers to the soul as a feminine noun and pronoun. 35 The Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed. James M. Robinson, 3rd ed. (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 196. 36 Rudolph, Gnosis, 109-112.

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According to various Mandean hymns of the dead, the biblical Adam, the prototype of the souls, plays a special role by embodying the totality of the souls.37 This notion, for instance, re-appears in several kabbalistic works, such as the Zohar (thirteenth century C.E.) and Hayyim Vitals Shaar ha-Gilgulim (1542-1620). The Book Bahir, a twelve-century Jewish kabbalistic text, is often described as containing Gnostic elements and symbols such as the Pleroma, the Cosmic Tree, Sophia (as daughter and bride), and the potencies or attributes of God. Gershom Scholem dedicates a considerable part of his research on the Bahir to the exploration of these issues. In his search for a historical and literary connection between the medieval Kabbalah and Hekhalot literature, Scholem suggests that the missing link between these two bodies of literature could be found in the Gnostic tradition, which has increased in volume and content after the recent discovery of the NHL in Egypt.38 When the Christian Gnostics describe the creation of the first human being and the consequences of the first human sin, they focus largely on discussions on the origin of the soul and its essence:
It is fitting that we explain about the soul of the first human being, that it is from the spiritual logos39 while the creator thinks that it is his, since it is from him, as from a mouth which one breathes. The creator also sent down souls from his substance, since he, too has a power of procreation, because he is something, which has come into being from the representation of the Father. Also those of the left brought forth, as it were, men of their own, since they have the likeness of [being]. (The Tripartite Tractate 105:29106:5)40

This passage distinguishes quite clearly between the creator, most probably the Demiurge, and the Father. The Demiurge, the creator god, creates souls by breathing them out of his mouth, similar to the biblical account in Genesis 2:7. The passage continues with the depiction of the serpent as a demonic force that lures the first human into sin and eventually brings the curse of mortality upon humanity. Alternatively, the

37 38

Ibid., 109. For particulars see Scholem, Major Trends, 35; Origins, 68-97, 197-8. For a discussion on Scholems views, see also Abrams, The Book Bahir, 4-8. 39 In other instances the Greek work logos is translated as word. 40 All English translations follow the The Nag Hammadi Library in English.

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role of the serpent in the bahiric and zoharic traditions resembles the descriptions in Gnostic literature.41 In a different composition, the Gospel of Philip, (third century C.E.), the creation of the human soul, comprising the psyche (soul), and the pneuma (spirit), is elaborated on:
It is from water and fire that the soul [psyche] and the spirit [pneuma] came into being. It is from water and fire and light that the son of the bridal chamber42 (came into being). The fire is the chrism [anointing], the light is the fire. I am not referring to that fire which has no form, but to the other fire whose form is white which is bright and beautiful, and which gives beauty. (Gospel of Philip 67:2-9)

Similar ideas are expressed in another Gnostic composition, the Hypostasis of the Archons, written in the third century C.E.: And he [God] breathed into his face; and the man came to have a soul (and remained) upon the ground many days. (88:3-5)43 Afterwards, the spirit saw the soul-endowed man upon the ground. And the spirit came forth from the Adamantine Land; it descended and came to dwell within him, and that man became a living soul. (88:11-15)44 This account of the creation of Adam is somewhat peculiar when compared to the biblical story because it points to a spirit that came forth from the earth to create part of Adam. Roger Aubrey Bullard examines the passages and deduces that the instillation of Spirit within Adam is not described as the giving of a spark of light, as so often elsewhere, nor does the Spirit come from the realm of light above, but from the Earth

41

Abrams, The Bahir, 225; The Wisdom of the Zohar, 499-500, 513-4, 666-7. See also Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 69, 120; Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 92-4. 42 See Elaine Pagels, The Mystery of Marriage in the Gospel of Philip, in The Allure of Gnosticism: The Gnostic Experience in Jungian Psychology and Contemporary Culture, ed. Robert A. Segal, June Singer and Murray Stein (Chicago and La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1995), 108. The unique Gnostic term Bridal chamber (nymphion) is mentioned six times in the NHL. Drawing on the allegorical Jewish interpretation of the Song of Songs, the bridal chamber sanctifies the wedding ceremony as if it were a union between God and the Holy Spirit when the masculine and the feminine divine forces copulate. The ritual practice behind the concept of the bridal chamber is still a matter for speculation. Pagels describes this as a remarkable feature of the Gospel of Philip that is frequently mentioned as a secret gnostic sacrament a sacrament that is the culmination of all other sacraments and that transforms the recipient. 43 Roger Aubrey Bullard, The Hypostasis of the Archons (Berlin: Walter de Guyter, 1970), 23. In an earlier translation of the same text, Bullard renders a slightly different version: And he breathed into his face, and man became psychic upon earth for many days. (136:3-5). 44 Bullard notes that the he [God, as noted above] in the text refers to the Demiurge. In addition, he brings a similar account from Codex II, On the Origin of the World 16, 6-14 and from the Apocryphon of John II 19 (67), 13-14.

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below.45 In contrast, midrashic accounts of the creation of the first human being, like Exodus Rabbah 31:15, specify that the soul came from heaven and the body from earth. As long as the soul is kept in heaven, it is pure and incorruptible. Moreover, a soul which has become Christian is pure by the virtue of Jesus divinity: The soul which is a member of Gods household is one which is kept pure, and the soul which was put on Christ is one which is pure. It is impossible for it to sin. Now where Christ is, there sin is idle. (The Teachings of Silvanus 109:4-11)46 In this passage the transformation of a newly converted Christian can achieve a state of genuine spirituality devoid of sin and earthly pollution. Only when one believes in the purity of Jesus soul can one be rid of sins. Many Gnostic writings portray a dualistic view concerning the souls, dividing them into two categories, good and evil. Even though the Sentences of Sextus, translated into Coptic and discovered with the rest of the Gnostic library, is not a typical Gnostic work, it includes two sentences (348 and 349), which distinguish between good souls and evil souls. Demons cannot touch the good souls, insists the author of this composition, only the polluted [akathartos] ones.47 In the Apocryphon of John, (circa 185 C.E.), the human soul originates from the Invisible Light or Spirit, which is then identified with the Holy Spirit.48 The good soul, though not immediately, joins its mates in the aeons:49 The soul in which the power will become stronger than the counterfeit spirit, is strong and it flees from evil and, through
45 46

Bullard, The Hypostasis of the Archons, 67-71. See The Teaching of Silvanos, eds. and trans. by Malcolm Peel and Zan Zandee in Nag Hammadi Codex VII, ed. Birger A. Pearson (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 344. According to Peel, parallels to this notion are found in Romans 13:4 and 6:2b, 11, 22; Galatians 3:27 and 1 John 3:6, 9. 47 Ibid., 506. 48 Ibid., 105-108. 49 See Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 53-4. Aeons are defined differently in Gnosticism, as Jonas explains: This twofold aspect of the cosmic terror, the spatial and the temporal, is well exhibited in the complex meaning of the gnostically adapted Hellenistic concept of Aeon. Originally a time concept purely (duration of life, length of cosmic time, hence eternity), it underwent personification in pre-gnostic Hellenistic religion possibly as adaptation of the Persian god Zervan and became an object of worship, even then with some fearsome associations. In Gnosticism it takes a further mythological turn and becomes a class-name for whole categories of either divine, semi-divine, or demonic beings. In the last sense the Aeons represent with temporal as well as spatial implications the demonic power of the universe or (as in the Pistis Sophis) of the realm of darkness in its enormity. Their extreme personification may sometimes all but obliterate the original time aspect, but in the frequent equating of Aeons with Worlds that aspect is kept alive as part of a meaning become rather protean through the drifts of mystical imagination.

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the intervention of the incorruptible one, it is saved and it is taken up to the rest of the aeons.50 (The Apocryphon of John 26:26-32) In this account, John ponders over the fate and future of certain souls. He wonders whether they are taken into the pure light after death. Jesus replies that issues regarding the meaning of the soul and its source are difficult to explain to those who do not belong to the chosen race.51 However, a human upon whom the spirit of life descends eventually becomes stronger, and when redeemed turns into a perfect creature devoid of all sins and therefore worthy of eternal life. John asks again about the future of those upon whom the spirit of life has not descended and whether they will be rejected during the act of Redemption. Jesus explains that these individuals can be redeemed if they do not turn to the wrong way. If human souls withstand temptations, they can be redeemed and join the rest of the aeons. Those souls who deviated from the right way of life and indulged in sin will be taken to the heavenly authorities. They will be fettered in chains and imprisoned until they repent and acquire true knowledge, gnosis. Only then may they attain redemption. A Valentinian prayer from the end of the second century C.E., the Prayer of the Apostle Paul, also recognizes the soul as eternal by expressing the following wish: Redeem my eternal light soul and my spirit. (I A: 22-3)52 In the Apocalypse of Peter (third century C.E.), the immortality of the soul is clearly emphasized. The immortal soul receives its energy from the power of the Intellectual Spirit (77:17-9), identified as Jesus, the savior figure: But I [the Savior] am the intellectual Spirit filled with radiant light. He

50

Aeons, as mentioned above, are best understood as worlds and are closely related to another gnostic term, the Pleroma. According to Rudolph, Gnosis, 320, the Pleroma consists of (at least) 30 aeons or worlds which bear different names and are arranged in pairs (they form 15 pairs). Of greater importance are only the two first tetrads... Jonas definition of the term in The Gnostic Religion, 181, is very similar: Pleroma is the standard term for the fully explicated manifold of divine characteristics, whose standard number is thirty, forming a hierarchy and together constituting the divine realm. There is a continuous cosmic process in which the deficiency of the Pleroma is being filled by the plenitude, and described as the bringing back (of all things) or the apocatastasis, the restoration of the Pleroma. The apocatastasis, in Rudolphs opinion, is a concept which has Hellenistic-Stoic and Jewish-Christian roots: For the assembly or the particles of light at the Endzeit and the dissolution of the world the gnostics variously utilized the concept of the... Apocatastasis [restoration]. (Ibid., 196) This process of spiritual elation and perfection of the human existence is required for the restoration and unity of the heavenly sphere. 51 Literally, the gnostics. 52 See also Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 60b.

2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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whom you saw coming to me is our intellectual Pleroma, which unites the perfect light with my Holy Spirit. (The Apocalypse of Peter 83:9-15)53 According to the latter composition, the existence of immortal souls mandates the existence of mortal souls. Immortal souls resemble their mortal counterparts in almost every way, and only when the right time comes do they reveal their true nature (75:1476:4). A similar division exists among human beings: For there will be no honor in any man who is not immortal, but only (in) those who were chosen from an immortal substance. (83:19-24) Evidently, the immortal souls represent the Gnostics and the mortal souls represent the non-Gnostics. In the Exegesis on the Soul (third century C.E.), the soul is portrayed as a female prostitute who can repossess virginity and purity once she repents.54 This tale makes use of biblical female characters, such as Rehab, Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, and the prostitute from the Book of Hosea. (129:23ff) The renewal and repentance of the soul is strongly emphasized. The human soul, portrayed here as a woman can be contaminated by evil and sin but if she so elects, she can repent and become pure. Thus, the possibility of renewal and spiritual growth is always there for the individual to explore. Authoritative Teaching, a second century C.E. composition, conveys a heavily metaphorical exposition of the origin, condition, and ultimate destiny of the soul55 by using a profoundly Gnostic theological terminology. The invisible, spiritual soul, which dwells in the Pleroma, comes forth from the invisible word [logos] in the hidden heavens. When the soul descends to earthly life, it is being prepared for life in this world by the heavenly bridegroom,56 feeding it awareness and perception. And when the spiritual soul joins the body, it becomes a brother to lust and hatred and envy and a material soul. (23:14-7) The soul is compared again to a prostitute [pornia] who is deceived by the pleasures of the material world. (24:6-20)57 The body [soma], on the other hand, is
53

In Nag Hammadi Codex VII, ed. Birger A. Pearson (Leiden: Brill: 1996), 245, James Brashler renders a slightly different translation of 83:14-5: which unites the perfect light with my pure spirit. My Holy Spirit changed into my pure spirit, which lessens the Christological aspect of the passage. Brashler offers no explanation for the change. 54 June Singer, The Evolution of the Soul, in The Allure of Gnosticism, 54-69. 55 The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 304. 56 See note 42 above. 57 George E. Mac Rae, the translator of the text, cites Deuteronomy 30:15, 19 and Jeremiah 21:8 for the widespread doctrine of the two ways, in Nag Hammadi Codices V, 2-5 and IV (Leiden: Brill, 1979), 262. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 14 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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compared to a house of poverty, (27:25-30) trying to blind the soul. A vicious struggle between the soul and the body ensues. By using the Word as medicine, the soul tries to heal her blindness to make the light visible again (28:10-20), escaping from her adversaries to a special hiding place: her treasure-house the one in which her mind is and (into) her storehouse [apotheke], which is secure, since nothing among the things that have come into being has seized her, nor has she received a stranger into her house. (Authoritative Teaching 28:23-30) The relationship between the body and the soul is expressed in several Gnostic writings. In the Apocryphon of James (third century C.E.), the body cannot sin without the soul, and the soul cannot sin without the spirit. (11:37-12:1)58 This symbiotic connection between the three elements of body, soul and spirit becomes further complicated in the ensuing statement: But if the soul is saved (when it is) without evil, and the spirit is also saved, then the body becomes free from sin. For it is the spirit that raises the soul, but the body that kills it; that is, it is it (the soul) which kills itself. (The Apocryphon of James 12:2-9) To illuminate the relationship between the body, the soul and the spirit, Stephan A. Hoeller comments on the Gnostics different comprehension of the Genesis story:
To them, Adam and Eve were not actual historical figures, but representatives of two intrapsychic principles within every human being. Adam was the dramatic embodiment of psyche or soul, while Eve stood for the pneuma, or spirit. Soul, to the Gnostics, meant the embodiment of the emotional and thinking functions of the personality, while spirit represented the human capacity for spiritual consciousness.59

Moreover, according to the Apocryphon of James, sins cannot be forgiven, and none of those who have worn the flesh will be saved. (12:12-14)60 In comparison, the Talmudic literature describes Rabbi Judah and the Roman expatriate, Antoninus, as debating the relationship between body and soul, while the Gnostics, as reflected in this text, have already agreed that co-dependency between body, soul and spirit existed a
58

Dieter Mueller in Nag Hammadi Codex I (The Jung Codex), (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 21, cites parallels to this idea in Clement of Alexandria, Storm. 4.13.90, 9:91, 3 and Tatian, Apology 13. 59 Stephan A. Hoeller, The Genesis Factor, The Gnostic Society Library, 1998, http://www.gnosis.org/genesis.html (5 Jun. 2011). See also Elaine Pagels, The Mystery of Marriage in the Gospel of Philip, in The Allure of Gnosticism, 108-10. 60 Mueller in Nag Hammadi Codex I, 21, notes that to wear the flesh is a common expression in the gnostic literature, listing the following parallels: The Apocryphon og John II 1:25. 34-35; The Gospel of Philip 56:29-30; and The Dialogue of the Savior 132:10-12. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 15 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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priori. Similar Jewish views rejecting a division between the body and the soul are found in the Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, Beshalakh 2:5 and Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai 16:1. However, the Gnostic writings do not represent a cohesive philosophy with regard to this issue. A saying in the Gospel of Thomas (early second century C.E.), which Thomas O. Lambdin finds relating to the Jewish wisdom literature, affirms the bond between body and soul: Jesus said, woe to the flesh that depends on the soul; woe to the soul that depends on the flesh. (Gospel of Thomas 112)61 Originally, a Greek composition, Asclepius 21-29 explains what happens to the body and the soul after death. Trismegistus, one of the characters in the dialogue, counsels Asclepius and tells him not to fear death because it is just the dissolution of the body and the destruction of the sensation of the body. (76:14-5) Once the soul ascends to heaven, it is met by the demon in charge that judges over the human souls. An evil soul is cast in between earth and heaven, as the Jewish philosopher Saadyah Gaon later asserted in his Book of Doctrines and Beliefs,62 to fulfill its death sentence. (77:27) Moreover, detailed descriptions of souls going through acts of torture by demons ensue. The text also distinguishes briefly between a divine soul and a rational soul but does not dwell on the issue. Several Gnostic writings belong to the apocalyptic genre. In the Sentences of Sextus, one of the sayings [346] conveys the idea that the soul is the driving force in the union between body and soul: Say with [your] mind that the body [is] the garment of your soul; keep it, therefore, pure since it is innocent.63 In the Concept of Our Great Power (fourth century C.E.), after a long confrontation with the sons of matter (47:7), the holy souls regain prominence. They are depicted as holy through the light of the power, who is exalted above all powers, the immeasurable, the universal one...(47:10-2) And he will release the souls that are being punished, and they will come to be in purity. (47:27-30) According to this text, repentance [metanoia] is a viable alternative, which could eventually bring salvation to the tormented soul.
61

Thomas O. Lambdin observes in Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7 (Leiden: Brill, 1989(, 44, that the closest parallels to the genre represented by the Gospel of Thomas are the Jewish wisdom books: Proverbs, Wisdom of Sirach [ben Sirach], Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and sections of books like Job and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. 62 Saadyah Gaon, Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, (Landauer edition) 204:14-205:1; 205:15-207:3. 63 See also Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 152b. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 16 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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In sum, a cohesive doctrine on the relationship between the body and the soul cannot be found in the Gnostic literature. The dichotomy between matter and spirit is, however, emphasized throughout the texts. Resurrection in the Nag Hammadi Literature The resurrection of Jesus plays a major role in the Gnostic writings. An entire composition, the Treatise on the Resurrection, is dedicated to the notion of resurrection. The Gnostic believer attains no salvation without faith in the resurrection of Jesus. In the Gospel of Philip, a soul can exist in three places or three levels: in this world; in the resurrection; or in the middle place. The middle place is described as the truly evil level (66:14), which exists in the afterlife and is called death. If human beings accept the validity of Jesus resurrection while still living in this world, they can avoid this middle place and find rest (66:19-20). Accepting the resurrection of Jesus saves the human soul in this life and Gnostically speaking enables the human being to become free (79:15). The Treatise on the Resurrection [the Treatise] is a testimonial discourse dating back to the end of the second century C.E. It is devoted entirely to the notion of the resurrection and documents a different position on the resurrection of Jesus from the one offered by the Synoptic gospels. During the first several centuries C.E., there were those who believed in a materialistic or physical resurrection, where the actual physical body was resurrected,64 and others who believed in a spiritual resurrection, where only the spirit remained after death and the body was then transformed into a unique spiritual body.65 The Gnostic view tends to support the second option. Most scholars agree that the Treatise on the Resurrection originated from a Valentinian milieu. The anonymous author of the Treatise writes to a perplexed disciple
64

Charles Venn Pilcher, The Hereafter in Jewish and Christian Thought with Special Reference to the Doctrine of Resurrection (London: Society of Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1940), 180-1. Pilcher discusses the topic of resurrection as it manifests in primitive thought, ethnic religions, Jewish thought and Christian thought. By materialistic he means St. Augustines theory. He then comments that the materialistic conception, however, was crystallized and made permanent for the Roman Church by the writings of Thomas Aquinas: All the blood, he taught, which flowed from Christ in the Passion rose again in His Resurrection. For a full discussion of the differences between a materialistic and a spiritual view of the resurrection, see ibid., 172-90. 65 Spiritual refers to the Pauline and Johannine, and probably even to Origens doctrines of the resurrection. Pilcher notes that the church of early times failed to understand the spiritual New Testament doctrine of Resurrection. (Ibid., 172.) Malcolm Peel in Nag Hammadi Codex I, 4, 166-9, points to other Valentinian source on the concept of spiritual resurrection. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 17 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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who needs immediate guidance on the question of the resurrection. Using the literary features of the Pauline epistolograph, the author of the letter names his student, Rheginos, as the addressee. The true identities of the author and his addressee are not known. However, the author displays a profound knowledge of Valentinian Gnosticism, Greek philosophy and above all, of the literature and polemics of the early Christian church.66 The author identifies himself and Rheginos as those who received the truth through Jesus. When Jesus lived in this world, he existed in flesh (44:14)67 and demonstrated the ability to defeat the Law of Nature (44:20), which the author interprets as death (44:21).68 Jesus is perceived as possessing two qualities. He is both the Son of Man and the Son of God embracing (44:24) the principles of humanity and divinity in himself. In being human, coined as the Seed of Truth (44:35), he can achieve the restoration (44:31) to the Pleroma. The author implies that Jesus came into existence as a seed of the heavenly truth, even before the world came into existence (44:35). This concurs with the Gnostic belief that the seeds of the divine power are scattered around the universe. In fact, seeds are literary images referring to the aeons. Truth, one of the aeons, is where Jesus is believed to have been created before descending to this world.69 During his resurrection, Jesus is described as swallowing up death and transforming himself into an imperishable aeon, raising himself up, having swallowed the visible by the invisible (45:15ff). Then, to dramatize and glorify the act of the resurrection, the author resorts to a metaphor: We are drawn to heaven by him, like beams by the sun, not being restrained by anything. This is the spiritual resurrection which swallows up the psychic in the same way as the fleshly (45:36-46:2). Three elements enter into the process of the resurrection: the spirit, the psyche (or the soul), and the flesh. The psyche and the flesh are swallowed up at death; therefore, the only remaining element is the spirit. These elements are reminiscent of the Pauline view on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:44-58:
66

Nag Hammadi Codex I (The Jung Codex): Notes, ed. Harold W. Attridge (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 137-215. The notes to the Treatise were written by Malcolm L. Peel. 67 All English translations from the Treatise follow the Nag Hammadi Codex I (The Jung Codex): Introduction, Translations, Indices, ed. Harold W. Attridge (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 123-157. 68 Rudolph, Gnosis, 160-1. 69 NHL Codex I: Notes, 155. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 18 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body...But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable...When this perishable body puts on impassability, and this mortal body puts on immortality...Death has been swallowed up in victory... 70

The similarities between the Treatise and Pauls writings are striking. The author uses the same language, terminology, tone of argument and literary style as evident in Pauls letter. In his book, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, Robert M. Grant explains the connection between the letters and the Gnostic experience:
The Corinthian letters have been regarded, especially in recent times, as evidence for the existence of Gnostic sectarianism in the Christian community... It would appear that two features of Christian life were especially influential in the development of their ideas. (1) There was the experience of the activity of the Spirit within the community; in their view, the gift of the Spirit made them spiritual. (2) There was the proclamation of the imminent kingdom of God; in their view, this kingdom had already come, and therefore they were filled and rich.71

The appearance of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration is used in the Treatise as a solid proof for the resurrection. In the biblical accounts on the death of Moses and Elijah, both biblical figures are reported to have died, but were never actually buried. Moses disappeared into Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:6) and Elijah was seen ascending to heaven in a whirlwind on a fiery chariot with fiery horses (2 kings 2:11). Malcolm Peels commentary reflects the accepted scholarship concerning this matter:
We maintain that their appearance demonstrates that at death (and only Elijah and Moses are examples of those who presumably have died, as Jesus has not yet been crucified), when the corruptible, decaying body is abandoned, the spiritual inner man... is made manifest. The inner man, however, retains his personal identity: this is why Elijah and Moses can be recognized! 72

The destruction of evil and the revelation of the elect are viewed as the ultimate goal of the resurrection. The author and Rheginos are certainly part of the elect group, who gain their immortality from the act of the resurrection. Faith in the resurrection is all a true elect believer needs. Moreover, faith in the resurrection of Jesus brings forth the

70

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, eds. Bruce M. Metzger and Ronald E. Murphey (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 247. 71 Robert McQueen Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), 157. 72 Nag Hammadi Codex I: Notes, 191. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 19 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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restoration of the Pleroma. The elect possess infinite Gnosis, knowledge, as they are elected to salvation and redemption from the beginning of time. Redemption and salvation according to the Treatise have nothing to do with sin. The word sin has not been mentioned even once in this text; neither has the word Father (the word God appears only once without the definite article, which makes this composition purely christological.) By accepting faith and the virtue of being elected, the Gnostic believer attains wisdom [sophia] and truth. Once again, the author relies heavily on Pauls teachings concerning the importance and centrality of faith in the history of humankind: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith, our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. (The Letter to the Hebrews 11:1-3)73 After dealing with the importance of faith in integrating the resurrection into the believers life, the author presents his theory on the connection between the resurrection and the Pleroma. A small part broke loose (46:36) from the Pleroma and became this world. The Treatise expresses a genuine opposition between the Pleroma and the cosmos in which the Pleroma, an essential part of the Gnostic dualistic mythology, is seen as the highest manifestation of the divine power and the aeons are seen as lower emanations of the heavenly sphere. Humans receive flesh (47:5) when they ascend into the Aeon (47:8). The physical body is corrupt and aging; nevertheless, the elect receive salvation from end to end. (47:27-9) The resurrection is not a fantasy! The world [cosmos] is a fantasy! proclaims the author enthusiastically. The resurrection is a non-changeable truth. Yet, everything tangible in this world is prone to change. (48:26) The resurrection is explained and expressed to Rheginos in symbols and images (49:6): It is the revelation of what is, and the transformation of things, and a transition into newness. For impassability [descends] upon the perishable; the light flows down upon the darkness, swallowing it up; and the Pleroma fills up the deficiency. (48:34-49:9) Light and darkness symbolize life and
73

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, NT326-8. A close parallel to this idea is found also in 1 John 5:5: Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (Ibid., NT354). Furthermore, in verse 6 the spirit is identified with the truth. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 20 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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death respectively in the symbolic vocabulary of Gnosticism,74 emphasizing an actual experience. The author insists that the elect are already saved by the resurrection: already you have the resurrection. (49:15) The resurrection is immediate, takes place in the present and not after death.75 With this final statement, the author departs from the Christian belief-system of his time. John W. Cooper describes how the resurrection of Jesus became an integral part of Christianity: ...very early the belief that the resurrection will be a general future event correlated with the return of Christ became the common Christian expectation. And virtually all early Christians seem to have agreed that persons both survive physical death and are resurrected to some form of bodily existence.76 Cooper suggests subsequently that dualism triumphed over trichotomist views and in spite of disagreements about other basic beliefs and the definition of the resurrection, the Church Fathers shared a common notion of afterlife, in which Jesus played a major role.77 A brief review of some of the theories of early Christianity concerning the resurrection illustrates how the ideas presented by the Treatise were remote from Christianity of the time. The Synoptic Gospels describe the resurrection of Jesus as a proof of his divinity. After he had risen from the dead, Jesus commanded his followers to be baptized. However, there is no philosophical or theological discussion about redemption or salvation, or body, spirit, and soul.78 In consideration of these facts, scholars tend to agree that Pauls view on the resurrection went through an evolution. According to David Stanley, Pauls position incorporates the two properties of Jesus as Son of Man and as Son of God:
If it is necessary to point to a single sentence in all Pauls letters which adequately sums up his soteriological thought and represents its most mature expression, we venture to suggest that such a sentence is to be found in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where Paul speaks of Christs mediation in producing union between Christians of pagan and Jewish origin... Through him, we both have access in one spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)79

74 75

Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 57. See also Wink, Cracking the Gnostic Code, 10. Wink observes that the NH Treatise on the Resurrection treats resurrection as a present experience, not simply as a future afterlife in heaven. 76 John W. Cooper, Body, Soul & Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monis-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1989), 8. 77 Ibid., 9-10. 78 Pilcher, Hereafter, 156. 79 David M. Stanley, Christs Resurrection in Pauline Soteriology (Rome: Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 1961), 286. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 21 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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One can detect, as Charles Venn Pilcher suggests, the inclusion of the temporal element in Pauls teaching as well as in Peters. In John, temporal and spatial elements are further developed into a mystical union with Christ by faith.80 The scenario is quite different when one examines the writings of the Church Fathers on the resurrection. Dealing on the one hand with the needs of a growing community of believers, and on the other hand with the threatening force of Christian Gnosticism, some of the Church Fathers tried to adopt a more materialistic point of view. Clement advocates the resurrection and judgment of the flesh. Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Tertullian side with the materialistic view, saying that because Jesus ate and drank after the resurrection, he was in his own flesh. Irenaeus, one of the fiercest opponents of Gnosticism, believes in the resurrection of the flesh with some modifications. Origens theory as quoted by Jerome reveals a spiritual, Pauline type of resurrection. Later on, the materialistic theory of Thomas Aquinas flourished and was adopted as the exclusive theory by the Roman Church.81 These notions are essentially different from the Treatises concept of the resurrection, echoing Paulines soteriology coupled with Valentinian Gnosticism. Malcolm Peel, in the introduction to his translation of the Treatise, observes that by the late second century... Christians whether Gnostic or Orthodox were struggling with certain challenges and questions.82 Most of these evolved around survival after death. The Gnostic answer to this question postulates a belief in the resurrection of Jesus, which has already occurred!83 Reincarnation in the Nag Hammadi Literature References to reincarnation are scarce in the Gnostic writings of the NHL. In the Apocalypse of Paul, a second century C.E. Valentinian composition, Paul describes the process of reincarnation when he ascends through the heavens:
But I saw in the fourth heaven according to class I saw the angels resembling gods, the angels bringing a soul out of the land of the dead. They placed it at the gate of the fourth heaven. And the angels were whipping it. The soul spoke, saying, what sin was it that I
80 81

Pilcher, Hereafter, 156. Pilcher, Hereafter, 157-190. 82 NHL in English, 52. 83 Ibid. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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committed in the world? The toll-collector who dwells in the fourth heaven replied, saying, It was not right to commit all those lawless deeds, that are in the world of the dead. The soul replied, Bring witnesses! Let them [show] you in what body I committed lawless deeds. [Do you wish] to bring a book [to read from]?... When the soul heard these things, it gazed downward in sorrow. And then it gazed upward. It was cast down. The soul that had been cast down [went] to [a] body which had been prepared [for it. And] behold [its] witnesses were finished. (The Apocalypse of Paul 20:5-25; 21:15-23)84

George E. Mac Rae and William R. Murdock, the translators of the text, note the affinity of the composition to the Jewish apocalyptic literature, particularly to the Testament of Abraham. The scene of the three angels whipping the soul resembles the Erinyes of Greek mythology.85 Committing sins, according to this account, requires the soul to repeat its course or re-descend to this world. The soul is reluctant but is forced to reincarnate by the three angels.86 In the Apocryphon of John, different dwelling-places of the various souls are described. The souls of the saints are placed in the second aeon and the souls of those who do not know the Pleroma are placed in the fourth aeon (9:17-20). This is probably a unique situation in which reincarnation is refuted so bluntly. However, even here the belief in the eternal soul is reaffirmed as it reattaches itself to the Spirit of Life:
And I said, Lord, how can the soul become smaller and return into the nature of its mother or into man? Then he rejoiced when I asked him this, and he said to me, Truly, you are blessed for you have understood! That soul is made to follow another one (fem.) 87 since the spirit of Life is in it. It is saved through him. It is not again cast into another flesh. (The Apocryphon of John 27:11-21)

This survey of the Gnostic literature indicates that there is no consensus among the various Gnostic writings regarding the essence and the origin of the human soul. It appears that each work reflects the contemporary thought of its time. The lack of consistent authoritarian teachings among the Christian Gnostics enables this pluralism of philosophical and theological ideas to thrive within the various Gnostic sects of the first centuries C.E. Dualism of good and evil runs like a common thread through numerous Gnostic writings and serves as the basis for the development of beliefs in the afterlife.
84

For notes to the translation, see Nag Hammadi Codices V. 2-5 and VI, ed. Douglas M. Parrot (Leiden: Brill, 1979), 54-5. 85 NHL in English, 257. 86 See Tanhuma, pekude 3. 87 Literally, the soul is made to follow another soul. 2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press 23 All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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Even though the Gnostic writings do not exhibit a clear belief in reincarnation, they do acknowledge certain components, which are prerequisites for the development of such a theory. Most importantly though, the belief in the eternity and the immortality of the soul is rampantly displayed throughout the Gnostic corpus.

2011 Dina Ripsman Eylon and Sisterhood Press All rights reserved. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission.

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