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Pages: 189. The Gospel of Truth and Valentinian discourse:
A study of its eastern Valentinian setting
August 15, 2006
2 Dissertation at Uppsala University To be publicaly examined in Geijersalen,
Engelska Parken, Friday, September 29, 2006 at 09:15 for the degree of
Doctor of Theology. The examination will be conducted in English.
Magnusson, J. 2006. RETHINKING THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH: A study
of its eastern Valentinian setting. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Uppsala
Dissertations from the Faculty of Theology. 191 pp. Uppsala.
Already in the second century, the Church Father Irenaeus warned against
reading the Gospel of Truth that was used among the so-called Valentinians.
For more than one and a half millennium GospTruth was lost until in the
1950s a Coptic text was discovered that could be a translation of that work
both loved and hated. Since the discovery scholars have tried to determine
whether the Coptic text represents the one mentioned by Irenaeus, and
whether its author might even be the famous Gnostic teacher Valentinus of
The text is very complex and the present study the first attempt to use text
linguistic tools for analysing GospTruth. A new and sometimes radically
different translation is presented, and an hypothesis of date of redaction
and authorship is put forward. Previously Gnostic texts have usually been
read in light of the reports of the Church Fathers. In this study an at-
tempt is made to detect topics that were interesting for the Valentinians
and that have so far been neglected. The analysis presents a new ethical
debate among early Christians regarding the Biblical law, and a hypothesis
of how the author of GospTruth wanted his or her community to act towards
the neighbouring communities is elaborated. In addition my investigation
draws attention to an interpretation of the crucifixion that seems to have
distinguished Valentinians from others.
For a long time scholars depicted the Gnostics as evil opponents to the
church. During the last decades this view has been criticized, and today
many scholars abandon the term Gnostic altogether, and instead only use
the term Christian. In my opinion such an approach risks to conceal the
unique features of Valentinianism, and the results of the present study will
hopefully shed new light on a branch of Christianity which still is relatively
Jorgen Magnusson, Department of Theology, Uppsala University, Humanis-
tiskt centrum, Thunbergsv"auml;gen 3 B, SE-751 20 Uppsala Sweden
To King Che Contents
Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
1 A challenge in a bewildering discourse 13
A discovery that changed the scholarly landscape . . . . . . . . . . 13
The GospTruth and Valentinianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
The argument of title . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
The argument of authorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Building on IrenHaer 1.11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Valentinian schools and protological myths . . . . . . 20
The Saviour according to the eastern school . . . . . . 21
The Saviour according to the western school . . . . . . 25
Eastern and western protological myths . . . . . . . . 28
The argument of non-expulsion . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
The argument of style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
The argument of the implicit developed system . . . . 33
The arguments of language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
The counter-arguments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Contradictory arguments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
The discourse of Valentinian Gnosticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
The impact of the Gnostic discourse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
The purpose reformulated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
2 Communication centred approaches 47
Text linguistics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
The usefulness of text linguistics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Text linguistic tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
The metacommunicative sentence or clause . . . . . . 49
Substitution on abstraction-level . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Episode and iteration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Instructive and thematic markers . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Resistance in the information flow . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Intertextuality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Reflections regarding the translation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Translation as transferring or explaining a message . . . . . . 54
Edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
3 Applying the method on the GospTruth 59
16.31-17.4a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
The analyses applied on the analytical translation . . . . . . 65
17.4b-18a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
17.18b-27 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
17.28-30a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
17.30b-36a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
17.36b-18.4a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
18.4b-11a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
18.11b-16a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
18.16b-21a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
18.21b-26a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
18.26b-31a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Macro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Micro-structural analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Semantic analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Evaluating the analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
What is Error? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Gardeners, archons and fruits of knowledge . . . . . . 88
Error as a state of mind of those of the middle . . . . 89
Why should Error be disregarded? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
4 Translations 93
Translations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
The All and earlier definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
The maximalistic view . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
The minimalistic view . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
The intermediate view . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
The birth of the All in two steps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
The living book of the living . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
The enlightenment, the crucifixion and the Eucharist in 18.5-31139
30.14-31.1 as post-crucifixal revelation . . . . . .140
The Gnostic as redeemer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .147
6 The socio-religious context of the Gospel of Truth 149
Presuppositions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
The Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
The paraenesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150
Critique of immorality and legalism . . . . . . . . 151
Structural analysis . . . . . 151
Semantic analysis . . . . . . 151
Intertextual analysis . . . . 155
The benefit of the analysis . 159
In search of a parallel view of the law . 160
The exhortation to rescue the lost sheep from the Cosmos:
an analysis of 32.17b-33.11a .161
The Sabbath . . . . . . . . . 162
Intertextual analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
The benefit of the analysis . 165
The paraenesis as a whole . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
The paraenesis in its context . . . . . . . . . . . 167
An appeal to discard strife and division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168
Structural analysis of 25.35-27.4 . . . . . . . . . 169
Semantic analysis of 25.35-27.4 . . . . . . . . . . 170
Intertextual analysis of 25.35-27.4 . . . . . . . . 171
The function of 25.35-27.4 with regard to 25.19-25 . .172
The importance of 25.25-35 with regard to 25.19-25 . .173
Conclusion to 25.19-25 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .174
What happens with the rest? an analysis of 42.39-43.16 . . . . . . 174
7 Rethinking The Gospel of Truth 177
8 Bibliography 183
ExcTheod Excerpta ex Theodoto
GospTruth Gospel of Truth
HippHaer Hippolytus refutation of all Haeresis
IrenHaer Irenaeus Adversus Haeresis
NHC Nag Hammadi Codex
NHS Nag Hammadi Studies
TertullianVal Tertullian against the Valentinians
TripTrac Tripartite Tractate
To write a thesis about the Gospel of Truth has been a tough job that I
many times have thought would be impossible for me. Because I am blind
I have encountered many difficulties when I tried to learn enough Coptic to
analyse the text, but maybe the challlenge has provoked me to carry through
my work in the most chalenging text-centred direction. But all efforts of
will would have been fruitless, if it were not for all good friends who have
supported me and come up with creative technical solutions that has made
it possible for me to read and write Coptic and Greek. To mention names
is difficult as so many have contributed in this respect, but some stand out.
Without the aid of Johan Alwall, Fredrik Larsson and Patrik Granholm it
would have been much harder to handle these problems.
However, there still remain many typographical problems that will be solved
if this book will be published. Fortunately, Magnus Holm and my wife King
Che has helped me to correct many scribal errors, and hopefully the scholarly
results in this manner have become possible to decipher for the readers.
This work is a product of the long tradition in Uppsala. For centuries
scholars have devoted their skills in order to study what we now call history
of religions in general, and to a large extent to Gnosticism in particular.
Scholars as, for instance, Geo Wiedengren, Torgny S"auml;ve-S"ouml;derbergh and
Eric Segelberg are all well known. At the seminar for late antiquity studies I
have found many friends who embody this long tradition. I would especially
like to thank Carl-Martin Edsman who has encouraged me and supported
me with creative and well-founded suggestions. Without Lars Hartman
the text linguistic tools still would have been an unknown resource for me.
The scholar who introduced me to Gnosticism was Jan Bergman who is
not among us any longer. He always stimulated free and creative thinking
and combined it with his broad knowledge. And of course, I thank my
supervisors Anders Hultg"aring;rd and Gabriella Gustafsson who have had the
somewhat nerv straining work to wait for my drafts and in the last minute
have had to comment on them for the impatient student.
But in order to carry through this work I had to go to other universities.
To begin with I received a grant from Stiegler"s foundation that made some
travels possible, but without the long lasting generosity from Axel och Mar-
garet AX:SON Johnson"s Foundation this work would have been absolutely
During the years that I to a large extent have spent in Helsinki, Bergen and
M"uuml;nster, I received help that never can be accounted for in the notes. Antti
Marjanen, Stephen Emmel and Einar Thomassen generously granted me of
their time, even though their schedules already were very tight.
In this way the present study is an interdisciplinary work that is based on
a generosity that always has exceeded my expectations.
12 CONTENTSChapter 1
A challenge in a bewildering
A discovery that changed the scholarly landscape
In December 1945 two brothers, Muhammad and Khalfah Ali of the al-
Samman clan,1 happened to come across some documents that changed the
landscape of scholarship in early Christianity, Judaism and Hermeticism. In
the desert they found a jar that contained Coptic codices with texts that
are dated to the middle of the fourth century C.E. or somewhat later. The
discovery was made near the small town Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. The
documents are therefore usually referred to as "the Nag Hammadi Library."
First, however, Muhammad Ali hesitated to open the jar, as the breaking
of its seal could bring either evil or good, a jinn or gold. But the curiosity
succeeded and he smashed it with his mattock. Small golden-like particles
swirled out. Probably, it was no jinn but particles of papyrus as the jar
contained what we now know as Codex III.
Even though it was not gold in the vainly sense, the jar contained a far
more precious treasure: since long lost voices of religious communities that
we until this discovery almost merely knew through the reports of their
As the fragments of papyrus were spread over the world, so were also some
of the codices from Nag Hammadi scattered. One of them, which is now
called Codex I or "The Jung codex," early disappeared on the black mar-
ket. Rumours, saying that this codex contained texts of the Gnostic leader
Valentinus of Alexandria, caused scholars to struggle to buy it. Especially
the third tractate seemed to be important. Perhaps it would be the "Gospel
For more details concerning the discovery, see Robinson 1997, especially pp. 3-6.
14 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
of Truth,"2 which Irenaeus of Lyon ca 180 spoke of as one of the most im-
portant texts among the Valentinians.
When the existence of the Jung codex became known, the tendency to see
the texts as related to Valentinus of Alexandria became very strong. The
following quotation from Gilles Quispel who tells us in what manner the
Jung codex became accessible to scholarship is striking.
In the meantime it had become known that the MS. contained
a collection of four writings, one of them with the title: The
Gospel of Truth. More than the title however, was hardly known.
And yet all our passionate exertions rested on the supposition
that this Gospel of Truth was identical with the "Evangelium
Veritatis" about which the Church Father Irenaeus, writing c.
180 A.D., tells us that it was in use among the disciples of the
When Quispel eventually had the opportunity to scrutinize one page of the
codex so that the Jung Institute could know if it was worth buying it, he tells
us: "... the reading of a single page convinced me that it was Valentinian."4
In the same context we read: "It appeared that the Gospel of Truth beyond
doubt came from the school of Valentinus and was identical with the writing
which was referred to by Irenaeus of Lyons c. 180."5 This illustrates how the
enthusiasm of a talented scholar resulted in very categorical statements. But
we should be grateful to Quispel whose enthusiasm was important for the
Jung Institute when one decided to buy these texts. Soon however, doubts
were expressed concerning the origin of the GospTruth. Schenke6 claimed
that the GospTruth could be spoken of as Gnostic in a broad sense only. It
could for instance be connected with the group that produced the Odes of
Salomon.7 A more general Gnostic background was also favoured by Arai.8
However, many scholars tended to see the GospTruth as a Valentinian text,
more or less closely related to Valentinus himself.9
Apart from the difference in opinion that scholars had regarding the origin
of the GospTruth, many investigations had in common that one analyzed
different concepts in it and compared them with the manner that similar
concepts were spoken of in the heresiological material. The consequence
was that even though the GospTruth from the beginning of the Nag Ham-
2 In what follows referred to as the GospTruth.
3 Quispel 1974, p. 5.
4 Quispel 1974, p. 6.
5 Quispel 1974, p. 6.
6 Schenke 1959.
7 Schenke 1959.
8 Arai 1964.
9 For instance, Grobel 1960, Jonas 1963, pp. 175-194.
A DISCOVERY THAT CHANGED THE SCHOLARLY LANDSCAPE 15
madi studies was one of the most discussed texts, many important aspects
of it were overlooked due to the scholarly discourse. As scholars usually dis-
cussed the GospTruth in relation to the heresiological material, the topics
that the heresiologists focused upon continued to dominate the study of the
GospTruth. Rarely if ever, the GospTruth was read in light of for instance
the Tripartite Tractate10 which, after all, is included in the same codex. In
the early days however, this weakness was almost inescapable. Still, many
important texts from Nag Hammadi were unpublished, and moreover, the
study of the published Nag Hammadi texts was in its infancy. It is more
surprising that the conference on Valentinianism at Yale in 1978,11 even
though all the texts of the Nag Hammadi library were published, paid much
attention to the GospTruth, but still, more or less, without relating it to
the TripTrac. Evidently, writing a thesis about the GospTruth is much
easier today than 25 years ago. The study of the TripTrac has advanced
considerably,12 and the fragments of codex XI from Nag Hammadi have
been scrutinized as well. As frequently will be demonstrated, reading the
GospTruth in the light of other Valentinian Nag Hammadi texts will open
new perspectives on Valentinianism. No longer are we excused to delimit
ourselves to the heresiological discourse. In my thesis therefore, I aim at
highlighting topics that I assert were important for the early Valentinians
themselves, and that so far have been seriously neglected. By reading the
GospTruth in the light of Valentinian intertexts it will be possible to put
forward some hypotheses regarding the social setting of the GospTruth, and
in a new manner to approach the long debated question of the authorship
and the original setting of it.
Since the precise formulation of the issue is related to the sometimes confus-
ing scholarly discourse, to formulate it here would be of limited value for the
reader. Thus, it will be left pending until the subsequent survey is carried
through. Presently, the following general points may serve as a guide for the
As the survey of the scholarly discourse will prove, new perspectives
on the development of Valentinianism have emerged. My analyses of
central features of the GospTruth will provide us with more precise
means to evaluate the recently opened perspectives on the text. In
the final chapters of this study, I will relate my analyses to hypotheses
regarding authorship, date and original setting of the GospTruth and
make my own claim regarding these subject-matters.
The view of the literary quality of the GospTruth has varied, and so
10 In what follows the TripTrac.
11 Layton 1980.
12 Primarily through the studies undertaken by Thomassen, most recently in Thomassen
16 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
has the hypotheses regarding the original language as well. Moreover,
the style of the GospTruth has also been important for the debate
concerning the authorship. I will repeatedly discuss the periodization
of the Coptic text, which will have an impact on many of the questions
just mentioned. I will also present a new attempt to translate the
text. In this respect, the present study raises questions that today
are debated in the so-called "translation theory." In this way my study
hopefully will open doors between disciplines that so far have had little
contact with each other.
The GospTruth, Valentinianism and Gnosticism have attracted much schol-
arly attention. Long ago the time has passed when a survey could set about
with a complete coverage of these subject-matters. Consequently, in what
follows, I have to synthesize arguments that are especially important for the
The argument of title
As mentioned above, one of the reasons that from the beginning made schol-
ars assume that NHC 1.3 was the text that Irenaeus mentioned was the sup-
position that it was entitled "The Gospel of Truth." Ca 180 Irenaeus wrote:
The Valentinians, who are devoid of any fear, produce their
own compositions and take pride in having more gospels than
there really are. For they have even advanced to such a degree
of audacity that they entitle something which was written by
themselves not long ago as the Gospel of Truth, although it in
no way agrees with the gospels of the apostles, so that not even
the gospel may exist among them without blasphemy.13
The initial line of the third tractate of codex one runs as follows: "The good
news (or gospel) of the truth is a joy for those who have received the grace
from the Father of the truth...
14 Thus, with the argument of title, I refer to
13 Ireneneus Adversus Haeresis, in what follows IrenHaer, III 11:9. Translation from
Thomassen 2006, p. 146. Hi vero qui sunt a Valentino iterum existentes extra omnem
timorem suas conscriptiones proferentes plura habere gloriantur quam sunt ipsa Evan-
gelia. Siquidem in tantum processerunt audaciae uti quod ab his non olim conscriptum
est "Veritatis Evangelium" titulent, in nihilo conveniens apostolorum evangeliis, ut nec
Evangelium sit apud eos sine blasphemia.
14 If nothing else is indicated the translations of Coptic texts are my own.
17 the claim that the incipit line of NHC I.3 identifies the text with the work
that was spoken of by Irenaeus.
Among the Nag Hammadi texts, 37 of 53 have a formal title.15 21 times the
titles appear at the end of the text, 8 times at the beginning and 8 times
both at the beginning and at the end.16 As NHC 1.3 is one of those texts
that lack a formal title, scholars already from the beginning doubted that
the initial line was intended as the title.17 However, even a text without title
sooner or later has to be called something. As Munck note18 texts without
a formal title were often identified by their incipit line. Granting that our
tractate was referred to in accordance with its incipit line, do we have to
reckon with the possibility of many different "Gospels of Truth?" According
to Wilson the answer is #39;yes#39;.
We know of two Gospels of the Egyptians, two Gospels of
Philip, two Gospels of Thomas, while Codex V of the Nag Ham-
madi library itself contains two different Apocalypses of James.
It is therefore possible that our document is the one mentioned
by Irenaeus, but the evidence is by no means conclusive.
19 Thomassen 20 is less uncertain than Wilson:
Regardless of the question of authorship, however, the prob-
ability that there existed two independent works, one entitled
"The Gospel of Truth" and the other accidentally beginning with
the same words, and both of them "gnostic," must be regarded
as very slim indeed.
21 Moreover, Thomassen remarks that the GospTruth is a homily, and it is
common that texts of that genre lack title.22 Thus, Thomassen does not
claim that NHC I.3 has a formal title, but that it was referred to by its
However, few if any date the GospTruth exclusively from the title mentioned
by Irenaeus and the incipit line of our tractate. Those who claim that the
GospTruth is the text mentioned by Irenaeus also have other arguments for
placing it in the early stages of the Valentinian theological development.
15 Standaert 1976b, p. 138.
16 Standaert 1976b p. 138.
17 For instance, Schenke 1959.
18 Munck 1963.
19 Wilson 1980, p. 138.
20 Thomassen 2006, pp. 146-147.
21 Thomassen 2006, p. 147.
22 Thomassen 2006, p. 147.
18 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
For instance, Thomassen also referred to the "Gnostic"23 character of the
document, and it is his overall interpretation of the GospTruth that makes
him locate it to an early date within the Valentinian tradition:
In substance, however, we are, on the basis of our current
knowledge, justified in treating NHC 1,3 as representing a Valen-
tinian document dating from before the time of Irenaeus" work
of the 180s.
24 it seems that the argument of title gains strength if we date the GospTruth
early in the development of the Valentinian tradition.
The argument of authorship
As follows from the preceding discussion, in order to detect a well-founded
hypothesis regarding the authorship, date and original setting of the Gosp-
Truth, scholars do not use the presupposed title alone, but include the gen-
eral character of the GospTruth as well. Therefore, we have to discuss in
what way the GospTruth has been connected to various other texts. To
begin with we will recall some attempts that have in common that they
propose that Valentinus was the author of our tractate.
Building on IrenHaer 1.
11 During the second world war, Quispel studied the available information
about Valentinus. When the GospTruth appeared, Quispel concluded that
its theology was in agreement with the fragments of Valentinus and the sys-
tem described in IrenHaer 1.11.1. Even after half a century of investigations
Quispel maintained this position.
25 In Pseudo Tertullian Quispel found support for the assumption that Valenti-
nus had a gospel of his own besides other gospels, . As proof he referred
to the following passage: "Evangelium habet etiam suum praeter haec nos-
tra."26 "...it would seem that Pseudo-Tertullian and his source Hippolytus
are transmitting a very old and trustworthy tradition which may go back
to Justin Martyr."27 In accordance with this reasoning, Quispel concluded
that by far the most likely author of the GospTruth is Valentinus.28
23 Thomassen"s quotation marks.
24 Thomassen 2006, pp. 147-148.
25 Quispel 2000, pp. 239-240.
Pseudo Tertullian Adversus Omnes Haereses.
Quispel 2000, p. 239.
Quispel 2000, p. 240.
One example of the relationship between the GospTruth and the Fragments
of Valentinus is that they have in common a much more hostile attitude
to the demiurge than later Valentinian texts. For instance, in 18.21-25 of
the GospTruth, Error who is the demiurge murders Jesus. This fits well
with the Valentinian Fragment that is preserved in Clement of Alexandria"s
Strommateis 4.89.4: "the cause of death is the work of the creator of the
There are points of similarity between the argumentation of Quispel and
that of Thomassen. Both have their point of departure in a general study of
Valentinianism, and they both ascribe the GospTruth to Valentinus.30 De-
spite these similarities however, they differ on many crucial points regarding
the development of Valentinianism.
A major difference between Thomassen and Quispel is their different view-
points concerning the text of Iren. Haer 1.11. As mentioned above, Quispel
builds upon the information in that chapter when he detects the original
doctrine of Valentinus. Thomassen for his part, is unwilling to do so.
This deserves some consideration as we read the following in the beginning
of IrenHaer 1.11:
Let us now consider the inconsistent teaching of these people.
For as soon as there are two or three of them they do not say the
same things on the same matters, but speak against one another
both with regard to the subject-matters and the words that they
use. The first one, Valentinus, who adapted the principles of
the so-called "Gnostic" hairesis into his own particular brand of
teaching, set forth the following:31
The information provided by Irenaeus in the first nine chapters of IrenHaer
1 seems to come from Valentinians, primarily followers of Ptolemy who were
located in the same area as Irenaeus himself. In chapter 11 and 12 how-
ever, Irenaeus seems to use an earlier heresiological source.32 According
to Thomassen, Irenaeus rewrites this older source in order to stress the
disagreements and inconsistencies among the Valentinians.33 Furthermore,
Thomassen raises doubts whether the author of the heresiological work that
Irenaeus used actually knew the doctrine of Valentinus:
...we can easily imagine the unknown heresiologist believing
Quispel 2000, p. 240.
Thomassen 2004, p. 254.
IrenHaer 1.11.1. Transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 23.
For a detailed discussion regarding the source critical considerations, see Thomassen
2006, pp. 9-22.
Thomassen 2006, p. 24.
20 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
(or wanting us to believe) that with this document he was in pos-
session of "the" doctrine of the Valentinians, and by implication
of Valentinus himself.34
Even though Thomassen does not exclude the possibility that IrenHaer 1.11
contains information about Valentinus, the available sources do not help us
to determine which parts of the information that are correct. One topic that
is discussed in IrenHaer 1.11 is the pleromatology of Valentinus. This report
however, seems to differ from the reports on the same subject-matter that
are provided by Tertullian. It makes Thomassen conclude as follows:
The pleromatology of IrenHaer I 11:1 is clearly closer to that
described by Tertullian for Ptolemy (Val. 7"ndash;32) than to what he
attributes to Valentinus himself. The incompatibility between
these two reports about the Pleroma of Valentinus makes the
attribution of Haer. I 11:1 to Valentinus highly unlikely.35
Valentinian schools and protological myths
Thomassen doubts that IrenHaer 1.11 provides reliable information about
Valentinus, and that the information of Valentinus" fragments is too meagre
to build upon when we reconstrue the earliest Valentinian theology.36 He
therefore has to look in other directions in order to obtain more informa-
tion. By doing so, Thomassen has opened up new perspectives that will be
carefully analysed and evaluated in this thesis. Consequently, the following
summary has to be quite extensive in order to provide us with the necessary
background of the critical questions that will be raised.
Tertullian mentions that the Valentinian doctrine was split into two schools,
duae scholae, and two chairs, duae cathedrae,37 but fails to provide us with
more information about them. For him it was important to stress the split
within Valentinianism and he remarks as follows: "These days only Axionicus
in Antioch respects the memory of Valentinus by observing the full range of
Hippolytus speaks about the two schools as well.
Concerning this there is a great dispute among them - a cause
of dissension and division. Consequently, their teaching is di-
vided and the one is called among them the eastern doctrine the
Thomassen 2006, p. 24.
Thomassen 2006, p. 27.
Thomassen 2006, p. 26.
Tertullian against the Valentinians, TertullianVal, 11.2.
TertullianVal 4.3, Thomassen 2006, p. 40.
other the Italian. Those from Italy - and to this group Heracleon
and Ptolemy belong - say that the body of Jesus was psychic and
that because of this the Spirit came down at his baptism as a
dove - that is the Logos of Sophia, the mother above. It joined
the psychic, and raised him from the dead. Those from the east
- to whom Axionicus and Ardesianes belong - affirm that the
body of the Saviour was spiritual. For there came upon Mary
the Holy Spirit - that is Sophia - and the power of the Most High
- the art of creation - in order that that which was given to Mary
by the Spirit might be given shape.39
Relying on the information from Tertullian, Axionicus was a faithful follower
of Valentinus" teaching, and moreover, Thomassen asserts, the quotation
from Hippolytus lets us deduce that Axionicus was an adherent of the eastern
school. Consequently, we are justified to assume that Valentinus" theology
most of all resembled the eastern brand of Valentinianism.
This hypothesis is also supported by Tertullian"s De carne Christi. In 10.1,
Tertullian reports that the Valentinians say that Christ"s body was psychic
qui carnem Christi animalem affirmant. In 15.1 of the same work however,
Tertullian reports that Valentinus claimed that Christ"s body was spiritual
carnem Christi spiritualem comminisci.40
On this basis, Thomassen sets out with the assumptions that Valentinus
taught that Christs body was spiritual, and that this view characterized
the eastern school, which consequently represents the original Valentinian
doctrine.41 In order to understand what eastern Valentinians could have
referred to with "the spiritual body of the Saviour" we now turn our attention
to an early Valentinian who traditionally has been classified as a proponent
of the eastern school.
The Saviour according to the eastern school
Clement of Alexandria tells us about a Valentinian called Theodotus. The
title of Clement"s report runs as follows: "Excerpts from the [writings] of
Theodotus and of the so-called eastern doctrine from the times of Valenti-
nus." This is the only heresiological source that extensively deals with the
Hippolytus refutation of all haeresis, HippHaer, 6.35.5-7. Transl. Thomassen 2006, p.
This contradiction has led Dubois to doubt that there really were two schools in
Valentinianism. (Dubois 1995). After all, the heresiologists had an interest in emphasizing
the split within Valentinianism. In this thesis however, Thomassen"s arguments will be
evaluated and if they cannot stand the test, dubois" doubts will gain in strength. We
therefore leave this issue for the moment and come back to it in chapter seven.
Thomassen 2006, p. 41.
22 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
eastern school. Furthermore, it is easy to date Theodotus" work to approxi-
mately a generation before Clement. However, not all material that Clement
includes stems from Theodotus. Clement uses different sources, and it is of-
ten hard to determine where a quotation ends and where Clement"s own
comments begin. Normally the work is divided into four parts, 1-28 (A),
29-43:1 (B), 43:2-65 (C) and 66-86 (D). Part C stands out and many schol-
ars have noted that it resembles IrenHaer 1.4.5-7 and will therefore not be
taken as relevant for the discussion regarding the eastern school.42 For the
present purpose, it suffices to discuss some passages that are of importance
for Thomassen"s argumentation regarding the spiritual body of the Saviour.
The first quotation in Excerpta ex Theodoto43 runs as follows:
"Father," he quotes, "into thy hands I commit my spirit" [Luke
23:46]. What Sophia brought forth, he says, as flesh for the
Logos, namely the spiritual seed, that the Saviour put on when
he descended. Therefore at his passion he commits Sophia to the
Father in order that he may receive her back from the Father,
and that she may not be held back here by those who have the
power to plunder her. So he commits the entire spiritual seed,
the elect, by means of the utterance quoted above.44
According to Thomassen, in order to understand this passage one has to be
acquainted with a certain characteristic of the Valentinian soteriology.
When the Saviour was sent to the fallen Sophia, she produced
spiritual offspring in joyful response to the vision she received
of the Saviour and the Pleroma. This offspring is the spiritual
seed. Its members are images of the aeons of the Pleroma, and
they reside, together with Sophia herself, in a region below the
Pleroma, but above the cosmos (which was created later). When
the Saviour eventually descended into the cosmos, the spiritual
seed constituted his body. Thus they were incarnated concorpo-
really with the Saviour.45
In light of this the above given quotation from ExcTheod is interpreted as
saying that Jesus returned to the Father after the crucifixion. For a while
after Jesus" resurrection however, the spiritual body that is the heavenly
church that descended with Jesus remains on earth. As the church risks to
become attacked by the hostile cosmic powers the Father has to protect it.46
Most recently, Thomassen 2006, pp. 29, 62-72.
Hence forward ExcTheod.
ExcTheod 1.1-2, Transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 30.
Thomassen 2006, p. 30.
Thomassen 2006, pp. 30-31.
In the following quotation, the ecclesiology appears more clearly:
The visible part of Jesus was Sophia and the church of the
superior seed, which he put on through the flesh, as Theodotus
says. But the invisible part was the Name, which is the only-
In this manner eastern Valentinian soteriology is closely related to the ec-
clesiology. But how does the heavenly church that forms the spiritual body
of the Saviour relate to the earthly church? In order to obtain more infor-
mation on this subject-matter, Thomassen has to look at other texts.
The Tripartite Tractate, hence forward the TripTract, is one of the most
useful texts when we want to understand the eastern Valentinian doctrine. It
is an extensive and systematic treatise that provides a lot of the information
that was inferred in the interpretations of the above given passages from the
ExcTheod. So is the case, even when it comes to the ecclesiology.
As the Saviour"s body comprises the heavenly church, the Saviour"s descent
to earth means the revelation and actualization of the true being of the
spiritual beings in the cosmic realm. Thomassen formulates it as follows:
We must rather see the heavenly church as the mytholog-
ically hypostasised representation of the predestined status of
the spirituals on earth. When the Saviour appears, he brings
them that status, which they in a sense already have. Their
spiritual nature is revealed, an event that is expressed not only
by the notion that the Saviour shines from above and makes
manifest what each person on earth is (118:21-28),48 but also
by the idea that he reveals the heavenly church that already ex-
ists up above, as the hypostasised representation of their hidden
Thus, from the anthropological point of view, the spiritual person is a mem-
ber of the church, while in the soteriological process, the Saviour brings
corporeal existence to the heavenly church. The Saviour"s body becomes
manifested in many individuals who together form a unity. It means that
the Saviour participates in the multiplicity that belongs to the realm of suf-
fering, and accordingly needs salvation as well.50 According to Thomassen,
this logic is the key to the following passage from TripTrac:
ExcTheod 26.1. transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 31.
Refers to the TripTrac
Thomassen 2006, p. 52.
Thomassen 2006, pp. 52-53.
24 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
These are such as belong to the single essence, which is the
spiritual one. The oikonomia, however, is variable: this being one
thing, that another. Some (beings) have issued from passion and
division; they need healing. Others originate from a prayer that
the sick be healed; they have been appointed to care for the ones
who have fallen. These are the apostles and the bringers of good
tidings. They are, in fact, the disciples of the Saviour; these are
teachers for those who need instruction. Why, then, did they
too share in the sufferings which those who had been brought
forth from passion were afflicted with, if, in accordance with the
oikonomia, they were brought forth in one body together with
the Saviour, who did not take part in these sufferings? Well, the
Saviour, in fact, was a bodily image of something unitary, namely
the Entirety. Therefore he retained the model of indivisibility,
from which derives impassibility. But they are images of each
of those who were revealed, and for that reason they received
division from their model: they received form with a view to a
planting down below, and this (planting) shares in the evil which
exists in the regions where they arrived. For the Will kept all
under sin, in order that by that Will he might show mercy on
all and they might be saved. For a single one is appointed to
bestow life, while all the rest need salvation.51
As the cosmic sphere is marked by multiplicity, passion, death and strife,
for the sake of those who have gone astray in the cosmos the Saviour takes
upon himself this state of passion, which in his case sometimes is called
compassion. The passage just quoted from the TripTrac provides enough
information to understand a somewhat obscure remark from the ExcTheod:
Then, disregarding the glory of God, they impiously say that
he suffered. For the fact that the Father showed compassion
(although he is, Theodotus says, solid and immovable), when
he handed himself over so that Silence could grasp this - that
is passion. For compassion is passion experienced through the
passion of another.52
It seems that passion that someone willingly takes upon him or herself, is
called compassion. It is important to know that passion in the Valentinian
sources is something negative and synonymous to suffering.
In the eastern Valentinian doctrine the Saviour not only has a spiritual
body, but a physical body as well. This sharing in all the conditions of the
biological life is clearly stated in the following passage:
The TripTrac 116.5-117.8, transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 53.
ExcTheod 30.1-2. Transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 37.
What our Saviour became out of willing compassion, is the
same as that which the ones for whose sake he appeared had
become because of an involuntary passion: they had become
flesh and soul, and this holds them perpetually in its grip, and
they perish and die. Those, however, who had co[me into being]
as an invisible human being, and invisibly, them he instructed
about himself in an equally invisible manner. For he not only
took upon himself the death of the ones he intended to save, but
he ac[cept]ed as well the smallness into which they had descended
when they were "iexcl;born"iquest; with body and soul; for he let himself be
conceived and he let himself be born as an infant with body
and soul. And all the other (conditions) as well which these
shared with the ones who had fallen - although they (themselves)
possessed the light - he entered into, although he was superior to
them because he let himself be conceived without sin, pollution,
or defilement. He was born into life (bioc), and he was in life
(bioc) because it had been appointed that the former no less
than the latter should become body and soul as a consequence
of the passion and the erratic sentiment of the volatile logos.53
To sum up the discussion regarding the eastern doctrine, the body of the
descending Saviour is spiritual and co-extensive with the heavenly church.
Furthermore, the deity has to suffer by sharing the conditions that mark
the cosmic existence. Consequently, the Saviour has a spiritual as well as
a physical body. The result of the predicament that afflicts all cosmic life,
is that the Saviour has to be saved as well. In order to see the difference
between the eastern and western, Italian, school, we will now take a brief
look at that branch of Valentinianism.
The Saviour according to the western school
In this section, we will only point out some of the differences that Thomassen
observes between the eastern and western schools. The following passage
from IrenHaer will be sufficient for our purpose:
There are, then, three kinds: the material - which they also
call "left" - must of necessity, they say, perish, because it cannot
receive any outpouring of imperishability. The psychic - which
they also term "right" - stands midway between the spiritual and
the material, and consequently passes to whichever side it is
inclined. The spiritual was sent forth in order that, being linked
with the psychic, it might be formed and educated in company
the TripTrac 114.30-115.23. Transl. Thomassen 2006, pp. 48-49.
26 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
with it, and this is the salt and the light of the world. In fact,
the psychic needed perceptible means of instruction as well. For
this reason too, they maintain, the world was created, and the
Saviour is said to have come to the psychic, since it possessed
free will, in order to save it. In fact, they maintain that he
assumed the first-fruits of those whom he intended to save. From
Achamoth he acquired the spiritual, from the Demiurge he put
on the psychic Christ, from the oikonomia he was endowed with
a body that had psychic substance, but was so constructed by
ineffable art that it was visible, tangible, and capable of suffering.
He received nothing whatever material, they say, for matter is
not capable of being saved.54
At the end of the quotation, we can distinguish a difference compared to
what we learned about the Saviour"s body according to the eastern view.
The Saviour does not have a material body and thus cannot participate in
the biological life. According to the western view, the material substance
is of no use for the Saviour, since the material persons have no capacity to
be saved. This logic resembles that of the eastern school, in so far as the
Saviour resembles those that he intends to redeem. Drawing upon this logic,
the Saviour has come for the sake of the salvation of the spirituals as well.
After all, the Saviour has a spiritual body.
But simultaneously, it seems that the spirituals are in the world to learn
something, without really needing salvation. This disagrees with the eastern
view as it was presented above.
That there is a difference regarding the need of salvation of the spirituals
becomes even clearer as we continue the reading from Irenaeus:
The psychic humans have been instructed in psychic matters;
they are strengthened by works and mere faith, and do not have
perfect knowledge; and these, they teach, are we who belong to
the church. Therefore they affirm that, for us, good conduct is
necessary - for otherwise it would not be possible to be saved -
but they themselves, in their opinion, will be for ever and entirely
saved, not by means of conduct, but because they are spiritual by
nature. For just as it is impossible that the choic should partake
of salvation - since, they say, it is incapable of receiving it - so
again it is impossible that the spiritual - and by that they mean
themselves - should succumb to decay, regardless of what kind of
actions it performs. Just as gold, when placed in mud, does not
lose its beauty but retains its own nature, since the mud is unable
IrenHaer 1.6.1, transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 59.
to harm the gold, so they say that they themselves cannot suffer
any injury or lose their spiritual substance, whatever material
actions they may engage in.55
According to this passage, the spirituals do not need to be saved, neither are
they influenced by the conditions of the cosmic sphere. In Iren. Haer 1.6.1-2
Thomassen finds an underlying eastern soteriology that has become mixed
with a later developed soteriology, in which the Saviour"s mission primarily
is due to the salvation of the psychics only.56 This supports the validity of
the reports from the heresiologists that the eastern school was closest related
Somewhat surprisingly, Thomassen has not written much about the Saviour"s
body in the GospTruth. It is from his general understanding of Valentini-
anism he infers the above described soteriology and ecclesiology into the
GospTruth. From the following quotation however, we may deduce that he
himself asks for a deeper analysis of the GospTruth from this perspective:
This leads us to ask and try to answer the following ques-
tion: What is the real meaning of the book of the living in the
GospTruth? I believe this to be a legitimate question, inasmuch
as it can be answered in terms of an underlying Valentinian so-
teriology for the GospTruth. A clue to the right answer can be
found in the formulation "he put on that book" in connection with
Jesus" appearance and incarnation. Now what the Saviour Je-
sus "puts on" in Valentinianism, at the moment of his descent to
earth, is usually his body, and this body contains the Church.57
However, Thomassen does not provide us with more than this hint. As far
as I know the present study is the first in which the above described per-
spective is implied on the soteriology of the GospTruth. Thus, the outcome
of my analyses will have an immediate significance for the evaluation of
Thomassen"s thesis on this subject-matter. For a mor precise formulation
of the issue, see page 44.
We now turn to a discussion regarding what other characteristics that are
of importance for Thomassen"s location of the GospTruth early in the de-
velopment of Valentinianism.
IrenHaer 1.6.2, transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 60.
Thomassen 2006, pp. 60-61.
Thomassen 2002b, p. 41.
28 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
Eastern and western protological myths
As we saw in the end of the previous paragraph, on the basis of his gen-
eral understanding of the GospTruth as Valentinian, Thomassen interprets
a central concept in the GospTruth, "the living book of the living," in accor-
dance with the Saviour"s body of the Valentinian tradition. Hence, now our
concern has to be the way in which Thomassen justifies his claim that the
GospTruth is Valentinian, and in what manner he relates the GospTruth to
the two Valentinian schools.
In the GospTruth and the TripTrac, the protologies are plainer than in many
other Valentinian texts. Thomassen calls this simple kind of protology "type
A."58 As this kind of protology occurs in the prominent texts of the eastern
school, I will refer to it as "the eastern type." Typical for eastern protology is
that the protological project remains uncompleted until the spiritual beings
have gone through a process of education, and thereby restored the stability
of the Fullness.
In the GospTruth and the TripTrac, the protological process coincides with
the development of the Aeons from their initial ignorant state within the
godhead that usually is called "the Father," through the self-recognition as
his offspring, to the resulting return to him and the restoration of the Full-
ness. In this manner, protology and soteriology are interdependent. The
link between protology and historical processes is typical for eastern Valen-
tinianism, and particularly obvious in the GospTruth.59
In the eastern type of protology, all the aeons initially dwell within the Fa-
ther. However, despite the aeons are inside of him, they fail to comprehend
him due to the Father"s ungraspable nature. This magnificent nature often
is referred to as "the depth" buq"igrave;j of the Father. As all the aeons origi-
nate from the innermost part of the Father, their birth as individual beings
outside of him is the unfolding of the Father as well.
In contrast to these features of the eastern protology, the western one is
marked by a complex constellation of 30 aeons. In this system, as in the
eastern as well, the initial development originates from within the godhead,
but in distinction from the eastern version, it continues in a hierarchical se-
rie of emanations outside of it.60 Thus, according to the western protology,
the generations of aeons only to a limited extent can be spoken of as the
unfolding of the deity itself. Moreover, in the eastern type the term "depth"
has a specific explanatory function, as it denotes the cause of the generative
process of the aeons, whereas in the western protology the adequacy of the
For instance, Thomassen 2006, p. 263.
Thomassen devotes one chapter to this theme with the GospTruth as the proof text,
Thomassen 2006, pp. 146-165.
Thomassen 2006, p. 263.
term "depth" is diminished, being applicable for the aeons inside of the god-
head only.61 Thus, in the western protology the depth remains as a concept
that is more or less devoid of its initial, eastern, systematic significance.
Thomassen remarks that what has been described as the eastern and western
types resembles a report of Tertullian, in which Valentinus represents the
former and Ptolemy the latter protology.
Ptolemy followed the same road (i.e., as Valentinus), distin-
guishing the aeons by names and numbers into personal sub-
stances located outside God, whereas Valentinus had included
them in the totality of the deity himself as thoughts, sentiments
It goes beyond the purpose of this survey to discuss the protologies in their
respective texts. However, the details that I have pointed out above are
those that seems most relevant for the discussions regarding the GospTruth
in subsequent parts of this thesis.
To sum up, Thomassen claims that the eastern protology, to which the
GospTruth belongs, is prior to the western type, which builds upon the
eastern one. Furthermore, there are indications that Valentinus" view on
the protology closely resembled the eastern version.63 In addition to the
above described argumentation we conclude the section about Thomassen"s
reasoning with an attempt to place the GospTruth in the setting of second
The argument of non-expulsion
Even though Valentinus came to Rome in the late 130s and stayed for 15-30
years, we have few reports about condemnations of the Roman Valentinians,
and, according to Thomassen, no reliable report at all of an expulsion of the
Valentinians from the Roman church.64
According to later heresiologists, Valentinus and Marcion were the two most
prominent heretical leaders in the middle of the second century in Rome.
Epiphanius65 tells that Marcion gathered Roman churchleaders in order to
convince them that his faith was the only true one. However, he did not
manage, and in July 144 he abandond the Roman communities and founded
Thomassen 2006, p. 264.
TertullianVal 4.2, transl. Thomassen 2006, p. 264. Ptolemaeus intrauit, nominibus et
numeris aeonum distinctis in personales substantias, sed extra deum determinatas, quas
Valentinus in ipsa summa diuinitatis ut sensus et affectus, motus incluserat.
For a detailed discussion see Thomassen 2006, pp. 146-268.
In this passage I refer to Thomassen 2004, pp. 243-256.
Epiphanius" Panarion 42.1"ndash;2.
30 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
his own church. Thus, relying on Epiphanius report, which probably is
based upon Hippolytus" lost Syntagma, it was Marcion who expelled the
other congregations, and not the opposite.
However, Irenaeus reports66 that Polycarp of Smyrna, some time between
155 and 166, refuted and converted Marcionites, Valentinians, and other
Gnostics. Thomassen notes that an outsider was needed in order to combat
these groups, and that Irenaeus provides no information regarding "anti-
heretical" actions on behalf of the local church authorities. Thus, for Thomassen
Irenaeus" report rather indicates that exclusion of "heretics" was nonexistent
in Rome in the middle of the second century.
Tertullian puts forward conflicting reports regarding the exclusion of Valenti-
nus. In De Praescriptione Haereticorum, ca. 200, he tells that Valentinus
and Marcion repeatedly were thrown out of the church, semel et iterum
eiecti.67 This not only contradicts Epiphanius" report about Marcion, but
other versions of Tertullian as well.
Some years later68 Tertullian refers to Valentinus as "condiscipulus et con-
desertor", which Thomassen interprets as if Valentinus as Marcion left the
church on his own accord.69
In TertullianVal 4, Tertullian asserts that Valentinus, as an act of revenge,
left the Roman church when his aspirations to become the bishop of Rome
had failed, and that Valentinus" theology was quite different from that of his
All these contradictory reports, Thomassen asserts, can be explained by
the absence of traditions telling of the expulsion of Valentinus, or even of a
condemnation of him.70 In light of this, Tertullian"s different reports should
be seen as his conjectures and efforts to understand why Valentinus never
was excluded or condemned. Thomassen concludes:
If the Roman church failed to expel Valentinus, Tertullian
would have reasoned, then either Valentinus himself left the
Christian community, or his heresy became apparent only at a
later point in time.71
However, in the Dialogue with Trypho 35.6 from about 155-160, Justin Mar-
tyr refers to the Marcionites, Basilideans, Satornilians and Valentinians as
"heretical" groups. According toThomassen, this stands against Tertullian"s
Tertullian De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 30.2.
Tertullian De carne Christi 1.3.
Thomassen 2004, p. 244.
Thomassen 2004, p. 244.
Thomassen 2004, p. 244.
hypothesis, which nowadays is supported by Markschies,72 that Valentinus
was no Valentinian himself.73 Furthermore, if Valentinus was no Valentinian
it remains to be explained why the Valentinians never were expelled as a
Thomassen suggests the following solution to the enigma of the non-expulsion
of the Valentinians in Rome. To begin with, Roman Christianity consisted
of fractionated house congregations until the last decades of the second cen-
tury.75 Indeed the congregations cooperated, and sometimes the leaders of
the congregations were assembled, but at that time there was no ecclesiasti-
cal office with the authority to exclude or condemn persons or groups. With
regard to theology and practice plurality prevailed.
Nevertheless, there was also a uniting force in the idea of the united Chris-
tian ekklesia. The ideal of a united, pure and harmonious church brought
about cooperation, but as it effected fairly autonomous congregations the
cooperation also brought about strife. In second century Rome the lack of
agreement between the communities challenged the ideal of the ekklesia and
reforms were called for. According to Thomassen three of the reformers were
Hermas the Shepherd, Marcion and Valentinus.
Hermas called for unity and better moral. By strengthening the sinners
who made penance and by rejecting immoral persons he wanted to unite
the church, as for Hermas good moral meant Christian unity.
Marcion"s program was more precise than Hermas". The church should
establish its own non-Jewish canon, do away with the Jewish god and replace
it with a more elevated deity, and abstain from sex and other desires that
chained persons to the material world.76 Compared with Hermas, Marcion
stressed the doctrinal importance. Marcion, Thomassen asserts, was the
first who tried to establish an orthodox church.77
For Valentinians the unity was all the more important, as the entire purpose
of their church was to realize the unity of its heavenly counterpart. The
harmony of the heavenly church is what every spiritual being tries to be a
part of. Consequently, for the Valentinians the unity is a soteriological and
metaphysical principle. On this ground Thomassen reads the GospTruth
24.25-26.15 as a text that reflects the situation when Valentinus and his
followers withdrew from the state of division and confusion that plagued
the Roman church.
Even though, according to Thomassen, the Valentinians withdrew from the
Thomassen 2004, p. 245.
Thomassen 2004, p. 245.
Thomassen 2004, p. 246 expounds upon parts from Lampe 2003.
Thomassen 2004, p. 252.
Thomassen 2004, p. 253.
32 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
other congregations, they did not reject the outsiders. Rather, their attitude
towards them was that of patient teachers and missionaries. Those who had
not yet come to knowledge were on an uneducated level, but they might be
The hypothetical withdrawal that the GospTruth might reflect must have
taken place before the end of the second century. The Valentinians withdrew
in a time when exclusion was impossible due to the lack of central ecclesias-
tical authority. When such an authority developed at the end of the second
century, the Valentinians had withdrawn already, and consequently they
could not be excluded.
Thomassen"s social argument has not been thoroughly scrutinized, and I
will therefore devote one part of this thesis to an investigation of the social
and religious setting of the GospTruth. For the precise formulation of this
issue, see page 44.
The argument of style
What I refer to with "the argument of style" is that the style of the GospTruth
to such an extent resembles that of the Valentinian fragments that we may
conclude that they have a common author.
Standaert78 devoted an extensive article to a comparison between the Gosp-
Truth and the Valentinian Fragments, ending up with the above given pro-
posal. His contribution has had a large impact. Layton who makes the
following remark with regard to the GospTruth may serve as an example:
The author"s name does not appear in the manuscripts, and
thus the attribution of GTR to Valentinus remains hypotheti-
cal. Nevertheless, it is extremely likely for several reasons: the
work"s stylistic resemblance to the Fragments (whose attribution
is explicit) and the uniqueness of that style; the alleged genius
and eloquence of Valentinus and the lack of a likely candidate for
the authorship among later Valentinian writers; and the absence
of a developed system in the work, perhaps suggesting that it
belongs early in the history of the Valentinian church.79
The argument of style could be combined with for instance Quispel"s and
Thomassen"s positions. However, as Quispel and Thomassen seems to favour
at least a fairly developed Valentinianism in the GospTruth, they can hardly
support the last part of Layton"s argumentation.
Layton, 1987, p. 150.
The argument of the implicit developed system
Layton"s above cited remark introduces another line of thought that from
early on was central for those who classified the GospTruth as a Valentinian
text. Since the GospTruth did not present the complex kind of system that
we above referred to as the western type, scholars who maintained that the
GospTruth was Valentinian, either interpreted the plain character of the
GospTruth as an example of an early, yet undeveloped, stage of Valentini-
anism, or of a later stage when the fully developed system was well-known
already, and accordingly could be presupposed. As already demonstrated,
the former position is maintained by Layton while Jonas may serve as an
example of the latter one.80 In the succeeding discussion of Wilson"s survey
from 1978,81 Jonas articulated is view in the following condensed manner :
Professor Wilson refers to arguments I made in a Gnomon
review of the editio princeps and in a paper at Oxford. I have
contended that the Gospel of Truth presupposes something more
articulate than itself, that its cryptic, allusive language points
the initiate to a more explicit statement like what we know,
e.g. of the Ptolemaean system. I still believe that this is more
plausible than the view that the Gospel of Truth is an embry-
onic stage of Valentinian development. My case centers around
planh which in the GospTruth bears strong characteristics of
the demiurge figure. I think that this makes little sense in the
Gospel of Truth unless one endows it with personal, hyposta-
tized powers of agency and makes it a figure like the demiurge
or Sophia Achamoth. It is however, not part of my position to
argue that the system presupposed actually is that of Ptolemy
or of the Excerpts from Theodotus. Similarly, on my view the
hypothesis that the Apocryphon of John was used by the author
for his amalgam is possible but not necessary.82
Thus, Jonas" position can be maintained even of those who place the Gosp-
Truth relatively early in the development of Valentinianism, and conse-
quently the argument of the implicit Valentinian system does not necessarily
oppose the attribution of Valentinus as the author of the GospTruth.
The arguments of language
Under this heading we will discuss in what way different opinions regarding
the original language of the GospTruth affect the above outlined arguments
Jonas 1963, pp. 175-197.
Wilson 1980, pp. 133-145.
Layton 1980, p. 142.
34 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
regarding the original setting, theology and authorship of it.
Today it is widely accepted that the GospTruth originally was written in
Greek. However, two other suggestions have been put forward. Fecht83
argued for a Coptic origin. He claimed that the GospTruth is built upon
an Egyptian metric tradition, and that all readings have to take this into
consideration.84 For Fecht the position that Coptic was the original language
of the GospTruth did not exclude the possibility that Valentinus was the
author of it. However, as will be demonstrated below, as the study of the
Coptic language has advanced, Fecht"s assertion has become highly unlikely,
and would exclude that Valentinus was the author of the GospTruth.
A style on the level of sophistication that we encounter in the GospTruth
is not known in Coptic until the late fourth, or early fifth centuries.85 As
the copies of the GospTruth from Nag Hammadi may have been written as
late as the first quarter of the fifth century, but hardly later,86 even that
late dating of the Codecies implies that a Coptic origin would presuppose
that the GospTruth was one of the very early sophisticated Coptic works,
and that it immediately was preserved in Lycopolitan, (L6),87 which is the
dialect of Codex I.3, and in Sahidic, which is the dialect of the GospTruth
of Codex XII.2. Nowadays we also have to reckon with a certain period of
transformation of the Coptic texts until they were copied into Codex I.3
and XII.2. The dialects of NHC 1.3 and NHC XII.2, both bear traces of a
Northern dialect,88 which indicates that the GospTruth existed in versions
from Northern Egypt before it was included in Codex I and XII respec-
tively.89 Thus, to reckon with a Coptic origin of the GospTruth is far more
problematic today than in Fecht"s time. From the perspective of stylistic
development, it presupposes a stage of the Coptic language that began at
the beginning of the fifth century, the time of Shenoute. But as we also
have to reckon with a certain time of transformation from Northern Coptic
before the Southern versions of the GospTruth appeared in Codex I and XII,
respectively, the support for a Coptic origin is slim indeed. Consequently,
Fecht 1961, 1962 and 1963.
Fecht 1961, p. 373.
Oral information from Stephen Emmel.
Oral information by Stephen Emmel.
Lycopolitan is a problematic category. According to Funk, 1985, pp. 124-139, Ly-
copolitan, or as it also has been called: Subakhmimic, rather should be treated as three
groups of Southern Coptic, than one. Moreover, the treatment of these groups as a dialect
can also be questioned, (Funk 1985). Technically speaking the language of the GospTruth
of Codex I should be referred to as L6, where L should not be confused with Lycopolitan in
the sense of dialect. The difficulty with the category "dialect" was also stressed by Bently
Layton (oral information). For convenience however, I will use the terms "Lycopolitan"
and "dialect" bearing in mind the just mentioned reservations.
Some of the Bohairic traces in NHC I.3 will be pointed out in subsequent parts of this
Funk 1995, pp. 129-130.
the argument of Coptic as the original language of the GospTruth has lost
most or all of its significance.
Nagel90 has argued for a Syriac origin of the GospTruth, but without re-
peating his claim or gaining any adherents for it. As Valentinus never was
heard of as a writer in Syriac, Nagel"s claim, if it was proven to be correct,
would diminish the strength of the claim that Valentinus was the author of
the GospTruth to something close to zero.
Today the vast majority of scholars reckon with a Greek origin that through
stages of transformation, maybe already in Greek, and certainly in Coptic,
has undergone more or less drastic changes. On the one hand, Layton,
Standaert and other proponents of the argument of style must subscribe to
the claim that the translation from Greek, and the transformations through
Coptic, has been carried through in such a way that we still are able to detect
the style of the Greek original. The same view must have been shared by
Menard who in 1962 published a retroversion from Coptic to Greek.91 Till,
on the other hand, probably was of a different opinion. The translator,
Till asserts, was not prepared to translate the Greek text into intelligible
Till"s claim is important not only for the validity of the argument of style,
but for the major part of the present thesis as well. As many of the analyses
pursued in this study deal with nuances of the Coptic text, they would be
less relevant, if the translation from Greek to Coptic was bad.
In one way or another, the above given arguments have been used in or-
der to support a Valentinian origin of the GospTruth, and frequently, as
well of the attribution of it to Valentinus. Therefore, the counter-arguments
to these claims now insist on being raised. In a monograph from 1992,
Markschies challenged the arguments that favour the attribution of Valenti-
nus as the author of the GospTruth. As he only aims at describing theology
of Valentinus, and not that of his followers, Markschies" analyses concern-
ing the GospTruth regards the attribution to Valentinus only. Therefore,
when we in the following discussion use a term as for instance "the Valen-
tinian theology" it only refers to Valentinus" theology, and not to that of his
In order to depict the Valentinian theology from the methodologically most
solid foundation possible, Markschies sets out with a thorough investigation
Till 1958, p. 271.
36 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
of the Valentinian fragments.93 Next, he heads to discuss whether there are
other texts that could be added to the Valentinian corpus. At this point the
GospTruth of course occupies a predominant role in Markschies" analysis.94
Markschies" argumentation can be divided into external and internal criteria,
and we begin with a recapitulation of the former category.
The questions that are dealt with as external criteria are summed up in the
"bull; Was NHC. 1.3 originally entitled, or later referred to as the gospel of
"bull; Do the patristic reports indicate that Valentinus had an own gospel?
Markschies asserts that every attribution of NHC 1.3 to Valentinus presup-
poses that the incipit line coincides with the title.95 But in his argumen-
tation, Markschies sides with scholars who claim that the "gospel (or good
news) of the truth" on the incipit line is an expression similar to for instance
"the Father of the truth" in 16.33. These scholars96 do not regard "the gospel
of the truth" to be a concept that is more central than many others, and
consequently, doubt that the initial line would function as a heading for the
Moreover, Markschies remarks that in the Nag Hammadi library only three
texts have a formal title that exactly correspond with their respective in-
cipit lines. Even when relevant texts outside the Nag Hammadi corpus are
considered, exact correspondences between the incipit line and the formal
title are rare as well. All in all, Markschies finds it highly unlikely that the
incipit line of NHC. 1.3 was used as the title.98
In the second external argument we consider the reports that support, or
conflict with, the notion that Valentinus had his own gospel. In the argu-
mentation however, no distinction is made between the two possibilities that
it implies. It could either mean that Valentinus had a gospel that was writ-
ten by someone else, but which was rarely used by others than Valentinus
and his followers, or it could mean that he was the author of it. Keeping
this vagueness in mind, it seems that the issue at stake primarily is whether
Valentinus also was the author of the GospTruth. For convenience we do
not each time state these two possibilities, but refer to them as one and the
Markschies 1992, pp. 11-292.
Markschies 1992, pp. 339-356.
Markschies 1992, p. 341.
For instance Schenke 1959.
Markschies 1992, p. 342.
Markschies 1992, p. 343.
Noting that IrenHaer 3.11.9, see page 16, mentions that the Valentinians
used many different gospels, Markschies concludes that this passage provides
no support of the attribution of a gospel to Valentinus. More interesting,
however, is a passage from Pseudo Tertullian, see page 18. But on a source
critical basis Markschies asserts that Pseudo Tertullian is a paraphrase of
Irenaeus information regarding the Valentinians.99 Thus, Markschies con-
cludes that no sources support the hypothesis that Valentinus wrote his
own gospel.100 On the contrary Markschies position is that there are strong
arguments against the attribution of a gospel to Valentinus. For instance,
Valentinus was known of using the same texts as the main stream church,
and never wrote down his doctrine.101 Moreover, the conventional way in
which Valentinus of the fragments used Biblical texts differs from the man-
ner in which they are used in the GospTruth.102 To sum up, Markschies
rejects both external arguments.
As internal arguments Markschies refers to arguments that focus on the
contents of the GospTruth and its hypothetical relation to Valentinus.
Regarding the discussion about the Aeons, which was referred to on page
29, Markschies rejects the assertion that the Aeons in the GospTruth are
thoughts within the Father, and in this respect resembles the pleromatol-
ogy that Tertullian ascribed to Valentinus.103 In contrast to for instance
Thomassen Markschies holds that the Aeons within the Father are nothing
but potentialities, but become individual Aeons outside of him, which is
more in accordance with the later Valentinians.104
Further, comparisons of the style of the GospTruth and that of the Valen-
tinian fragments cannot successfully be carried through due to the scanty
material that the fragments provide.105 Thus, Markschies rejects the ar-
guments of Layton and Standaert, see page 32, but also other arguments
that draw upon similarities between the Fragments and the GospTruth.106
There are similarities but also differences between the GospTruth and the
Fragments, and even though the GospTruth no doubt is Valentinian, there
is no basis for the attribution of it to Valentinus.107 A radically different
counter-argumentation is put forward by Mortley who does not label the
GospTruth as particularly Valentinian.108 But on the other hand Mortley
supports what we have called the argument of title, claiming that if there
Markschies 1992, p. 344.
Markschies 1992, p. 345.
Markschies 1992, pp. 345-346.
Markschies 1992, p. 346.
Markschies 1992, p. 349.
Markschies 1992, pp. 349-350.
Markschies 1992, p. 351.
Markschies 1992, pp. 351-356.
Markschies 1992, p. 356.
Mortely 1992, p. 240.
38 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
had been more than one GospTruth, someone would have mentioned it.109
In this way he endsup with a somewhat paradoxical situation. NHC. 1.3 is
really entitled as the GospTruth, and it is the work known by Irenaeus, but
it is non-Valentinian. Mortley therefore suggests that the GospTruth from
the second century underwent drastical alterations, and turned out in the
versions that we find in Nag Hammadi.110 Such drastic evolution would be
a result of the spirit of Gnosticism, in contrast to the spirit of orthodoxy.
That Gnostic documents should evolve would seem to be
consistent with the Gnostic taste for innovation, and with the
Gnostic depreciation of authority and historical authentication.
Orthodoxy, on the other hand, very quickly acquired a belief
that the exact texts should be preserved for posterity.111
According to Mortley this is a principle that often is neglected by those who
seek information about the earliest Christian texts.112 In Nag Hammadi,
we find pieces of texts from the second to the sixth century, which are
interwoven with interpolations from later Platonic and Arian traditions.113
Mortley claims that parts of the GospTruth are a product of the debates
provoked by Arius, and consequently must be dated well ahead in the fourth
In this way Mortley"s argumentation partly supports the notion of the
GospTruth as an early Valentinian text, but partly as well as a late non-
With the survey concerning the GospTruth in relation to Valentinianism
in mind, it is obvious that many scholars claim that the GospTruth was
written by Valentinus, or at least, that it is a Valentinian text. However,
the different arguments in favour of these assertions often contradict each
other. Quispel to a large extent relies on IrenHaer 1.11 when he deduces the
original doctrine of Valentinus. Thomassen for his part, evaluates Irenaeus
reports differently, and instead embarks on a new road in the search. The
protology of the eastern type, and the Saviour"s body according to the same
brand, are crucial features when Thomassen pinpoints the earliest stage of
Valentinianism. As already mentioned the Saviour"s body has not been
Mortley 1992, pp. 240-241.
Mortley 1992, pp. 240-241.
Mortley 1992, p. 241.
Mortley 1992, p. 241.
Mortley 1992, p. 241.
Mortley 1992, p. 241.
THE DISCOURSE OF VALENTINIAN GNOSTICISM 39
thoroughly discussed in relation to the GospTruth but will be examined in
Other scholars assert that the GospTruth is an early Valentinian text, be-
cause of the undeveloped mythology, whereas others claim that the thin
mythology indicates a later stage of the development, in which the system
was well-known already, and thus could be presupposed.
At the same time Markschies has put new fuel on the debate regarding
Valentinus" theology in particular, but of the GospTruth as well.
The discourse of Valentinian Gnosticism
As became evident from Mortly"s argumentation page 37, the general view
of Gnosticism coloured Mortley"s view of the GospTruth, and in this respect
he is typical. Even those who did not attribute the GospTruth to Valentinus
or to any other known or unknown Valentinian, doubted that the GospTruth
was firmly rooted in a Gnostic tradition. Today however, what we mean with
Gnosticism, and whether the term is adequate at all, are vividly debated
issues. For the present thesis it is particularly important to touch upon
these subject-matters, since we will discuss the aspects of the social life of
the community that first listened to the GospTruth.
When scholars began to read the Nag Hammadi texts they did not always
find what they expected. Since most of the Nag Hammadi texts were sup-
posed to be Gnostic, this became a challenge to the definition of Gnosticism.
In 1966 a conference in Messina focused on the definition of Gnosticism.115
However, the conference members who were leading scholars of its timedid
not settle the problem of defining Gnosticism.116 Instead one began to focus
on smaller categories of which Sethianism and Valentinianism became the
most important. In 1978 scholars gathered at Yale in order to discuss these
two Gnostic branches.117 The conference at Yale was held just months after
faximiles of the entire Nag Hammadi library had become available. Anyhow,
40 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
radically different species: one a parody or "inversion" of ele-
ments from Judaism, essentially non-Christian in character; the
THE DISCOURSE OF VALENTINIAN GNOSTICISM 41
In a way Desjardins study narrowed the gap between Gnosticism and Chris-
tianity, although he still worked with a dichotomy between the two. His
comment on the same paraenetic passage of the GospTruth, previously dis-
cussed by Grobel, is enlightening:
We have seen how the author"s remarks reflect not only a
knowledge of Matthew"s Gospel, but also an appreciation of the
major tenets of the Sermon on the Mount. The argument in
32,31-33,32 is far more "Christian" than "gnostic."122
Unfortunately, it is not obvious what Desjardins means with "Christian" and
"Gnostic," and the quotation-marks does not make the interpretation easier.
Meeks emphasizes the impact that the attitude towards the world has for
the Christian ethics. As for the adherents of the Valentinian branch of
Gnosticism the world is nothing to reform, but to escape.
It is evident from the myths and commentaries written by
the Gnostics and the Valentinians that the goal of a life lived in
accord with the truth they proclaimed would not be the salvation
of the world but escape from it.123
It is worth noting that Meeks treats different groups that often have been
referred to as Gnostics along with other Christian groups, and does not work
with an alienating dichotomy. However, what influence that the rejection of
the world would have in each specific case is hard to deduce, he remarks in
connection with the paraenesis on pages 32-33 of the GospTruth.124 Nev-
ertheless, according to Meeks the attitude towards the world and the body
has significance for many aspects of the social life.
In 1996, Williams published a very influential book in which he proposed
that the category Gnosticism should be abandoned altogether.125 He claims
that the typologies that often have been ascribed to Gnosticism rather hin-
ders the scholars from perceiving the different sources than provide help to
However, even as an ideal construct, "gnosticism" has failed.
For the purpose of an ideal construct would be to illuminate the
data in question by pointing us in the right direction. But "gnos-
ticism" as customarily constructed has turned out too often to be
Desjardins 1990, p. 80.
Meeks 1993, p. 57.
Meeks 1993, pp. 185-186.
42 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
doing just the opposite: obscuring from our view the true dynam-
ics in our sources by setting us up to expect what is not there,
a Procrustean paradigm distorting newly available evidence into
its own image, while screening out the very information that ac-
tually tends to suggest that the typological construct itself is
According to Williams we need a new typological definition, and in fact,
hebrings forth the following:
...I would suggest the category "biblical demiurgical tradi-
tions" as one useful alternative.By "demiurgical" traditions I mean
all those that ascribe the creation and management of the cos-
mos to some lower entity or entities, distinct from the highest
God. This would include most of ancient Platonism, of course.
But if we add the adjective "biblical," to denote "demiurgical" tra-
ditions that also incorporate or adapt traditions from Jewish or
Christian Scripture, the category is narrowed significantly.127
Williams underlines the advantage of having a modern definition. The risk
of attributing cliches on the category would diminish, and we would not be
tempted to speak about a "biblical demiurgical" religion.128
In 2003, King, in an extensive overview of scholarship on Gnosticism during
the 20th century, to a large extent sides with Williams. The typologies
that often are attributed to Gnosticism do not stand the test. To King,
Gnosticism is a category that for a pejorative purpose was invented by the
heresiologists. They wanted to describe their view of Christianity as the
original pure Christian faith. In this manner they aimed at building up
a contrast to other Christians, Jews and pagans.129 This discourse has
continued to direct the views on many texts. In a discussion regarding
whether texts that often have been classified as Gnostic also qualify as such
according to the typological categories, King discusses the GospTruth.
GosTruth, a writing from the mid-second century thought by
many scholars to have been written by "the arch-heretic" Valenti-
nus himself, is an excellent example of a work that defies classi-
fication as a "Gnostic" text. This remarkable work exhibits none
of the typological traits of Gnosticism. That is, it draws no dis-
tinction between the true God and the creator, for the Father of
Williams 1996, p. 49.
Williams 1996, p. 51.
Williams 1996, p. 52.
King 2003, pp. 20-54.
THE DISCOURSE OF VALENTINIAN GNOSTICISM 43
Truth is the source of all that exists. It avows only one ultimate
principle of existence, the Father of Truth, who encompasses
everything that exists. The Christology is not docetic; Jesus ap-
pears as a historical figure who taught, suffered, and died. Nor
do we find either a strictly ascetic or a strictly libertine ethic;
rather, the text reveals a pragmatic morality of compassion and
After having quoted parts of the paraenesis from the GospTruth 32-33,131
Whatever we may think of these sentiments, they do not
express a hatred of the world and the body, which can lead only
to either libertine or ascetic ethics. Neither do they reveal an
elitist view that only some are saved by nature. It may very
well be the case that the basis for salvation is the fundamentally
spiritual nature of humanity, but if so, such salvation requires
enlightenment and moral practice. Moreover, it can be argued
that, according to GosTruth, all of humanity will be saved.132
In the end King is not certain of whether the category Gnosticism will
continue to be used or not.
... I think the term "Gnosticism" will most likely be aban-
doned, at least in its present usage. Perhaps scholars will con-
tinue to use it to designate a much more delimited group of ma-
terials, such as "Sethian Gnosticism" or "Classical Gnosticism."
Perhaps not. It is important not so much to eliminate the term
per se, but to recognize and correct the ways in which reinscrib-
ing the discourses of orthodoxy and heresy distort our reading
and reconstruction of ancient religion.133
From the passages just cited it seems certain that the GospTruth, since it
is a Valentinian text, according to King, would not be labeled as Gnos-
tic. First of all, it does not fulfil the typological criteria that King listed
above. Second, it seems that Gnosticism could be appropriate to designate
Sethianism, but hardly Valentinianism.
Even though Williams and King have been very influential their views are
far from unchallenged. Besides those who still find it justified to use the
King 2003, p. 192.
King seems to use the translation of Attridge "" MacRae 1985a.
King 2003, p. 193.
King 2003, p. 218.
44 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSE
category Gnosticism for branches of for instance Christianity, there are oth-
ers who also claim that Gnosticism can be treated as a religion in its own
right. Aside from Jonas134 and Rudolph,135 today, Pearson, far from being
alone, is the most prominent scholars of this opinion.136 For our purpose
however, it is not necessary to engage in this debate. The GospTruth is
clearly Christian. What is at stake for us is whether it should be referred to
as Valentinian, and/or Christian Gnostic as well.
The impact of the Gnostic discourse
From the brief survey of the scholarly discourse concerning Gnosticism, we
have learned that the GospTruth has been put forward as an ample example
of ethics within Valentinian Gnosticism, whereas others have used the same
passages to demonstrate that the ethics and other features of the GospTruth
do not allow us to categorize it as a Gnostic text. For this reason the analysis
of different social dimensions of the GospTruth will be important, not only
for our understanding of the community behind the text, but also for the
general debate regarding Gnosticism.
The purpose reformulated
After these surveys we are in a better position to formulate the purpose
of this thesis that provisionally was formulated on page 15. Evidently the
GospTruth has been interpreted in many ways, and used for different pur-
poses. To begin with I will take up the challenge of translating the text.
This is a laborious, but unfortunately necessary outset since many transla-
tions differ on crucial points. Strictly, it would not be necessary to present
my translation of the entire text, but as the translation has been very im-
portant for the analyses of such large portions of the GospTruth I present
my interpretation of the entire work.
In the process of translating I will apply text linguistic procedures that
have been little used on the Nag Hammadi texts. Moreover, as the field
of translation theory has developed the last 30 years, it has become more
obvious that translation is a purposeful activity. No longer we can speak
of a "plain" translation. All translation serves an aim, and today we are
obliged to account for it. Many of the constructions in the Coptic text are
hard to render in English. On the one hand I want to show the extensions
of the periods. This provides the reader with information of the style in
the Coptic text. Such a translation is also necessary when I demonstrate in
Most recently see Pearson 2005.
THE PURPOSE REFORMULATED 45
what way I have analysed the syntax. But on the other hand the often long
periods, with their multiple subordinated clauses, are not easily rendered
in long English sentences. The functional relations between the clauses are
better rendered when the periods are broken up into shorter sentences.
"bull; In the second chapter, I will therefore discuss and explain some method-
ological tools and theoretical considerations that are essential for the
translation. I use this opportunity in order to open doors between
disciplines within linguistics, translation theory and the history of re-
ligions that often have remained shut and even unknown.
"bull; As I do not strictly follow one theory or method, it is important to
explain how I use them. In the third chapter, this pedagogical task
will be undertaken.
"bull; In the fourth chapter, my two English translations will be put forward.
"bull; In chapter five, our concern will be the protology and soteriology of
the GospTruth. By reading the GospTruth in light of other Valen-
tinian texts, a new Valentinian discourse emerges. This will help us to
determine in what theological setting the GospTruth originally came
forth. The choice of analysing the protology and soteriology is under-
standable in light of the discussions regarding the different Valentinian
schools that was dealt with above.
"bull; In chapter six, I will make an attempt to analyse the social and re-
ligious setting of the GospTruth. This undertaking is very difficult
and few attempts to carry through such an analysis have been made.
As was discussed in the survey, ethical and other social relations have
bearing for the location of the GospTruth inside or outside a Gnos-
tic framework. In a new manner, I will contribute to the discussion
regarding the Gnostic discourse.
"bull; In the seventh chapter, we will sum up the results, and see in what way
they are of significance for the state of scholarship on the GospTruth.
46 CHAPTER 1. A CHALLENGE IN A BEWILDERING DISCOURSEChapter 2
As stated in the prior chapter, the main purpose of the present study is
to pinpoint the original setting of the GospTruth, and at the same time to
translate the text in a way that is readable for the English reading audience,
without all the time forcing them to use a commentary. Both these aims
gain by an analysis of the way in which the GospTruth is organized. For
this reason I will use tools that are common in text linguistics. Why such
an undertaking is useful for these purposes will be discussed below.
Another key to understanding the context of the GospTruth is the manner
in which the author uses intertexts. Therefore, we will make some consid-
erations regarding this subject-matter.
At the end of the day, however, we have to consider some parts of the
discussions that today are lumped together under the name "Translation
theory." Although I do not strictly follow any particular school in that field,
I am influenced by different theoreticians. Consequently, we will end this
chapter with some reflections regarding the process of translating an ancient
The usefulness of text linguistics
Everyone who sets out reading the Coptic text that we refer to as the Gosp-
Truth begins with using the semantic and syntactic knowledge without which
the reading would be impossible. To state it very simply, we work on a level
that regards the text-internal relations between signs i.e. the syntactic level,
and the relations between signifiers and the signified i.e. the semantic level.
48 CHAPTER 2. COMMUNICATION CENTRED APPROACHES
Our knowledge of semantics and syntactics will provide us with a good start-
ing point, but hardly with enough tools to grasp the broader meaning of the
text, since a text is more than series of sentences. As the clauses within
sentences are related to each other, so are the different sentences related as
well, even though these relations usually are more difficult to determine than
those between clauses. The author or speaker has to organize the message
in a manner according to which the audience may orientate themselves in
the flow of information. Without helping the receivers of the message to
understand what the subject-matter is, the reception of the message risks to
be lost in the noise of unorganized sentences. Granting that the GospTruth
is a fairly well organized text, we may assume that it should be possible
to detect linguistic signals that help the reader to comprehend the message
in the way that the author intended it to be received. When we look for
signals that relate to the sender of the message and to the receiver of it,
we have moved from the semantic and syntactic levels to the pragmatic one
that concerns the relation between signs and sign users. Every gifted author
tries to present the message in the way that would suit the audience best.
Indirectly therefore, the plan according to which the author presents the
message often yields information about the author"s view of the audience.
Thus, text linguistics is a branch of linguistics in which the focus is on
delimiting texts on levels over the sentence level. If we speak of sentence
grammar when we focus on segments not larger than a sentence, we speak of
text grammar or text linguistics when we analyse larger units of text. From
this perspective we set out perceiving the entire text as a macro sign that is
built up of hierarchically organised subtexts. By observing markers that in-
dicate on which level a subtext is located, we will know more about the plan
according to which the author wrote the text. As for the GospTruth, which
original setting is difficult to determine, the aid that text linguistics furnishes
us with concerning the author"s strategy of communication is particularly
important. By an analysis of the way that the GospTruth is organised we
gain some knowledge regarding the author"s view of the community, and as
the GospTruth played a role for at least a number of communities, it seems
as the manner in which the author presented the message really appealed
to them. With this vague description of text linguistics and its usefulness
in relation to the present study, we now turn to a description of the central
tools that will be used in the analyses of the present book.
Text linguistic tools
In the following discussion regarding the use of methods that are related to
text linguistics, our focus will be on the methodological rather than on the
theoretical level. The starting point will be analytical tools that in practice
have proven to be successfully employed at the department of New Testa-
TEXT LINGUISTICS 49
ment exegesis at Uppsala University,1 although I differ from my predecessors
concerning the exact application of the method.
In order to discover in what manner the GospTruth is organised, we will
search for linguistic markers that indicate that a passage belongs to one or
the other level in the text. This means that we both have to find criteria
according to which the level of a marker belongs and also to determine the
extension of passages.
As my Uppsala predecessors I am influenced by G"uuml;lich "" Raible2 who have
presented a list of types of markers that should be possible to place on
different levels. Although it seems that their ranking is too exact to stand
the test of actual texts, indeed, they are good indicators of the level on
which a marker functions.3
The metacommunicative sentence or clause
The metacommunicative sentence or the metacommunicative clause (MC)
is an expression of the kind "John said to Mary: I expect you to be here
at twelve." MC:s involve the identification of the speaker and listener, and
a metacommunicative verb as for instance, saying or writing, which is the
coding of the message, and hearing or reading, which is the decoding of it.
It provides information about the sender, receiver, the topic or the mode
of presentation.4 Text linguists say that such clauses thematize the act of
communication. Even though an MC normally occurs in the beginning of
the passage it subordinates, it can sometimes as well function retrospectively
and occur in the end of the passage. The MC is a marker that operates on
the pragmatic level, and consequently it often functions on the highest one.
Sometimes the MC is repeated or expressed in other ways. In these cases
we speak of iterations of the MC (MCit) which functions on the same level
as the primary MC.5 However, MC:s may also be embedded in the text on
lower levels. Then, whether they may be treated as markers of shift in the
hierarchy or as sequential markers must be judged from case to case. For
this reason it is important to detect the highest levels of a text in order to
avoid misplacing low MC:s.
The primary inspirator and advocate for the use of text linguistics in exegesis for at
least three decades has been Hartman, see for instance Hartman 1997. Among others
he inspired Hellholm, see Hellholm 1980, Johanson, see Johanson 1987, and Holmstrand,
see Holmstrand 1997. For a general introduction to text linguistics see de Beaugrande ""
See especially, G"uuml;lich "" Raible 1977 and G"uuml;lich et al. 1979.
See for instance the remark by Johanson 1987, pp. 24-25.
G"uuml;lich "" Raible 1977, pp. 27-28, Gulich et al. 1979, pp. 81-84 87, Hellholm 1980,
pp. 80-84, Johanson 1987, p. 26, Holmstrand 1997, p. 25.
Johanson 1987, p. 26.
50 CHAPTER 2. COMMUNICATION CENTRED APPROACHES
But in many cases the sender and receiver of a message, as well as the
situation of the communication are known already. If we take for granted
that the GospTruth is a homily that was preached in a community, the
stepping forward of the preacher in front of the community in itself could
function as the identification of the sender and receiver, as well as of the
communicative situation i.e. a homily. In the GospTruth I presuppose that
those who are described as the Father"s children, those who know, those who
are redeemed and those who rejoice, all are the receivers of the message i.e.
the community. Consequently, in the GospTruth we have to reckon with a
frequent usage of surrogates for MC:s. Thus, in this respect, in compliance
with G"uuml;lich"s "" Raible"s model, I modify the method in order to make it
work in a homily.
We have already touched upon the importance of different levels in the text,
and stressed that the MC:s often function on the highest level. But which
is the practical importance of these observations? If we find a marker that
we know functions on level X, we first determine what this marker delimits.
Usually the MC is an opening marker and heads the unit it subordinates.
All the paragraphs that follow an such opening marker will be located on
a lower level than X and consequently belong to the unit that our opening
marker headed. The unit that opened on level X continues until we find
another marker on the same level or higher. With this in mind, it is easy to
understand the need for discussing other markers and levels in a text.
Substitution on abstraction-level
In the GospTruth it sometimes happens that after an episode is told, the
narration stops and is expounded upon in terms of "It happened because
." In this manner the marker acywpe "it happened", in 17.18 from an
abstract level refers to what was told in 17.4-18. Such markers refer to units
of text and are text-internal. The substitution on abstraction-level (SA) is
subordinated to the pragmatic level, which involves the sender and receivers,
which was discussed above in connection to the MC. The SA may oscillate
on different levels below the metacommunicatively highest rank, but in the
GospTruth they occur on higher rather than on lower levels.6
Episode and iteration
In the preceding section the notion episode was introduced but not ex-
plained. Episodes are a chain of actions that takes place in real- or fictive
For the present study it is not necessary to discuss the relation between SA and the
meta-level. In the practice in Uppsala the SA has been detected on various levels, whereas
G"uuml;lich et al. (1979, p. 90) fixes the SA between text-level and metatext-level.
TEXT LINGUISTICS 51
time and space. In this respect episode markers regarding syntax are text-
internal, whereas when it comes to semantics they may refer to objects in
the real world and thus are text-external.7
If the event is repeated as an ongoing process in certain conditions of time
and space it is called an iteration,8 and when the event takes place only once
it is an episode.9 If for instance an episode begins with "When he came" the
iteration sets out with "if he came" or "as often as he came." "When", "if" and
"as often as" funtion as episode markers and iteration markers respectively.10
In the GospTruth episode and iteration markers normally appear on a lower
level than the SA. But of course, there are different levels within episodes
and iterations as well. If an actor is presented first with her name "Mary" and
then with "she" a digression from a higher level to a lower one has occurred.
G"uuml;lich "" Raible gives the following example of digression within an episode:
A man (level 1), this man (level 2), the man (level 3) Mr. X (level 4) and
he (level 5).11 If for instance a shift occurs from level 3 to level 1 in the list
just presented, this is called a renominalization and indicates a minor break,
and a new start.12
Even though I will not use this ranking dogmatically, it is a useful approach
when we delimit units as episodes and iterations as well as minor units
within them. In the GospTruth however, on the first level in episodes we
often encounter a "he" that we would expect on the fifth level. Only from the
context the reader knows which actor that is referred to, as for instance in
19.16 when the pronoun syntactically should refer backwards to the Father,
although the context indicates that the actor is Jesus.
Instructive and thematic markers
As was seen above, many of the text linguistic analytical tools that have
been employed by my Uppsala predecessors and that will be used in this
study as well, have been examined by G"uuml;lich "" Raible. But in addition, for
the Uppsala scholars the metapropositional base, which was investigated by
Grosse, has been fruitful in studies regarding the way in which an author
instructs the readers about how the message is intended to be perceived.13
In the sentence "I promise that I will be there at noon" includes the propo-
sition (P) "I will be there at noon." The additional information that it is a
promise contains instruction regarding the way in which the receiver should
G"uuml;lich et al. 1979, pp. 90-91.
G"uuml;lich et al 1979, p. 91.
G"uuml;lich et al. 1979, p. 91.
G"uuml;lich et al. 1979, p. 92 use "Als er kam" and "Wenn er kam."
G"uuml;lich et al. 1979, p. 95.
G"uuml;lich et al. 1979, p. 97.
52 CHAPTER 2. COMMUNICATION CENTRED APPROACHES
understand the proposition, end "I promise" is what we call a metaproposi-
tional base (MB).14 MC:s often occur in the form of a MB, but this is not
always the case. MB:s express whether the P should be perceived as real,
realizable, perhaps possible, necessary, wanted, or good or bad.15
A MB, however, does not always occur as a whole clause. It may for instance
consist of an adverb or imperative. In 17.28-29 the imperative form in
"disregard Error" can be paraphrased into the MB "I want you (to disregard
Error)." As MC:s, MB:s can occur on different levels in the text, although
they often appear on high levels, and in the beginning of a new section.
Therefore, we can classify a MB as an instructive opening marker to the P
that is the theme that the marker instructs about.
But a new theme may also be indicated more independently. In the Gosp-
Truth a shift to a new theme may be introduced through a long list of
attributes to a new central actor as for instance in 18.31-34. This causes
a stop to what has been said before, and in this manner it functions as an
Another phenomenon that appears in the break between passages is the
recurrence. After a long digression with a lot of information, notions that
were used earlier recur. In 16.31-17.4, the passage ends by repetitions of
central concepts that were used in the beginning of the section. In this way,
we know that the passage has ended, and as the GospTruth continues also
after 17.4, we know that a new section has begun.
In the GospTruth 19.14-17, a rhetorical question (RQ) functions as a clos-
ing marker as it summarizes and stresses the main theme in the preceding
section. In this manner it functions as an instructive marker.
Resistance in the information flow
Another tool that I want to introduce is the shift in the resistance in the
information flow (R). If someone tells us "because I am hungry," we know
that we have to add some information. This information could be picked
up from what was said earlier: "Why are you so unconcentrated? Because
I am hungry." But if we lack such preceding information, "Because I am
hungry," requires a continuation. If the needed information follows smoothly:
"Because I am hungry I will eat," The flow of information runs easily and
the term I use for such smooth communication is "low resistance in the
information flow." When the communication ends, and if all subject-matters
are cleared up, the level of resistance is on zero.
High R, for instance, occurs when someone says: "Because a, b, c, d and e,
Grosse 1976, p. 15-16.
Grosse 1976, p. 35.
and because f, g, h, i, j, k and l, I want to ask you." Too many units of
information have to be stored in the memory before we know what they will
lead to. Finally we at least know that we will be asked something, but we
still do not know about what. It means that the R has fallen from a high
level to a lower, but we still need the actual question to reach zero. If a
speaker overloads us with unstructured information we say: "It is difficult
to understand what you mean." This is our way to react to a high level of
A skilled speaker, however, can use the fall in R in a rhetorically elegant
manner. According to my analysis, 17.4-18 of the GospTruth, constitutes
one period in a long and complex sentence. It is of the type: "Because a
and because of b and c, therefore d and e." the "therefore" in 17.14 helps the
receiver by making obvious the structural connection to the two preceding
"because." The R falls sharply with "therefore," and because of the elegant
language and the elaborated end, the effect becomes that R falls to zero
in a way that is challenging and attractive for the receiver, without being
too difficult. Such constructions indicate rhetorical skill, and when we reach
zero after such a long digression, we have good reasons to suspect that
the passage has ended and that another will begin, which means that this
functions as a closing marker.
Of course, many more remarks could be made about opening and closing
markers. However, all authors according to their individual style use mark-
ers differently. Nevertheless, the above described text linguistic tools will
hopefully serve us sufficiently when we in the next chapter begin the analy-
sis. Before this, however, we have to discuss intertextuality and translation
Already from the beginning efforts were made to detect to what other texts
the author of the GospTruth alludes.16 In 1983, a monograph was devoted
to the connection between the GospTruth and the Bible.17 However, few if
any attempts have been published that deal with the communicative func-
tion that allusions may perform. This is understandable due to the specu-
lative character of such undertaking. But when we rely on the results from
carefully carried out analyses we will not go astray into mere subjectivity.
In the intratextual analyses, the following procedure will be adopted: First,
we must detect if any likely allusion is at hand. If an allusion to a specific
For Biblically centred early investigations see for instance, Van Unnik 1955, Cerfaux
1958-59, Barrett 1962 and Giversen 1963. For an early attempt to relate the GospTruth
to other Gnosticising systems, see for instance Schenke 1959.
54 CHAPTER 2. COMMUNICATION CENTRED APPROACHES
text seems probable, we will then reflect upon why just that allusion may
have come to the mind of the author at that special occasion. Therefore, we
will look at the alluded text, and see if there are plausible contextual sim-
ilarities between the two related texts.18 If the text that hypothetically is
alluded to, describes a situation that could resemble the topic in the actual
passage of the GospTruth, and if that text was familiar for the receivers, it
could explain why the allusion was made. Such analyses can thus enlighten
us when we try to understand what the author of the GospTruth wanted to
tell to the community.
Reflections regarding the translation
Everyone who sets out translating a text takes a position on a number of
methodological and theoretical questions, with or without being aware of it.
Some of these questions are
"bull; For what purpose do I translate?
"bull; Which is the intended audience?
"bull; How similar is the source language i.e. Coptic to the target language
We will discuss these questions starting with the last one.
Translation as transferring or explaining a message
The relationship between late antique Coptic and Greek texts is obvious.
Not only are many early Coptic writings translations from Greek with fre-
quent usage of Greek loan words for nouns, they even include many Greek
conjunctions. The GospTruth, which probably originally was composed in
Greek, is characterised by many long sentences with many subordinated
clauses. In this manner it is an example of an ideal of elegant writing that
was strong in Antiquity, and which has lived on to our time. Thus, the ideal
with elegant long constructions has been important for modern western lit-
erature as well. Even though the classical ideal came from Greek rhetoric
and literature, it survived through the Roman empire and prevailed through
Latin as the language for the church, trade, science and culture. Despite of
this occidental common literary heritage, the constructions that were held as
elegant in Greek and Latin, still function fairly well in Spanish and French,
I am thankful for many ideas from the Summer seminar in Bergen 2003, and especially
for some thoughts about intertextuality from Lundhaug.
REFLECTIONS REGARDING THE TRANSLATION 55
less in modern English, and in modern Swedish they even risk making a
Such problems have long evoked different strategies from translators, but
usually these strategies have been held as rules of thumb rather than a the-
oretically based scientific method. During the 1950s to 1980s however, Nida
published a number of books in which he expressed a far more ambitious
claim, as he spoke of his approach in terms of "science."19 Although Nida
primarily worked with problems related to Bible translating, his influence
on translation theory was wide ranging and his works became a Bible for
In the 1960s Nida drew upon works by Chomsky and his so-called "generative-
transformation grammar."20 To put it very plainly, Nida went from the sur-
face of the source text to a postulated deeper structure of the language.
There the complex structures were transformed into simpler units. In these
simpler forms they should be transferred to the deeper structure of the target
language and then actualized in speech or text.
Instead of attempting to set up transfers from one language
to another by working out long series of equivalent formal struc-
tures which are presumably adequate to "translate" from one lan-
guage into another, it is both scientifically and practically more
efficient (i) to reduce the source text to its structurally simplest
and most semantically evident kernels, (2) to transfer the mean-
ing from source language to receptor language on a structurally
simple level, and (3) to generate the stylistically and semantically
equivalent expression in the receptor language.21
Such a view of translation seems over optimistic with regard to the direct
relation between the surface structure and the assumed deeper and simpler
structures. For instance, one could ask whether the same surface structure
could arise from different deeper structures. If so, to which of them should
we then transform the surface structure? Moreover, does not also a part
of the impact that the source text once had, change when we transform it
into smaller pieces of simpler constructions? If Nida"s theory should work,
it should be fairly easy to translate a book by a computer, as the range
for subjectivity would be reduced, and the procedure of transforming would
be possible to formalise. However, when Nida describes the characteristics
of a good translator we do not see much of the transformative translator
that uses a strictly scientific method. On the contrary, we rather find a
traditional one who also has to use his or her empathy:
For instance, Chomsky 1965.
Nida 1964, p. 68.
56 CHAPTER 2. COMMUNICATION CENTRED APPROACHES
.in addition to a knowledge of the two or more languages
involved in the translational process, the translator must have
thorough acquaintance with the subject matter concerned. Even
if the translator possesses all the necessary technical knowledge,
he is not really competent unless he has also a truly empathetic
Reading Nida is fruitful for the translator as he provides us with many
practical suggestions and examples. But the scientific basis for his theory
remains questionable to me. Here it is worth mentioning that Chomsky
never supported an approach of the kind that Nida put forward, and his
theoretical building is far more complex than the one of Nida.23
Fortunately, I am in the privileged position of being able to put forward two
translations that to a large extent also demonstrate my working method.
The first one, which I call the basic translation, is more of the kind that
Nida called formal and others call literal. I do not see it as more "true" than
the second translation, but it responds to other needs. First, in the basic
translation the long periods in the Coptic text are preserved. Hopefully this
will give the reader an impression of the rhetorical skills that the author
of the GospTruth demonstrated. Thus, in the basic translation I do not
handle the problems of transferring an elaborated elegant Greek or Coptic
text to modern English. Second, it gives more correct information about how
passages open and ends in the GospTruth. Third, in the basic translation I
often preserved the uncertainties with regard to what pronouns refer to.
I assume that the basic translation is more interesting for those who are
interested in text linguistics, or are so familiar with Greek, Coptic or Latin
rhetoric that they can appreciate it even in the form of an English rendering.
In the second translation, which I call the analytic one, I often break up long
sentences into shorter ones. In this way I want to show in what manner the
clauses are related to each other, something that in many cases is impossible
in the basic translation. Of course, some of the characteristics of the classical
rhetoric then go lost, but this problem is overcome by a look at the basic
translation. As the rearrangements of clauses depend on my analysis of the
text I call it an analytical translation. I also want to present the results of
my analysis as I take a position to what the pronouns refer to.
The analytical translation is maybe more interesting for a broader audience
who cannot carry through the analyses themselves due to lack of time or
knowledge in Coptic. However, I assume that the GospTruth is such a
complex text that even those with advanced knowledge in Coptic could find
the analytical translation worth reading.
Nida 1964, pp. 150-151.
For a critique of Nida that I generally support see Gentzler 2001, pp. 44-76.
To sum up, sometimes the basic translation will be more elegant but also
more vague than the analytical one. In other occasions, the analytical trans-
lation is clearer and less clumsy than the basic one, and in this way more
true to the Coptic text. A drawback with the analytical translation may
sometimes be that it risks becoming too clear.
In 1979 Layton24 presented two translations of "The Treatise on the Res-
urrection," and Emmel has also advocated the usefulness of more than one
translation as an analytical tool.25 But as far as I know, this way of trans-
lating that just has been described, and that I will demonstrate in the next
chapter, has not been used before. Probably the influences from the trans-
lation theory will evoke more ideas regarding the manner of translating the
Nag Hammadi texts.
If nothing else is indicated I use the edition of the GospTruth published by
Layton.26 However, for the parts of the GospTruth that are most important
for the present study the edition of Attridge "" MacRae works fine as well.27
The tragically fragmentary state of the GospTruth in NHC XII has made
it hard to include it in the present study. Only once I emend the text
from codex I with the help of codex XII, and this will be indicated in the
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a.
58 CHAPTER 2. COMMUNICATION CENTRED APPROACHESChapter 3
Applying the method on the
In the first chapter the issues of the study were presented and related to
the scholarly discussion. The second chapter concerned methods aimed at
solving these problems. Thus, inasmuch as we now commence to apply the
methods on the GospTruth, the present chapter forms the beginning of the
main body of the inquiry.
In order to demonstrate in what way the methods are applied I will analyse
what I call the first chapter of the GospTruth. To comment all pages of the
GospTruth would make it necessary to restrict the investigation to purely
text linguistic matters, and we would not have enough space to deal with the
religious and social setting of the GospTruth. However, in the next chapter
I will put forward my translations and thereby indirectly account for the
complete analysis that was necessary to carry through in order to write the
The first chapter of the GospTruth is a good choice for my purpose of demon-
strating the method, first, as it is fairly complicated, and second, since the
central actors in the text are introduced there. However, other important
passages will also be thoroughly scrutinised in chapters five and six, which
makes that all in all a fourth of the GospTruth will be carefully analysed.
Parts of the following analyses will perhaps be difficult to follow for those
who do not master Coptic. For them it is maybe advisable to begin the
reading with the last part of this chapter at page 87 and then go back to
the parts of the analyses that seem most interesting to them.
In the analyses I will discuss the macro-structural relations of each passage.
Thereby I want to determine in what way the passages are related to each
other. Hopefully, it will be possible to say when we begin a new major
section, or when we are on a lower level in the text. But probably it is
60 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
most interesting to see in what light the author wanted the audience to
understand the GospTruth.
In the micro-structural analyses the focus is on the relations within the
actual passage. Of course, one cannot always determine whether a certain
question belongs to the macro-structural analysis rather than to the micro-
structural one. Such choices always include a certain degree of subjectivity.
In the semantic analyses I will focus more on how one should translate
particularly important or difficult words. As the reader soon will notice
however, the macro-structural analyses often are of major significance for
the semantic analyses as well.
Granting that the GospTruth is a homily from a concrete communal situa-
tion, the sender and receiver already knew each other. The preacher sets out
describing the characteristics of those who are redeemed. They rejoice in the
good news, and by grace they know the Father. The Word that mediated
the knowledge they call "Redeemer," and additionally, they have discovered
the one for whom they searched. Thus, the initial passage is packed with
attributes of those who are redeemed. But who are those persons?
In 17.28-29 the community is exhorted to disregard Error, and in 25.19-25
we learn that the community has left darkness, lack and ignorance for light,
completion and knowledge. On these grounds we may assume that those
who are described in 16.31-17.4a more or less coincide with the members of
the community. After all, they are already aware of the state of ignorance
and Error, something which implies that they know.
However, there is a tension between the characteristics of those who are
described in 16.31-17.4a and those in 17.28-29 and 25.19-25. In the first
passage the author probably describes how the ideal community would be,
and in the two latter cases we are on the road towards this ideal state. In
narratological terms we say that 16.31-17.4a describes the ideal receivers
whereas in the other cases the real receivers are addressed.
On this basis I assert that 16.31-17.4a is full of surrogates for metaproposi-
tional bases or metacommunicative clauses. We could paraphrase the first
one as follows: "I tell you to rejoice in the good news because you know
the Father of the truth, From the text linguistic perspective we are on the
pragmatic level. Hence, the following sections are subordinated to the initial
one, until a marker appears on a level that is at least as high. As the passage
that follows 16.31-17.4a is on a lower level, it is subordinated to 16.31-17.4a.
On this basis I challenge the established convention of calling 16.31-17.4a a
16.31-17.4a consists of one well construed sentence.1 Although the passage
is one period in one sentence it can preferably be analysed from a division
in three segments. The first one runs from 16.31-33, in which the focus is on
the good news. In the second segment which runs from 16.34-38a, the Word
is predominant and in the end called "the Redeemer." In the final section,
which runs from 16.38b-17.4a, the basis for the designation of the Word as
the Redeemer is touched upon. I will now turn to a somewhat more detailed
discussion of this analysis.
In the first segment two components are central. We are told that the good
news is joy, and we are informed about some characteristics that belong to
those who rejoice in it. The climax is reached when those who rejoice in the
good news obtain knowledge of the Father of the truth.
In the second segment the protagonist is the Word. Through a chain of
relative clauses it is loaded with attributes. The increasing amount of infor-
mation we receive about the Word makes the central concepts that occupied
the foreground in 16.31-33 to decrease in significance and sink into the back-
In 16.36-37 ete peei pe "that is" functions as an intensity-heightening
marker that stresses the importance of the following relative clause "what
they call "the Redeemer."rdquo; As this is a renominalization of the Word we are
back on the same level as in 16.34. Through this we have a minor break in
the information flow and an end of the second segment.
The third segment runs from 16.38b-17.4a. Here we learn why the Word
is called the Redeemer. Grammatically we have two units. The first be-
gins with the circumstantial construction epren "since that is the name."
The circumstantial is subordinated to etouye"Ntilde;e araf "Ntilde;e pcwthr
"what they call "the Redeemer,"rdquo; in 16.37-38a. In 17.1 a parallel circumstan-
tial occurs epiren "since the name." This circumstantial is co-ordinated
with the preceding circumstantial by the conjunction de "and". Conse-
quently, these circumstantial constructions are co-ordinated and modify the
same clause. The third circumstantial epqine "since it is the discovery" in
17.3 lacks such coordinating conjunction, and thus it is subordinated to the
second circumstantial. That we approach the end of the entire passage is
indicated by the recurrence of "the good news" in 17.1. Further, the three
circumstantial constructions belong to nominal clauses and have a repetitive
For a discussion of the question where the passage ends, I refer to the commentary in
the next section.
62 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
impact. Together with the recurrence of the good news these repetitions, in
an elegant way, form the end of the first period of the GospTruth.
A frequently recurring difficulty in the GospTruth is to determine to what
antecedent suffixes refer to. In 16.33, it is far from obvious whether atroucouwnf
means "that they might know him," "that they might know it" or that it might
be a consciously used ambiguity. As almost all translators I have chosen
"him," thereby letting the suffix refer to the Father of truth." Grobel2 devi-
ates and connects the suffix with "good news," and thus translates the suffix
with "it." To connect the suffix with the Father of the truth can be supported
by at least two arguments. First, it addresses an object close to the suffix.
Second, to know the Father is the basic need for those who rejoice because of
the good news. The former argument perhaps seems stronger than it really
is. However, atroucouwnf can be treated as a qualifier to pi"ETH;mat
the grace, in 16.32. The grace to know in its turn is what those who rejoice
in the good news have received. This objection counterbalances the first ar-
gument. The second argument is based on an analysis of the whole passage,
but also on a broader analysis of the GospTruth. From a structural basis,
this argument can be challenged as follows: That the good news plays a
major role in 16.31-17.4a is stressed by its prominent position in the final
section. As recurring marker it redirects the reader"s attention to a predom-
inant topic. This argumentation emphasizes the importance of "the good
news" in the end of the first segment as well. This favours the translation
"that they might know it (the good news" in 16.33, and "for those who are
searching for it (the good news" in 17.4a. It is likely that an author of a
work with such a sophisticated style as the GospTruth emphasizes the same
object in the end as in the beginning of the period. Probably, the author
of the GospTruth not only had beauty and harmony as a theological ideal,
but as a stylistic one as well. Such argumentation may at first seem weak,
but as we go on and read more of the text I am certain that the reader will
be more and more convinced of that hypothesis.
However, the argument of harmony can also be used in favour of "that they
might know him" and "those who are searching for him." It follows from the
assertion that we should stick to the same pronoun in both cases. In support
of "him" the following can be said: In the GospTruth we are often faced
with a temporary uncertainty regarding the specific meaning of a suffix, but
through catchwords more information is obtained. It means that a word
that appeared in the end of the preceding passage is caught and placed in
the foreground of the following one. The resistance in the information flow
Grobel 1960, p. 34.
gradually decreases as we know more about to what a suffix refers, and
when we retrospectively pinpoint our understanding of a preceding suffix,
the resistance has fallen to zero. Since 16.31-17.4a is followed by a passage
that begins with a telling of the manner in which the All searched for the
Father,3 the Father is the most probable reference to the suffix in 17.4a as
well. Consequently we render the suffixes in 16.33 and 17.4a with "him."
The observations regarding the repetitive character of the three circumstan-
tial clauses in the third segment support that we should begin all these
clauses with the same word, and "since" fits well in both 16.38, 17.2 and
17.3. In this respect I deviate from the majority of translators. The second
circumstantial, 17.1, in recent translations, is usually rendered with "while,"
or its equivalence in respective language.4
In the basic translation it is hard to reproduce the coordination of the above
mentioned circumstantial clauses. In the analytical translation however, by
repeating the clause that the coordinated circumstantial are subordinated to,
it is possible to reproduce the hierarchical relations that easily are expressed
in Coptic and Greek. Of course, the drawback of such a procedure is that
long sentences become even longer. Therefore, in the analytical translation
a new sentence begins when the superordinated clause is repeated.
We are now prepared for the discussion regarding the way in which etouye"Ntilde;e
araf "Ntilde;e pcwthr in 16,37-38 should be rendered. Normally etouye"Ntilde;e
araf is translated passively: "what is called." However, there are good
reasons to translate it actively: "they call him," as in Coptic the third person
plural has the same form as the passive construction.
The Word, which in 16.34 played a minor role, through the renominalization
as "the Redeemer," and through the intensity-heightening marker "that is"
in 16.36-37, now plays the central role of 16.31-17.4a. From 16.38a-17.4a
the reasons for denoting "the Word" as "the Redeemer" is focused upon. If
we translate etouye"Ntilde;e araf "Ntilde;e pcwthr with "what is called "the
Redeemer,"rdquo; the emphatic and central function is almost lost, and further, the
active translation refers to those who rejoiced in the good news in 16.31-33
and those who had discovered what they searched for in the final segment.
Consequently, it is far more likely that the highlighted clause in 16.37-38
should be translated actively "what they call "the Redeemer."rdquo; In this manner
those who rejoiced in the good news recur. Through the Word, they have
come to know the Father, and in this way they are redeemed from the
ignorance. Obviously, 16,36-38a becomes the centre of the passage.
Standaert5 also divides 16.31-17.4a in three parts of a concentric pattern.
But he asserts that "the Father" is the centre. His only argument for this is
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 83, Layton 1987, p. 253 and Schenke 2001, p. 33.
Standaert 1976, p. 246.
64 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
that the Father appears in all three parts of the passage.
On y distingue aisement trois paragraphes: le premier et le
dernier se correspondent symetriquement, tandis que celui du
centre, avec sa triple proposition relative est lui-meme articule
de fa"ccedil;on a contenir en son milieu celui qui est l"objet central de
tout le developpement: le Pere. En realite celui-ci est designe
trois fois et chaque fois au centre de chaque unite.6
However, such procedure neglects the structure of the text and relies too
much on semantics.
An early attempt to analyse the style in the GospTruth was made by Fecht.7
He claimed that the GospTruth was written according to an ancient Egyp-
tian metric tradition, and that the GospTruth originally was composed in
Coptic. According to Fecht,8 , the refinements in the text could be under-
stood from a Coptic original only. Fecht divides 16.31-17.4a which he calls
the first "Strophe," in eight lines "Versen."9 However, his translation does not
differ much from others. In Fecht"s commentary10 he calls the initial three
lines "Erste Aussage." These lines run:
1 Das Evangelium der Wahrheit ist Freude
2 f"uuml;r die, welche empfangen haben die Gnade vom Vater der
3 ihn zu erkennen durch die Kraft des Wortes, das gekommen ist
aus dem Plaroma...
I am not competent to discuss the Egyptian metric in relation to the Gosp-
Truth. Nevertheless it seems questionable to end the first statement in the
middle of what I call the second segment. Even though Fecht"s analysis
is close to the text when he takes the metric into account, his comments
usually are on the semantic level rather than on the structural one. He ob-
serves that the good news recurs in the end of the third segment, and that it
might be the centre in the first one. Still, it remains unclear how he reaches
the conclusion that the good news is the main theme of 16.31-17.4a. "Das
"rdquo;Evangelium der Wahrheit ist zweifellos das eigentliche Thema dieser ersten
Standaert 1976a, p. 246.
Fecht 1961, 1962, 1963.
Fecht 1961, p. 373.
Fecht 1961, p. 379.
Fecht (1961, p. 379.
Fecht 1961, p. 381.
The analyses applied on the analytical translation
With the structural and semantic analyses in mind, I will point out the
effects for the analytical translation.
The first sentence in the analytical translation comprises the first segment.
In order to obtain a main clause in the second sentence I have transformed
the final clause of the first one into a main clause that I reuse in the second
sentence. The second sentence runs through the second segment until we
reach the centre in 16.36-38a. In order to emphasize the centre with its
intensity-heightening marker I let it begin a new sentence. As I also want to
decrease the resistance in the information flow, I insert "the Word." It means
that we read "This Word is what," instead of "this is what." The repetition
of the Word also functions as a recurring marker and signals the end of the
second segment. As the two initial circumstantial clauses in the final segment
are subordinated to "they call him "the Redeemer,"rdquo; We have to repeat this
superordinated clause. We begin therefore new sentences at each time this
subordination occurs. Since the last circumstantial clause is subordinated
to the second last in 17.1 we cannot begin a new sentence in 17.4a since it
would coordinate this clause with the two preceding circumstantial clauses.
From the text linguistic perspective this section is an episode, and accord-
ingly it is not significant on the pragmatic level.12 Thus, the unit is subor-
dinated to the preceding one.
It has been suggested that the passage that began in 16.31 should be ex-
tended to 17.9 instead of to 17.4a. In what follows I will argue for a peri-
odisation from 17.4b-18a, and accordingly I cannot follow that suggestion.
My choice of delimitation agrees with the majority in so far as the previous
passage runs from 16.31-17.4a, but the delimitation of 17.4b-18a is new, and
I hope that it can solve some of the many problems that are related to this
Now, we have to respond to the following interrelated questions. First,
epidh , which I render with "because," is a conjunction that heads a new
sentence in 17.4b. With what does this conjunction tie the clause that it
For a discussion regarding the function of episodes see page 50.
66 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
heads? Second, e that heads e"Oacute;mntatcnouwn in 17.9-10 is placed
in a strange way. Which is the function of it, and in what way should we
construe the syntax?
We will set out focusing on epidh in 17.4b, although the two addressed
problems are related to each other.
epidh has been taken either as causal or temporal. For instance, Layton13
translates it with "inasmuch as," whereas Attridge "" MacRae14 prefer "when."
In Addition we have to determine whether epidh functions retrospectively,
i.e. anaphorically, or whether it points ahead, i.e. cataphorically.
Attridge "" MacRae translate as follows:
When the totality went about searching for the one from
whom they had come forth and the totality was inside of him,
the incomprehensible, inconceivable one who is superior to every
thought ignorance of the Father brought about anguish and
terror; and the anguish grew solid like a fog, so that no one was
able to see.15
Obviously, according to Attridge "" MacRae "when" functions cataphorically.
However, Attridge "" MacRae treat the initial e in e"Oacute;mntatcnouwn
as the preposition "about," which makes that "ignorance" in 17.9-10 belongs
to a main clause. Although it is an interesting solution, it seems like an
odd position for the preposition e This would need further support. With
this attempt the difference between the temporal and causal interpretation
of epidh decreases in importance. The event that is described in 17.4b-9a
occurs simultaneously with what is told in 17.9b-14a, but it is natural to
assume that there should be more than a temporal relation between these
two events. Therefore, in this case one should not stress the difference
between the temporal and causal interpretation of epidh .
However, the difference between the temporal and causal treatment becomes
more significant if epidh would function anaphorically, still granting that
17.9b begins a main clause. With the temporal anaphoric interpretation we
have to extend the sentence that begins in 16.31, not to 17.4a but to 17.9a.
But even with this delimitation we would have an unexpected shift from
the present tense in 17.3b-4a to the perfect in 17.5, and moreover, the sense
would be fairly obscure.
We now turn to discuss epidh with a causal and anaphoric function.
Layton 1987, p. 253. It is worth noting that Layton in his Sahidic grammar (Layton
2000, for instance 493) only treats epidh as a causal conjunction.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 83.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 83, GospTruth 17.4b-14a.
Probably Orlandi in his Italian translation interprets epidh in this manner
when he translates:
Poiche il tutto e stato cercato da coloro che erano venuti
da esso, ed il tutto era all"interno dell"incontenibile impensabile,
colui che e superiore ad ogni pensiero."16
Unfortunately, however, it is not entirely clear in what way Orlandi construes
the syntax. He probably aims at a very reader friendly translation in which
he cuts long sentences into shorter ones, though without accounting for the
criteria for the delimitations. But as he puts a full stop before 17.9b it is
hard to treat epidh cataphorically.
Therefore the Italian conjunction "poiche" should be rendered in a weak
causal sense similar to the English "for." Then 17.4b-9a would function as
an explanation to the end of 17.3b-4a, in which the searching for the Father
was touched upon.
If 16.31-17.4a should be treated as a prologue Orlandi"s construal of the
syntax would be problematic, as it would imply that the main body of the
GospTruth begins with a subordinated unit that expounds on the last clause
of the prologue. But if we refrain from calling 16.31-17.4a a prologue the
situation becomes easier, though not yet unproblematic. The anaphoric
causal interpretation of epidh in 17.4b implies that 17.4b-9a, on a low
level, is tied to "for those who searched for him" in 17.4a. Although I do not
follow G"uuml;lich "" Raible in a strict way, it is worth noting that they place
such subordination by conjunctions on the very low sixth level. It means
that the elegantly construed period from 16.31-17.4a that was characterized
by closing markers in the form of recurrences from 17.1 and forward would
continue with a lengthy parenthetical explanation of something that was
not at all central in the preceding text. Thus, with the anaphoric causal
interpretation of epidh 17.4b-9a takes on the impression of an interpolation
rather than of a part of a skilfully composed work. Since 16.31-17.4a is
well-construed, and as many other parts of the GospTruth also unmasks a
gifted author, we have reasons to look for other ways to solve the syntactical
The common attempt to solve the syntactical problems has been to treat
epidh causally with a cataphoric function. This will now guide us when
we look for a plausible clause that 17.4b-9a could be related to.
Till18 interprets e"Oacute;mntatcnouwn in 17.9b-10a as an introductory
Orlandi 1992, p. 43, GospTruth 17.4b-9a.
Orlandi does not himself seem to be fully satisfied with the construal of the syntax,
as he characterizes it as artificial "una sintassi stentata." (Orlandi 1992, p. 43.).
Till 1958, p. 270.
68 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
particle in the beginning of an independent clause.19 As it is hard to line
up examples of such usage of e in the GospTruth, and since Till fails to
give evidence for his proposal, I am reluctant to adopt it.
Nevertheless, Till"s construal might have been accepted by a number of
scholars.20 For instance, Layton21 followed by Schenke22 differs from Orlandi
who puts a full stop before 17.9b. They superordinate the main clause that
begins in 17.9b to the preceding unit from 17.4. Layton translates as follows:
Inasmuch as the entirety had searched for the one from whom
they had emanated, and the entirety was inside of him - the in-
conceivable uncontained, who is superior to all thought - igno-
rance of the father caused agitation and fear. - And the agitation
grew dense like fog, so that no one could see. - Thus error found
strength and labored at her matter in emptiness. - Without hav-
ing learned to know the truth, she took up residence in a modeled
form, preparing by means of the power, in beauty, a substitute
All in all, the vast majority of scholars in one way or another construes the
syntax with 17.9b as the beginning of a main clause. Since I do not see the
convincing reasons for this, I will now put forward an alternative analysis
of the syntax.
The two first clauses in our passage epidh pthrf aukatou nca pen-
tauei abal n"ETH;htf auw nerepthrf "ETH;i can"ETH;oun mmaf "Be-
cause the All searched for the one from whom they had come forth, and the
All was inside of him," are connected by auw "and." The latter of these
clauses is in the preterit tense, and accordingly functions as a parentheti-
cal remark with supplementary information about the former one.24 Thus,
from a syntactical point of view these clauses are on the same level and to-
gether with the apposition-like phrase "the incomprehensible, inconceivable
one who is superior to every thought" they constitute a unit from 17.4b-9a.
The second unit, I would say, begins with 17.9b-11a: e"Oacute;mntatcnouwn
piwt acr mn ou"ETH;rte "since the ignorance of the Father
had brought anguish and terror." For the moment we leave the discussion
regarding the initial e in 17.9b pending, and hypothetically treat it as a
circumstantial modifier with a causal function.
Till 1958, p. 270.
It is possible that some of them emend the text by deleting e that heads "ignorance"
in 17.9b and thereby achieve an independent clause. However, in Layton"s chrestomathy
(2004, p. 139) there is no indication of such deletion.
Layton 1987, p. 253.
Schenke 2001, p. 33.
For a discussion regarding the function of the preterit tense see Layton 2000, 435.
That 17.4b-9a is one unit is fairly obvious. It begins with the focus on the
All, and ends with a list of attributes that glorifies the Father. Such a peak
that is caused by glorification signals that we have come to a point where
at least a minor break is needed. Moreover, as with 17.9b new actors are
introduced, we are certain that a new unit has begun. But which is the
relation between these two units?
According to my analysis both units are headed by a causal cataphoric
modifier, in the first case the conjunction "because," and in the latter one
the circumstantial, which I render with "since." With this construal of the
syntax we have to look for fitting main clauses that could belong to units
that are superordinated to the subordinated causal ones.
In 17.11b-14a we find the first candidate for such unit: "and the anguish
grew solid like a fog, so that no one could see." pnouyp de afwrdj
mprhte nou"ETH;lactn kaace "Ntilde;e neylaue neu abal
However, it seems that we face problems if we superordinate 17.11b-14a
to 17.4b-9a and 17.9b-11a. The conjunction "and" de in 17.11b appears
as an odd choice when it comes to connect relatively large units of text.
Furthermore, it does not function well as a signal that we now are going to
see the consequences to what was expressed in the causal units. We would
have a construction as: "because ... (17.4b-9a) since ..." (17.9b-11a) ending
with a conclusion beginning with an inappropriate "and" (17.11b-14a) instead
of the more fitting "therefore." On the other hand, 17.11b-14a functions well
as supplementary information to what was said about "anguish" nouyp in
On the basis of this analysis we end up with two units that both are headed
by a causal clause, and ended by supplementary information regarding a cen-
tral topic in the respective causal units. Consequently, we have to continue
our hunting for the appropriate main clause. In 17.14b-16 two asyndetic
clauses that are headed by etbe peei "therefore." These asyndetic clauses
are complemented by the following circumstantial clause in 17.17-18a, which
also functions as a spring-board to the next section.
In this way we end up with the following syntactical relations:
Because the All searched for the one from whom they had
come forth," "ndash;(supplementary information), "since the ignorance
of the Father had brought anguish and terror," "ndash;(supplementary
information) "therefore, Error found strength, worked on its own
matter, foolishly," "ndash;(supplementary information).
Already now, I assert, we have reached a solution that is no worse than the
options that were presented above. But in order to strengthen my claim I
will discuss the following two questions: First, how can the philological prob-
70 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
lems that are connected to 17.9b-11a be handled? Second, is the proposed
construction attested in other Coptic texts?
The initial e in e"Oacute;mntatcnouwn deserves consideration. In Sahidic
and Lycopolitan (Subachmimic) the word order in 17.9b-11a would be dif-
ferent from the one that we have in the GospTruth.25 Normally the extra-
posited entity term,26 in this case "the ignorance of the Father" "Oacute;mntatcnouwn
piwt should be followed by converter e , conjugation base a and personal
morph c followed by infinitive. Slightly less common but still very usual
would have been converter + conjugation base + extraposited entity term
+ converter + conjugation base + personal morph + infinitive. In our case
however, we have the converter in front of the extraposited entity term. To
be more down to earth, in Sahidic and Lycopolitan we would rather expect
"Oacute;mntatcnouwn piwt eacr mn ou"ETH;rte .
In what way can we explain that the converter i.e. the circumstantial is
placed before the extraposited entity term?
According to Layton"s grammar27 there are four types of converters in Cop-
tic: relative, circumstantial, preterit and focalizing converters. Because of
this the following discussion is significant for 17.9b-11a of the GospTruth,
even though it concerns the relative converter instead of what we most of all
had wanted, the circumstantial one. Browne28 notes that the Sahidic Gospel
of the Egyptians NHC III includes two constructions with the conversion
preceding the extraposited entity term. tyo ( rp ) e n"ETH;ogdoac
ete etb [ h ] ht [ c ] apyomnt n"ETH;oout nalou p [ ro ]
el8e ebol "The first ogdoad which of because the thrice-male child came
The other example30 runs as follows: ete adjntf mpelaau ywpe
. In the translations I have italicized the for the discussion most important
words, and preserved the Coptic word order, even though it results in a very
Quecke31 remarked that constructions with the converter placed before the
extraposited entity term is rare in Sahidic, but can occur through import
In what follows I draw upon oral information from Stephen Emmel who, in connection
with our many discussions regarding the GospTruth in general and of the actual passage
in particular, drew my attention to the differences between these dialects.
Layton 2000, 141, defines entity term as follows: "Semantically an entity term presents
or refers to an object of thought (as distinct from predicating a process or action, or
relationship)." Somewhat simplified one can say that the entity terms, though comprising
many word classes, are syntactically interchangeable with each other.
Layton 2000, 395 ff.
Browne 1975, pp. 103-104.
The Gospel of the Egyptians NHC III.42.5-7.
The Gospel of the Egyptians NHC III.2 49.12.
Quoted in Browne 1975.
from the Northern Egyptian dialects, Bohairic and Fayumic:
"Mit dem Bohairischen und Faijumischen kennt das Oxyrhyn-
chitische eine dem Saidischen fremde Konstruktion, nach der
zwischen Relativpartikel und Subjekt des Relativsatzes eine ad-
verbielle Bestimmung treten kann, wodurch sich die Wortstellung
der griechischen Vorlage beibehalten lasst"32
Quecke could only find one example in Sahidic: tete mmnca trecmice
acqw on eco npar8enoc .33 Of course, all the above given examples
are with relative and not circumstantial converters. Nevertheless, as the
GospTruth in other places also shows traces of an earlier Boharic or Fayu-
mic version of the Lycopolitan text, the phenomenon of a converter in front
of the extraposited entity term in 17.9b could be explained by a somewhat
careless transfer of the text from one dialect to another. This provides us
with some kind of explanation for the position of e in 17.9b; that is more
satisfactory than just noting that it is misplaced. To sum up: On the ba-
sis of this hypothesis, I assert that 17.9b-11a is headed by a circumstantial
converter, which means that the text makes sense without emending it.
Let us now focus upon the question whether such long constructions with
a cataphoric causal "because" that is caught up by a later "therefore" are
attested elsewhere in the Coptic literature.
Without searching very much, it was possible to find examples in which
"because" epidh beyond doubt functions cataphorically, and in which it
is combined with a "therefore etbe pai in the same manner as I have
argued for above.34 Maybe this is not common in Nag Hammadi texts, but
in literature that originally was written in sophisticated Greek it is fairly
common. I will put forward two examples from Athanasius"s Paschal letters.
naf "ETH;itntcalpigx "Ntilde;ekac nnefmeeue "Ntilde;eeusumane naf "ETH;itnnrwme
Because the trumpet sounds and wakes all mankind more
effectively than any sweet sound from all instruments, therefore,
when at that time Israel was found being small in its heart, he
signaled himself by means of the trumpet so that Israel would
not think that it was being signaled by men.35
Quecke, quoted in Browne 1975.
Morgan MS 574.147, 30 quoted by Browne 1975.
In the searching and in the evaluation of the examples I was guided by Stephen Emmel.
Athanasius"s Paschal letters 2.22-28, in Lefort L.-Th. 1955, S. Athanase: Lettres
Festales et Pastorales en copte,Imprimerie Orientaliste, Louvain.
72 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
epidh oun"ETH;oine wy nnefya"Ntilde;e cetolma de eneoi mmoou
ef"Ntilde;w mmoc "Ntilde;ekata 8e ntai"Oacute; nhtn nmparadocic tetnama"ETH;te
Because some persons read his words and dare to understand
them in a perverted way, since their ears itch in accordance with
their desires, as Humenaios, and Alexandros, and the Sadducees
and those who have been shipwrecked in faith, just as the apostle
said "they know the mystery of the resurrection more than fit-
ting," therefore, he added: "as I gave the traditions to you, keep
Without connecting "because" with "therefore," the causal construction would
end in nothing. Not only in the GospTruth but also in the second exam-
ple just quoted, we have two causal constructions, one that I render with
"because" and one with "since." It seems that the "because"-"therefore" con-
struction functions as a frame to the intermediate causal construction, and
in this manner it is an example of an even more complex stylistic figure than
that of the GospTruth.
In such constructions as that of the GospTruth, and especially the one in the
second example from Athanasius, at first the resistance in the information
flow increases. For quite long we have to wait until we know in what "be-
cause" and "since" will end. But when finally everything fits into a beautiful
construction, the rhetoric has an elegant impact. This is an example of what
in the prior chapter, we called a fall in the resistance in the information flow.
When it reaches zero, we have a closing marker.
Furthermore, the asyndetic construal from 17.14b, "therefore, Error found
strength, worked on its own matter," is followed up by an adverbial phrase
"foolishly" "ETH;nn oupetyoueit and a circumstantial clause. In this
fashion the text shifts from the primarily narrative first perfect to a more
reflecting mode. As I end the passage in 17.18a, and the following passage
begins with a substitution on the abstraction level, the shift from the nar-
rative mode to the more abstract one functions as a smooth transfer to the
Although the basis for my analysis is very different from the one of Fecht
who tried to arrange the GospTruth according to ancient Egyptian metric,
Athanasiu"s Paschalletters 10.12-27, in Lefort L.-Th. 1955, S. Athanase: Lettres Fes-
tales et Pastorales en copte, Imprimerie Orientaliste, Louvain.
they resemble each other in so far as he also treats 17.9b as the beginning of
a circumstantial clause, but according to Fecht with a temporal function.37
Moreover, for Fecht 17.4b-21a is one stanza in seven lines, whereas I end the
passage already in 17.18a.
The adverbial phrase "ETH;nn oupetyoueit in 17.16 could be translated
with good reasons in a number of ways. "In emptiness," would emphasise
the contrast to the Fullness, which is a characteristic of the sphere that
adheres to the Father. Another possibility could be "fruitlessly," which would
emphasise meaningless and transitory nature of Error. However, as the
notion denotes those who lack wisdom in 19.25, and as the lack of knowledge
is important in 17.17-18a, I have chosen to render it with "foolishly."
We now have the necessary means to discuss the analytical translation. It is
often difficult to determine how much of resistance in the information flow
that should be kept. In order to preserve some resistance I let 17.7b-9a
precede 17.4b-7a. On the other hand I decrease it by leaving out "because"
in 17.4b, which transforms 17.4b-9a into a sentence. According to the same
line of thought I have made one relatively long sentence out of 17.9b-14a.
Consequently, etbe peei in 17.14b has to be rendered with "for these
reasons" instead of "therefore" or "for this reason." In this way I have created
a surrogate for the complicated causal relation between 17.4b, 17.9b and
17.14b. Admittedly some of the original elegance has been lost, but by
comparing the basic and analytical translations the reader has a good chance
to grasp both the meaning and character of the Coptic text.
The interpretation of acywpe in 17.18b is of major importance not only
for the semantic analysis, but for the macro-structural one as well. For
the basis of the translation of it with "it happened" I refer to the semantic
analysis on page 74.
"It happened" is an opening marker that substitutes on the level of abstrac-
tion.38 By "it happened" the preacher now starts to reflect upon what was
said in the preceding episode. In this respect we have an instruction to the
receiver regarding the way in which the episode should be comprehended,
Fecht 1961, p. 384.
For a discussion regarding this concept see page 50.
74 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
i.e. we are on the pragmatic level, but at the same time it refers to a level
below the pragmatic one. Thus, we are between the pragmatic level and the
text level. For this reason I assert that we have reached a section that is
above the episode, and consequently we have to begin a new passage here.
17.18b-27 can be divided in two parts. The first runs from 17.18b-21a, and
the second one from 17.21b-27.
In the first unit two themes from the preceding passage are developed. First
we learn that Error"s preparation of its matter occurred "in a deluding way,"
and then that the consequence of Error"s ignorance of the truth resulted in a
beautiful substitute for it. If 17.4b-18a described the ignorance, anguish and
terror that belong to Error, we now get to know its beguiling and attractive
In the second part, the shift from the narrative mode, i.e. the first perfect,
to modes of reflection, nominal and preterit constructions, indicate that we
have a break in 17.21b. Furthermore, the initial peei "this," in 17.21b
will soon be a familiar marker for us. It frequently marks the opening of a
new section, and here it is followed by qe "now" that also signals a break.
However, to determine the level on which these markers function is far from
easy. Themes from 17.4b-18a, but also from 17.18b-21a are touched upon,
but as the difference of the substitute for truth and the real truth seems to
be the main point I treat it as a subsection to 17.18b-21a. On this basis it
is natural to end the passage with the recurrence of truth in 17.25-26.
"It happened in a deluding way" acywpe "ETH;nn ouplacma .
In order to translate this phrase we have to decide on some fairly compli-
cated and interrelated problems. The Coptic text has a repetitive charac-
ter, as acywpe "ETH;nn ouplacma in 17.18b resembles acywpe "ETH;n
ou"ETH;lactn in 17.30b-31a. The repetitive impact is further strengthened
by the close connection to eccabte in 17.19 and 17.32 respectively. More-
over, "ETH;nn ouplacma and "ETH;n ou"ETH;lactn echoes "ETH;nn oupety-
oueit in 17.16b. Thus, when I translate these phrases I aim at reproducing
the repetitive character of the Coptic text. First we have to determine to
what the feminine infix c in acywpe in 17.18b and 17.30b refers. There
are three options that all have their drawbacks and advantages. To make
the following discussion somewhat less obscure for the reader who does not
know Coptic we can say that ywpe means that something comes into
existence. The feminine infix c in acywpe tells us who the subject to
the verb is.
To begin with, the nearest feminine noun that could function as a subject in
17.18b is "matter" "ETH;ulh in 17.15b. With regard to acywpe , the trans-
lation would be: "Matter came into existence." As far as I know, however,
all translators have chosen to connect the infixes to "Error" in 17.15a and
17.28b-29a respectively. The straightforward translation would then be "Er-
ror came into existence." The third possibility is to translate the infixes with
the impersonal "it" resulting in "it happened," which is particularly common
in the opening of a section.39
As Error is the preferred choice among scholars we begin with discussing
this possibility. acywpe in 17.18b is followed by the difficult phrase
"ETH;nn ouplacma . This basically means "in a modelled form." But such
a straightforward translation has not been adopted. For instance, Layton
among many others renders it with "she (Error) took up residence in a
modelled form...,"40 while Attridge "" MacRae prefer "It (Error) set about
with a creation."41 In order to understand why these ways of translating
have been preferred, yet some other problems have to be considered.
The feminine infix c in 17.19 clearly refers to Error. It means that if we
also let the infix in 17.18b refer to the same noun we risk ending up with
a somewhat problematic translation: "Error came into existence in a mod-
elled form, as Error by the power, beautifully prepared the substitute for
the truth." It would mean that Error itself prepares its own entering into
being, which would contradict what we read in 17.4b-18a that the basis for
Error is the ignorance and not Error itself. To solve this problem Attridge
"" MacRae render ywpe with "set about" while Layton prefers "took up
residence," which both seem to be fairly strained solutions. A way to keep
the straightforward translation with Error as the subject could be to ren-
der ywpe with develop: "Error developed in a modelled form." Besides
the small problem that "develop" is a somewhat less common rendering of
ywpe , although not less common than "dwell", there is also another prob-
lem involved. ywpe in 17.30b is combined with the stative form of the
same verb yoop in 17.31b. The stative, also called the qualitative, de-
scribes "being-in-a-state."42 The stative form of ywpe should be rendered
as "exists," "developed" or "happens." Using forms of "develop" as translation
of ywpe in 17.30b-36 would result in the following translation:
Error developed in a fog regarding the Father. Error is de-
veloped since Error prepares works, and oblivion, and terrors in
order to, by them, seduce those of the middle and capture them.
Layton 2000, 185.
Layton 1987, p. 253.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 83.
Layton 2000, 162.
76 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
The focus on Error as developed, in combination with an ongoing process
of deception in order to catch those of the middle seems out of place, as a
main point in the beginning of the GospTruth is to disregard Error, and not
to focus upon it. We will return to this discussion on page ??.
It is also a bit unclear what the meaning of "in a modelled form" in 17.18b
would mean. Layton suggests that it is a Jewish jargon for the creation
of the human being.43 Another possibility is that it refers to the material
world, which would function well together with "matter" in 17.15b. How-
ever, both these possibilities seem to be too specific. The first explanation
implies that mankind is a beautiful substitute for the Truth, while the other
interpretation implies that Error came into being in the world because it
prepared a beautiful substitute for the Truth. Rather, the world is Error as
Error"s substance is matter "ETH;ulh in 17.15b. Although the interpretation
of "ETH;nn ouplacma as the world is reasonable, I hold that there is a
Most translators aim at preserving the repetitive character of 17.18b-21a and
17.30b-36. It means that the problems that are related to the interpretation
of 17.18b also effect the translation of 17.30b-36. Layton"s translation is
consequent and of course grammatically correct, but it is hard to understand
the focus on the dwelling-place of Error:
She (Error) dwelt in a fog as regards the father, preparing,
while she dwelt there, products and forgetfulness and fears, - so
that by them she might beguile those of the middle and take
Attridge"s "" MacRae"s starting point in 17.18b causes problems as they
It (Error) fell into a fog regarding the Father, while it was
involved in preparing works and oblivions and terrors, in order
to entice those of the middle and capture them.45
In this case they translate ywpe in a different way than in 17.18b. Their
rendering, however, causes them problems when it comes to the interpreta-
tion of yoop in 17.31b, and I am not certain of how they render it.
To sum up, the translation of "ETH;nn ouplacma with "creation" causes
many problems, both when it comes to the rendering of ywpe and with
regard to the interpretation of the text. However, the difficulties decrease if
Layton 1987, p. 253.
Layton 1987, pp. 253-254.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a p. 83.
we follow a suggestion by Attridge "" MacRae, which for some reason they
did not apply in their translation. Normally placma means "creation"
or "creature," but it also means "fiction," "pretence" and "delusion."46 On
this basis the translation: "Matter developed in a deluding way" is natural.
However, a serious drawback with "matter" as the subject in 17.18b is that
it hardly can be the personal morph in 17.30b as well. Matter is only
mentioned once in the text, and in order to use it in 17.30b as well would
require some indication of the connection to 17.15b, and obviously we lack
such linguistic signals.
Before we make up our mind on the translation of "ETH;nn ouplacma
some further aspects have to be taken into account.
The repetitive character of 17.18b and 17.30b-31 that a good translation
should reproduce were mentioned above. Now we also have to consider the
repetitive impact of "ETH;nn oupetyoueit in 17.16b, wich resembles that
of "ETH;nn ouplacma in 17.18b and "ETH;n ou"ETH;lactn in 17.30b-31a. The
ambition is to translate all of them either in a locative, or in a pejorative way.
As 17.18b-27 shows a contrast between the truth and the substitute for it, it
makes good sense to translate piplacma nte pqal in 17.24b-25a with
"the delusion of deceit." I therefore assume that placma is pejoratively
intended in 17.18b as well. Consequently, "foolishly," "in a deluding way" and
"in a fog" are my choices. In this manner I try to reproduce the pejorative
tendency in the text, although indeed it is hard to find a distinctly pejorative
rendering of the last expression.
Regarding the interpretation, "in a deluding way" in 17.18b very well fits
together with the beautiful substitute for the truth that Error prepares in
17.19-21a. If Error is rooted in the ignorance of the Father and the anguish
and terror that it causes, its deceitful delusions take on an attractive and
beguiling form, which in contrast to the stable character of the truth, is
With this interpretation of "ETH;nn ouplacma in mind we are prepared to
take a position regarding the meaning of acywpe in 17.18b and 17.30b.
The third way of translating acywpe with "it happened" has never been
adopted. Nevertheless, it solves many of the problems that the alternative
translations suffered from. To begin with, it is a normal translation of the
verb ywpe , and it perfectly well fits in with both 17.18b and 17.30b.
It also works with the stative ecyoop in 17.31b. When it comes to
the meaning it does not cause the problems that were discussed above in
connection with the translation "Error came into existence." Finally, the
translation with "it happened" does not contradict the general view in the
GospTruth that Error does not actually exist. Error is a delusion, which
Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, pp. 44-45.
78 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
vanishes when knowledge replaces ignorance. To say that it came into being
would contradict this view, as Error in a deeper sense is nothingness and
non-being. This is particularly evident in the passage about the end of
The previous passage ended in a climactic exclamation in which the sta-
bility and beauty of the Truth was praised. Now, the preacher addresses
the community. The imperative of "disregard Error!" is a surrogate for
a metapropositional base, and consequently we are on the pragmatic level.
The imperative is preceded by the anaphoric "therefore" etbe peei , which
refers to the main concern in the previous section. Although Error used all
its efforts in the preparation of a substitute for the truth, the result was pa-
thetic in comparison with the truth that outshines the substitute not only
with regard to the stability and firmness, but also with regard to its all
The exclamation is followed by "since it (Error) thus has no root," where
"thus" refers to the same thoughts as "therefore." As in the previous passage
the stability of the Truth was focused upon, here the contrast is developed
by the focus on the rootless nature of Error.
These observations help us to determine on which level the passage is placed.
Although we are on the pragmatic level, 17.28 hardly begins a new chapter
as it stands in such close connection to what has preceded, nor do we need
to determine whether 16.31-17.27 is superordinated to or subordinated to
17.28-18.31a or the other way around. We will return to this discussion in
connection with 18.25b-31a. At this point, however, it is sufficient to note
that we have a break on the pragmatic level, and that the subsequent passage
stands in close relation to the first main passage i.e. 16.31-17.27. The
metapropositional base functions as an instructive marker. The audience
has received the knowledge from the Father of the truth. This truth is
eternal and firm, whereas Error is transitory and a delusion. It is in this
light that the following passage should be perceived.
"Disregard Error" katafroni n"Oacute;planh .
The vast majority of scholars have translated the Coptic expression with
"despise" or similar expressions in respective languages. However, there are
drawbacks with such a way of translating. To despise Error means that
one should look down upon it. In the context of pages 17 and 18 of the
GospTruth, but also in view of the entire work, it is not likely that the
preacher intended that the community should pay attention to Error. As
we will deal with this theme with regard to the GospTruth in general on
page 87, for the moment we restrict the discussion to the narrow context of
We already know that Error is said to be the result of ignorance, anguish
and terror. Thus, focusing on Error, even if it is with an attitude of despise,
then seems to be a bad way of keeping the joy in the Father. Neither is
the beauty that Error causes comparable with the beauty that the one who
knows finds in the Truth. Basically this is the message in 17.4b-27, and
as was discussed in the macro-structural analysis of 17.28-30a, this is the
reason to disregard Error. Turning to 17.30b-36a, Error exists as long as it
can beguile those of the middle. Although "those of the middle" is a term
that is not clearly defined, it probably refers to people who have not yet
come to knowledge, but who have the capacity for it. As long as they are
blinded by delusions they see Error instead of the Father. Consequently, to
focus on Error, even if it is with despise, would mean to take part of the
conditions that belongs to those of ignorance, anguish and terror.
As already from 16.31 and onwards we have come across instructions to the
audience that they should rejoice in the good news that provides knowledge
of the Father, and that they are redeemed from ignorance, paying attention
to Error is hardly appropriate for them. For these reasons "despise Error" is
a problematic rendering.
It seems that Grant who translated with "Do not take Error too seriously!"47
was on the right track. Still, however, it keeps the field too open to focus
on Error, but it probably builds on an analysis that is fairly similar to that
of mine. For the community, there are no reasons to focus on the delusion
that anyhow will vanish, on the contrary, they better disregard it.
"Since it thus has no root!" teei te 8e mntec noune mmeu ,
The translation of teei te 8e is a bit problematic. I am influenced by
Layton,48 and Orlandi who treat it causally with both an anaphoric and
teei te 8e (cosi) a una pura formula di passaggio, ma
come tale e usate in modo scorretto. Infatti il senso richiede
qui piuttosto una formula del tipo (perche), se riferita alla frase
precedente, o "dunque," se riferita alla frase seguente.49
Layton 1987, p. 253.
Orlandi 1992 p. 45.
80 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
The passage opens with "it happened," which functions in the same way as in
17.18b that was discussed above. It marks a substitution on the abstraction
level and most directly refers to the rootless nature of Error in 17.28-30a.
But this time the abstraction not only concerns the mythological past, but
also the present state of affairs. The close connection of "it happened" and
"it happens" ties them to the rootless nature of Error that was described in
17.28-30a. Thus, in 17.30b-36a past and present is reflected upon from the
perspective that was introduced in 17.28-30a.
There is wide agreement that the passage ends in 17.36a. The period begins
in the first perfect, "it happened" acywpe in 17.30b, and shifts to the
second present stative "it happens" ecyoop in 17.31b. At the end of the
passage a new group "those of the middle" is introduced, and as the tense
shifts from present to preterit in 17.36b it is reasonable to end the passage
The semantic analysis of "it happened" acywpe and "it happens" ecyoop
have already been thoroughly discussed above.50
"Those of the middle" natmhte was discussed on page 79.
This passage is characterised by modes of reflection rather than of narration.
The outset is in the preterit. It is followed by a brief note in the first present,
but the dominating mode is the focalizing second perfect. From this we may
deduce that we are above the level in which episodes occur so, and as there
are no signals that belong to the pragmatic level we have good reasons to
place 17.36b-18.4a on a similar level as that of the preceding passage.
The theme from 17.30b-31a about the delusions that are shrouded in a fog
with regard to the Father is elaborated in 17.36b-18.4a. In this manner the
See the discussion beginning on page 74.
actual passage is subordinated to the preceding one.
It is not at all easy to determine where this passage ends. My way of
delimiting seems to be new and I therefore turn to discuss the reasons for
The initial focus is on the oblivion, which has not come into being in the
Father. It is contrasted by the knowledge, which is what really comes from
the Father. In my interpretation the knowledge appears in the end of an
exclamation that ends the passage. Other scholars continue the passage
with a relative clause in 18.4b, whereas I begin a new passage with a main
clause on this point. As both possibilities are perfectly correct from the
grammatical point of view, other criteria have to be used in order to decide
With my delimitation we begin the new passage in 18.4b with an anaphoric
"this," peei It is the same opening as that of for instance 17.21b, 18.11b
and 18.16b. As these anaphoric "this" occur that regularly, it is tempting
to say that it reveals something of the personal style of the author of the
"It is not a [thought] from the Father." coei nnou[meue] en "ETH;atm
In the GospTruth the stative of eire which means "is," occurs as oei instead
of o . A peculiarity of the GospTruth is that it is followed by the predicative
nou instead of what we would expect i.e. n only.51 Besides in 17.37 it
also occurs in 19.20, 20.38, 23.23 and 29.2. this observation is of some help
when we try to restore the small lacuna on the top of page 18. ou in the
end of page 17 is not the beginning of a noun, but the expanded form of the
predicative n . I have chosen to restore the lacuna with "thought" meue as
we have a resembling expression in 35.15-16: "and it is not with him that the
thought of Error resides," auw nefyoop "ETH;a"ETH;thf en }nqi pimeue
nte "Oacute;planh .52
Layton 2000, 179.
This was suggested already by Kragerud 1961, p. 149.
82 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
The passage opens with an anaphoric "this," peei . It refers to the preceding
"knowledge" in 18.3b-4a. But so far we know very little about what the
knowledge contains. In 18.4b-11a, however, we know that the knowledge
not only comes from the Father, it also is about him. But generally the
GospTruth tells more about what the Father is not than what he is. It is
typical that the most direct descriptions of the Father on page 17 regard his
incomprehensibility. "This" in 18.4b then refers to knowledge, but also to
a more unspecific mass of information that is developed all through 16.31-
18.4a. Consequently, the knowledge in 18.3b-4a has to be deduced from
large portions of the preceding text. The Father is the opposite of Error.
I therefore locate the passage on the same level of abstraction as that of
Although one can discuss whether the passage really begins in 18.4b, there is
hardly any doubt that it ends in 18.11a. We could argue for the delimitation
in several ways, but the easiest one is perhaps to note that 18.11b is the
opening of a new passage, and that the vanishing of oblivion is a fitting end.
"This became revealed" peei ntafouwn"ETH;abal .
"This" peei is both a demonstrative pronoun with an anaphoric function,
and an extraposited subject that is taken up on the personal morph f in
ntafouwn"ETH;abal . As the transitive infinitive "reveal" ouwn"ETH;abal
lacks a direct object it is an ingressive infinitive. It means that it describes
a process of becoming.53 When the knowledge has entered into a state of
revelation, then the oblivion vanishes. In this manner 18.4b-11a sums up
what has been told earlier in the text and simultaneously is a preparation for
the more concrete description of the revealing knowledge in the subsequent
Layton 2000, 174.
This passage resembles the previous one to a large extent. The second
perfect indicates that we are on a level in which we rather expect reflections
than narration. As the previous passage, 18.11b-16a also opens with "this"
peei , which anaphorically refers to what was said about the knowledge of
the Father in the previous passage. I locate this passage,therefore, on the
abstract level, but it is subordinated to the previous one.
From now on notions from the beginning of the GospTruth recur. The most
obvious recurrence is "the good news" but we also encounter familiar notions
as the searching for the Father. In 18.11b-16a the medium of the revelation
is the mercies of the Father i.e. the hidden mystery Jesus the Christ, while
in 16.31-17.4a it is the grace through the Word. In this way the preacher
gradually prepares the community for the climax and closing of the first
major section of the GospTruth.
This period contains many difficulties, and many different solutions have
beenput forward as well. As my analysis of the period differs from the others
I will focus on my analysis, rather than burdening my text by accounting
for the many other proposals.
"This" peei in 18.11b is at the same time a demonstrative pronoun with an
anaphoric function, and an antecedent object of the verb "reveal."
In the first function it is a counterpart to "this" in 18.4b. It refers to the
knowledge, which earlier was a concept with a fairly vague meaning, but
which gradually becomes more and more concrete.
As it also is the object to the verb "reveal," this analysis shows that the
contents of the revelation is the knowledge about the Father. In the preced-
ing passage the knowledge was transformed into the state of being revealed,
and we learned that the knowledge, which is about the Father, is the end of
oblivion. In 18.11b-16a the mediation of the knowledge is expounded upon,
which shows the close connection between these two passages.
The rhythmical character of the GospTruth is intensified as both 18.4b-11a
and 18.11b-16a commence with the anaphoric "this," and the second perfect
form of "reveal."
The passage ends with a loading of attributes to "the mercies of the Fa-
ther," in which a fairly general designation "the hidden mystery," at the end
is replaced by a personal name and title: "Jesus the Christ." this renomi-
84 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
nalization indicates a break in the text, but maybe the strongest indication
that the passage ends in 18.16a is that the now familiar anaphoric "this"-
construction recurs in 18.16b.
"Those who were complete" net"Ntilde;hk abal .
Probably this is a designation of those who were ready to receive the en-
lightening. The fact that not all persons had the capacity to welcome the
redeemer is discussed in 25.35-27.4. Those who loved the truth greeted him,
whereas those who belonged to Error became disturbed and vanished with
For the third time in succession the passage opens with an anaphoric "this"
peei . Here, however, there are reasons to take this passage as an episode.
In the two preceding passages the main tense was the second perfect. By
contrast, we now have the first perfect, which is the common narrative tense.
Although time and place are very vague, the characteristic of the text is no
longer the reflecting mode but the narrating one.
In this passage much of what is said in the semantic analysis could be said
here or the other way around. After three asyndetons in the first perfect,
the text slows down by means of a shift to the more reflective nominal
construction and the conjunction "and" nde in 18.20. This shift functions
as a closing marker.
"This through it" peei abal "ETH;itootf .
In the basic translation I have tried to preserve the uncertainty regarding
the references. In the analytical translation however, I have sacrificed the
uncertainty on the altar of readability and decided to what the pronoun and
the suffix refer. Therefore, the anaphoric "this" is left out in the analytical
For a detailed discussion of that passage see page 168-174.
translation. I assume that "this" peei anaphorically refers to the good news,
and at the same time is taken up by the suffix in abal "ETH;itootf.
Although there was a minor break in 18.21a, we are still in the episode.
The whole passage is in the first perfect and consists of six asyndetons. The
passage sets out with Error as the subject, and when it shifts to Jesus, who
was the agent in the preceding passage we have a natural closing of the
period. Moreover, there is also put a stop to the passage as the following
one begins with the second perfect.
"was defeated by him" acouwcf .
In an ironic way, which resembles the Gospel of John, Error"s attack on
Jesus results in its own defeat, as by means of the crucifixion Jesus becomes
a fruit of knowledge. "they nailed him to a tree" auaftf auye .
This construction can either be translated in a passive way, or actively in
the third person plural. After all it is through people that Error persecutes
Jesus and nails him to a tree. It means that on the one hand Error is a
collective designation in singular, but on the other hand it consists of a
multitude of actors. In this manner it is a negative counterpart to the All.
The relation between the All and Error will be discussed on page 87-92.
After the episode that began in 18.16b there now is a shift from the first to
the second perfect, and again the level is abstract.
The recurrence of notions from 16.31-17.4a reaches its climax, and I take
this as an indication of that the first chapter of the GospTruth has come to
its end. This assumption is further strengthened when we consider which
the recurrences are. In 16.31-17.4a attributes of the community were lined
up. they rejoiced in the good news, and they had discovered what they had
searched for. The same attributes are used in 18.26b-31a, although it is in
the past tense. However, the gap between past and present is overcome as
86 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
the basis for the rejoice in 18.26b-31a is the eating of the fruit of knowledge.
This alludes to a sacramental situation, and in this respect the condition
that was valid for those in the past is valid for the actual community as
well. In this manner the recurrences are not only repetitions of words,
but a similar forming of the identity of the community that appeared in
16.31-17.4a. The allusion to sacraments becomes particularly effective in a
situation of community preaching. What they did, you and I do as well.
That there is a break in the text is also indicated through the introduction
of a new theme from 18.31b. A lengthy description of the Father"s mag-
nificent and perfect nature is combined with the declaration that he kept
the completion of the All within himself. How one should comprehend this
message is summed up in a rhetorical question in 18.38-39. Although the
Father kept the completion of the All within himself, he is not grudging,
and the All is his own members. This rhetorical question functions on the
pragmatic level and instructs the audience about the new theme.
After the climactic end of the previous passage, the character of which was
intense due to the long series of asyndetons, we now take a step back by
means of the second perfect and reflect upon what the knowledge of the Fa-
ther caused. Besides the use of the second perfect, this change of perspective
is further stressed by the particle "now" qe , which also could be rendered
But with the second sentence, from 18.27b, we are back in the first perfect
that casts us back to the time of the first community that ate the fruit of
knowledge of the Father.
The syntax of 18.27b-31a is complex and has caused scholars many difficul-
ties of interpretation. My solution is based on what I have deduced from
Layton"s translation,55 although I have made minor modifications of it.
The crucial question is how to interpret n"Ntilde;e in 18.29b-30a. I treat it as
nqi and it functions of course cataphorically, but also anaphorically to "those
who ate" in 18.27 and 28. It means that those who ate are those who Jesus
discovered in him and whom discovered Jesus in themselves. Admittedly the
syntax is a bit clumsy, but with this construal of it, there are few problems.
"Now, it did not bring perishability because it was eaten." ntafteko qe
en "Ntilde;e a"ETH;ouamf .
Layton 1987, p. 254.
EVALUATING THE ANALYSIS 87
This is an instance in which a transitive infinitive lacks a direct object.
Strictly, it should therefore be translated ingressively as in 18.4b which pro-
duce the translation: "Now, it did not perish because it was eaten." Although
this would make sense as an isolated sentence, it comes a bit surprisingly in
the context. It means that, as the vast majority of scholars, I emend the text
to ntaftekof . With this emendation we have a contrast between the
fruit of the tree of knowledge of the Old Testament, and the one of knowledge
of the Father in the GospTruth. The former brought perishability, whereas
the latter brought joy and probably imperishability as well.
"its" ntaf .
Normally this corresponds to the Sahidic ntof , but here it seems to make
more sense to treat it as the Sahidic ntef and in this way reaching the
meaning of "his" or "its."
Evaluating the analysis
After the long analysis regarding how the text of 16.31-18.31a is construed
and ought to be translated, it is appropriate to discuss some results from the
analyses. In what follows I will focus upon a couple of central concepts in
the analysed text, and pay special attention to issues that are important for
other parts of the present study. Hopefully it is possible to prove that the
manner of analysing the GospTruth that I have demonstrated above, not
only helps us to interpret and translate the text, but also is fruitful for the
historians of religions who are eager to know something about the people
who used this text.
What is Error?
It is obvious that Error occupies a central role not only in 16.31-18.31a, but
also in the entire GospTruth. Few if any would oppose the view that the
notion of a demiurge figure has coloured the way in which Error is depicted.
Error produces works, and the substance that belongs to it is matter, 17.4b-
36a. Moreover, it is a creature with consciousness that both gets angry and
laments when the Saviour enters cosmos, 18.21a-26a and 26.18-27. Although
it is repeatedly said about Error that it does not know the truth, 17.16-18a
26.18.27, it is not a stupid but just ruler of the cosmic sphere. We rather
have a malevolent monster with far more aggression than is common in
Valentinianism. Moreover, this monster seems to have an offspring. Much
in the same way as the Father has his members, which collectively is called
the All, 18.38-39, so has Error its children as well, 26.18-27. It is natural to
think of a particularly evil demiurge with its army of archons.
88 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
However, when Error and its children are on stage in the GospTruth, it is
not in a mythological past, as for instance in the Apocryphon of John, but in
the time of Jesus" earthly mission and in the present time of the community.
Gardeners, archons and fruits of knowledge
In 18.21b-26a Error persecutes and crucifies Jesus. It results in the defeat
of Error as Jesus becomes the fruit of knowledge of the Father. This clearly
refers to the historical Jesus at the time of his crucifixion. We can state
this as the GospTruth refers to another tree of knowledge that had a fruit
that brought perishability. The fruit that caused destruction grew in the
paradise, whereas the fruit that brought joy is the crucified Jesus.
In this way Error, which from the beginning took on a personal demiurgical
form, only appears as the characteristic of a group of people. On this basis
it is more appropriate to use the active translation: "They nailed him to a
tree" than the commonly used passive rendering: "he was nailed to a tree."
Now the questions emerges: what is Error in 18.21a-26a?
Probably, Error is simultaneously a symbolic designation for the group of
people that persecuted Jesus and a description of their mental state. The
role of this group and their mental state could be affected by a mythological
figure that you may or may not see as a real being. However, independently
of how strongly one should emphasise the mythological, psychological and
social aspects of Error in 18.21a-26a, it is clear that an implied tree of
knowledge that brought destruction is compared with the fruit of knowledge
of the Father that Jesus became. Thus, it seems as we have to reckon with
two trees, one with the fruit that was Jesus and another fruit that caused
The imagery with two trees also brings to mind the thought of two gardeners.
As the Father is described as the good and perfect gardener who takes care
of the paradise with all its plants,36.34-37.14 it is a likely reading to apply
the opposite characteristics on Error as an evil and imperfect gardener. If
we draw the consequences of this reasoning, those who crucified Jesus are
stamped by the characteristics of the archons.
In 25-35-27.4 a story that echoes the one of 18.21b-31a is told, however,
from a more mythological perspective. Error has a number of beings that
belongs to it. When the truth appears this means the end for Error and
for them, since Error is nothing and knows nothing. Simultaneously there
is another group that belongs to the truth. They greet the Truth and are
joined to the Father. As I demonstrate in chapter six, this passage does not
only refer to a mythological time but to the time of Jesus" earthly mission
as well. At the same time, however, it is used to describe the conditions for
EVALUATING THE ANALYSIS 89
the actual community as it forms its identity.56
Thus, the parallelism that exists between the two fruits, perhaps one of
falsehood and one of true knowledge, can be extended to the two gardeners
and to two groups of people as well, one that belongs to Error and in a
way are the archons on earth, but also to the members of the community
in past and present time. This last parallelism is reinforced in 18.26b-31a,
when those who eat the fruit that Jesus became are filled with joy. This
corresponds to those who greeted the truth on page 26.
To sum up: 18.21b-26a shows clear traces of a demiurge figure who has
produced one fruit that may appear as knowledge, but as at its best is a
substitute for the truth, which in fact brings perishability. The demiurge
persecutes Jesus, but since this persecution takes place not in an undefined
mythological past but in the time of the historical Jesus, the characteristics
of the demiurge spreads to the group who carried out the actual crucifixion.
Since the demiurge is depicted in such a sharply antagonistic way, the spilling
over to those who are associated with Error is reinforced.
In 18.26b-31a the focus shifts to those who ate the true fruit of knowledge.
As I discussed in the macro-structural analysis to 18.26b-31a, the retelling
of what happened in the time of Jesus has a pragmatic function. As the
community takes part in the same eating of the fruit their identity is formed
by the description of the first community. This forming, however, is not
only expressed in positive terms about how "we are" but maybe even more
in terms about how "they are." Therefore, it makes sense to assume that if the
community identified itself with those who ate the fruit and rejoiced in the
discovery of what they had searched for, those who opposed the community
may easily have been associated with those who opposed the enlightenment
of Jesus as well. This line of thought will be followed up in the subsequent
discussions in this chapter, but it will be evaluated through the analyses of
the fifth and sixth chapters as well.
Error as a state of mind of those of the middle
In 17.30b-36a we find an example of Error"s acting in the actual time of the
community. Error happens, or exists, by terrifying and beguiling a group of
people that is called "those of the middle." According to this passage, Error
was, and still is, the cause and result of a false knowledge of the Father.
It is the result of the ignorance inasmuch as Error happened or came into
existence in a fog that shrouded him, 17.4b-18a and 17.30b-31a, and it also
causes Error as it seduces those of the middle, 17.31b-36a. Presumably,
"those of the middle" denotes those who have the capacity to know the Fa-
ther but who have not come to enlightenment yet. It means that they are
See the discussion on 132-139.
90 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
ignorant and full of anguish and terror, 17.4a-18a. But when they know, the
anguish and the terror will cease, and with them Error ceases as well. In
this respect Error rather is a process or a psychological phenomenon than
a mythological being. Besides the arguments that I have put forward above
in connection to 17.18b and 17.30b and 17.31b, the gradual shift from a
mythological framework in 17.4b-18a to a more psychological perspective is
better reproduced by translating that Error "happens" or "happened" rather
than with it "came into being". In other words, the tendency of page 17 in
the GospTruth is a demythologizing one.
Why should Error be disregarded?
As already mentioned, Error appears on the one hand as a frightening mon-
ster, and on the other as nothing, 17.21b-27, 26.18-27. As Error vanishes
through knowledge, 18.4b-11a, the right focus of the community would be
to focus on what the Father is, and not on all deluding works that Error
prepares. This is a strong argument in favour of my translation of 17.28-30a.
Now, in order to know more about what Error is, I shall point out some
further characteristics of how it is described, and in what way the offspring of
Error is depicted. As a parallel, moreover, I shall apply the same procedure
on how the Father and his children are described. This will provide us with
more knowledge about what kind of false knowledge that the preacher in
the GospTruth wanted the community to be on its guard against.
Drawing upon the hypothesis that Error both is a cause and a result we can
make the following list of characteristics of it:
"bull; Error is ignorant, 17.17-18 and 26.22-23.
"bull; It causes ignorance, 17.32-36.
"bull; It is angry with knowledge, 18.21-26.
"bull; It is anxious, 26.18-19
"bull; It is the cause of anguish and terror, 17.9-14.
"bull; It is empty and it is nothing, 17.23-24 and 26.26-27.
"bull; It is defeated and destroyed by knowledge, suffers and mourns, 18.21-
And from this list we can see that Error is no threat to the one who knows.
The seemingly strong and dangerous demiurge figure takes on a rather pa-
thetic form, and, after all, it is nothing and it has been destroyed by the
EVALUATING THE ANALYSIS 91
If we compare this list with the way in which the one who knows sees the
Father, we indirectly receive more information of what Error is.
"bull; The Father is incomprehensible, inconceivable and superior to every
"bull; He is not effected by the works of Error, 17.21-24.
"bull; He is not jealous, 18.38-39.
"bull; He is the opposite of harshness, wrathfulness and evil, 41.35-42.9.
"bull; He is imperturbable, sweet, and knows everything in advance, 41.35-
It is tempting to add jealousy to the list of characteristics of Error, since it
is typical for the demiurge.57
When we compare these lists, the importance of anguish and terror be-
comes evident. As I will demonstrate in chapter six, the GospTruth shows
a strongly negative attitude towards the law of retaliation. To know the
Father means that one does not have to be afraid, and by this Error disap-
pears. On the other hand, if one focuses on Error there is a risk that one is
snared by its delusions and thinks of the Father in terms of the characteris-
tics of Error. Consequently, disregarding Error is the appropriate position
for the one who knows. On page 42 of the gospTruth this is concretised.
The Father"s children will not listen to anything else than to the Father.
Through this, they will always be fresh in spirit and they will not damage
Although I have demonstrated that the view of Error is strongly influenced
by the idea of a very aggressive demiurge figure, the demythologising ten-
dency is strong as well. In this way Error becomes a process that is driven
by fear and results in more fear. The fear is caused by a false knowledge
regarding the nature of the Father, and when the truth appears, those who
receive it will find a fearless rest.
If we apply this reasoning on persons who belong to Error, they are char-
acterised by fear, as they hold that the Father is wrathful, evil and harsh.
The Father"s children, on the contrary, are characterised by joy, and they
call Jesus their redeemer, 16.31-17.4 and 18.26-31.
To sum up, Error is strongly coloured by an unusually evil demiurge figure.
The characteristics of the demiurge spread over to a group of people who
carries out deeds that are driven by false knowledge, fear and anger. In
a deeper sense, however, Error does not really exist. It is nothing, and
See for instance the Apocryphon of John NHC II.13.8.
92 CHAPTER 3. APPLYING THE METHOD ON THE GOSPTRUTH
focusing on it only helps it to prevail. The Father"s children are therefore
much better off if they only pay attention to the Father.
The method of analysis that I have used often results in a translation that
opens perspectives that have previously been overlooked, or at least not
clearly expressed. In this way the text linguistic method becomes fruitful
for the translator but also for the historian of religions.
In this chapter I will present my two translations of the GospTruth. On the
left side we find the basic translation, and on the right side the corresponding
part of the analytical one. The line numbers are not always exact, since
exactness would result in an almost unreadable English, but I hope the
numbering will be of enough help for the reader who rather goes to the line
number in the translation than in the Coptic text.
In the Basic translation, I include optional renderings of for instance pro-
nouns within (). If a word is completely, or almost completely destroyed
and is restored or represented by ... I show this by .
"iexcl;"iquest; embrace words or letters that seem to have been included by mistake.
94 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
(16.31) The good news of the truth is a joy 32 for those who have received
the grace 33 from the Father of the truth, that they might know him (it) 34
through the power of the Word that came forth from 35 that Fullness that
is in the Father"s thought 36 and mind, that 37 is what they call 38 "the
Redeemer" since that is the name of the work that 39 he was to accomplish
for the redemption of those who (17) were ignorant of the Father, and since
2 the name of the good news is the revelation 3 of the hope, since it is the
discovery 4 for those who are searching for him (it).
Because 5 the All searched for the 6 one from whom they had come forth,
and the 7 All was inside of him, the 8 incomprehensible, inconceivable one 9
who is superior to every thought, since 10 ignorance of the Father brought
anguish 11 and terror, and the anguish grew 12 dense like a fog, 13 so that
no one could see, 14 For this reason, Error found strength, 15 worked on its
own 16 matter, foolishly 17 since it had not known the 18 truth.
It happened in a deluding way, 19 as Error by the power, beautifully pre-
pared 20 the substitute for the 21 truth. Now, this was not a humiliation
for 22 him, the incomprehensible, inconceivable one. 23 For they were noth-
ing, the anguish, 24 and the oblivion and the delusion 25 of deceit, whereas
the established 26 truth is immutable, 27 imperturbable and the complete
beauty. 28 For this reason, disregard 29 Error since it thus has no 30 root!
It happened in 31 a fog regarding the Father. It happens 32 since Error (it)
prepares works, and 33 oblivion, and terrors in order to, 34 by them, seduce
those of 35 the middle and capture 36 them.
The oblivion that belonged to Error 37 was not revealed. It is not a (18)
[thought] from the Father. It 2 was not from the Father that oblivion came
into being. 3 Now indeed, it was concerning the Father that it came into
being. But 4 what comes into being in the Father is the knowledge!
5 This became revealed in 6 order that oblivion might vanish 7 and the
Father be known. Since 8 oblivion came into being because the 9 Father
was not known, then, when the Father 10 is known, oblivion will 11 not
The good news of the truth means joy for those who from the Father of
truth have received the grace of knowing him. They know him through the
power of the Word that came forth from the Fullness that is in the Father"s
thought and mind. That Word is what they call " the Redeemer." They
call him so, since it refers to the work that he was to accomplish, namely
the redemption of those who were (17) ignorant of the Father. They also
call him "the Redeemer" since the good news refers to the revelation of the
hope since the good news is the discovery for those who are searching for
Although it was inside of the incomprehensible, inconceivable one, who is
superior to every thought, the All went about searching for him, the Father,
from whom it had come forth. And the ignorance of the Father brought
anguish and terror, and the anguish grew dense like a fog so that no one
could see. For these reasons, Error gained dominion and worked with its
own matter, foolishly, since it had not known the truth.
It happened in a deluding way, since Error by all the beauty it was mighty
prepared the substitute for the truth. Now, this was not a humiliation for the
incomprehensible, inconceivable one. For the anguish, the oblivion and the
delusion of deceit were nothing, whereas the established truth is immutable,
imperturbable, and all exceeding beauty.
For this reason, disregard Error since it thus has no root! It happened in
a fog that shrouded the Father. And it happens now, since Error prepares
works, oblivion and terrors, in order to seduce and capture those of the
The oblivion that belongs to Error was not revealed. It is no (18) thought
from the Father, and it was not with him that oblivion came into being.
Now indeed, it was concerning the Father that oblivion came into being.
But what comes into being in the Father is the knowledge.
The knowledge became revealed in order that oblivion might vanish and
the Father be known. Since oblivion came into being because they did not
know the Father, consequently, when they know him, oblivion will not occur
96 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
This 12 the good news of the one for 13 whom they searched revealed to 14
those who were complete through the mercies 15 of the Father, the hidden
mystery, 16 Jesus Christ.
This (he), through it (him), he 17 enlightened those who 18 through oblivion
were in darkness. He 19 enlightened them he provided a way, and the 20
way is the truth, which he 21 taught them.
for this reason, Error 22 grew angry with him, 23 persecuted him, became
distressed by him, 24 was defeated by him, they nailed him to a tree, 25 he
became a fruit of the knowledge of 26 the Father.
Now, it (he) did not bring perishability1 because it (he) was eaten. On
the contrary, to 27 those who ate it, it 28 caused them to rejoice 29 in its
discovery, those 30 whom he discovered in himself 31 and who discovered
him in themselves!
The 32 incomprehensible, inconceivable one, the 33 Father, the one who is
complete, the one who 34 made the All, within him is the All, 35 and the
All needs him. 36 Even though he kept their2 completion 37 within himself,
this which he had not given to 38 the All, the 39 Father was not grudging,
indeed, what grudge could there be between 40 him and his members? (19)
For if this realm3 had received 2 their4 [completion], they would not have
been able to come ....5 3 the Father. Even if he keeps 4 their6 completion
deep within himself, he 5 gives it to them in the form of a return to him
6 with knowledge and7 7 completion. He is the one who brought 8 the All
into being and 9 in whom the All is, and of whom the All was in need.
See the commentary on page 86.
Sometimes the All is referred to in terms of a collective entity, but frequently as well
it is referred to in terms of its plurality of members.
The notion could refer to the All, but from the context it is likely that it rather refers
to the cosmic sphere. In the analytical translation therefore, I have reproduced the term
with "this world."
Sometimes the All is referred to in terms of a collective entity, but frequently as well
it is referred to in terms of its plurality of members. It is also possible that it here refers
to the Father"s members in 18.40.
A lacuna of four or five letters that is hard to restore. e"ETH;rai Would be a natural
choice, but it does not fit with the traces of the letters. Oral information from Stephen
Sometimes the All is referred to in terms of collective entity, but frequently as well it
is referred to in terms of its plurality of members.
That this is the northern Egyptian conjunction "and" has often been overlooked at
this and other places in the GospTruth.
The good news of the one for whom they searched revealed this knowledge
to those who were complete. It was revealed through the Father"s mercies,
the hidden mystery, Jesus Christ.
Through the good news Jesus enlightened those who through oblivion were
in darkness. He enlightened them, provided a way and the way is the truth,
which he taught them.
For this reason, Error grew angry with him, persecuted him, was distressed
by him, was defeated by him, because when they nailed him to a tree, he
became a fruit of the knowledge of the Father.
Now, the fruit did not bring perishability because it was eaten. On the
contrary, to those whom he discovered in himself and who discovered him
in themselves, that is those who ate the fruit, it caused them to rejoice in
The incomprehensible, inconceivable one, the Father, the one who is com-
plete, the one who made the All, within him is the All, and the All needs
him. Even though he had kept their completion within himself, the part
which he had not given to the All, the Father was not grudging. Indeed,
what grudge could there be between him and his members?
(19) For if this world had received their completion, they would not have
been able to come to the Father. Although the Father keeps their completion
deep within himself, he gives the completion to them as a return to him with
knowledge and completion. The Father is the one who brought the All into
being and in whom the All is, and of whom the All was in need.
98 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
10 Just as in the case 11 of a person of whom 12 others are ignorant, he 13
wishes to be known 14 and thus loved. 15 For what did the All need 16 if
not such knowledge of the 17 Father?
He became a mild 18 easy tutor,8 appeared and 19 spoke 20 the word as
teacher. They 21 came to him,9 those who 22 considered themselves wise,
23 putting him to the test, 24 but he refuted them because 25 they were
foolish. They hated him 26 because they were not truly 27 wise. After all
these, 28 the little children came to him10 As well, 29 those to whom 30
the knowledge of the father belongs. Having become strong, 31 they had
learned about the Father"s 32 face,11 they knew, 33 they were known, they
were glorified, 34 they glorified, it appeared in their 35 intellect, the living
book 36 of the living, this that is written 37 in the Father["s] thought and
38 mind, (20) and that from before the 2 foundation of all things has been
among his 3 incomprehensible possessions, this 4 that noone has authority
to take, 5 since it is ordained for the one who would take it up 6 in order
to be slain.
No one 7 among those who had been entrusted12 9 with the salvation could
have been revealed if that 9 book had not come forward, 10 for this reason,
the merciful, faithful 11 Jesus became compassionate accepting the suffer-
ings 12 even unto taking up that book. 13 Because he knew that 14 his
death is life for many, 15 just as in the case of a will before it is 16 opened,
the fortune of the deceased 17 master of the house is concealed; 18 and just
as in the case of the All that was 19 concealed, as the Father of the All was
20 invisible, even though the All had come forth from 21 him, the one from
whom 22 everything13 comes forth, 23 for this reason, Jesus appeared, 24
clothed himself in that 25 book, was nailed to a tree, and 26 published the
edict of 27 the Father on the cross.
As many others have noted, there seems to be an underlying Greek pun on "guide"
hodogogos, and a pedagog, pedagogos.
Emend to yaraf .
Emend to yaraf .
The expression is a bit obscure, but it probably refers to the outward manifestation
of the Father, or in terms of knowledge, to the knowledge that belongs to the beginner.
The common rendering of ntaun"ETH;outou apiou"Ntilde;eei has been "those who be-
lieved in the salvation," but as will be extensively discussed on page ?? there are strong
arguments in favour of my translation.
All other translations render the Coptic maeit nim with "every way," or "all ways."
My translation is based on an oral suggestion of Louis Painchaud.
Just as in the case of a person of whom others are ignorant, the Father
wishes to be known and thus loved. For what did the All need if not such
knowledge about the Father?
Jesus became a mild easy tutor. As teacher he appeared and spoke the
word. Those who considered themselves wise came to him in order to put
him to the test. But he refuted them, because they were foolish. They
hated him, because they were not truly wise. After all this had happened,
the little children came to him as well. It is to them that the knowledge
about the Father belongs. They had learned about the superficial part of
the Father, and through this became strong. They knew and were known,
they were glorified and they glorified, and finally, the living book of the
living appeared in their intellect. This book is written in (20) the Father"s
thought and mind, and that from before the foundation of all things has
been among the Father"s incomprehensible possessions, the book that no
one has authority to up take since it laid upon Jesus to take it and be slain.
If this book had remained concealed, no one among those who had been
entrusted with salvation could have been revealed. For this reason, the
merciful, faithful Jesus was compassionate and endured the sufferings even
onto taking up that book. Because he knew that his death is life for many,
just as before a will is opened, the fortune of the deceased master of the
house is concealed, so it is with the All. It was concealed since the Father
was invisible, even though the All had come forth from him, the one from
whom everything comes forth. For this reason, Jesus appeared, clothed
himself in that book, was nailed to a tree, and published the edict of the
Father on the cross.
100 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
O with 28 such great teaching he draws 29 himself down to death, 30 al-
though life eternal clothes him!
Having 31 stripped himself of his perishable rags, 32 he put on imperisha-
bility 33 that which no one 34 can take away from him. 35 Having entered
the empty spaces of 36 terror, he escaped 37 from those that are stripped
naked by 38 oblivion, for he is knowledge 39 and completion, proclaiming
what is in the intellect (21)....... When "mdash;"ndash; 5 instructed those who will
receive teaching. 3 And those who will receive teaching are the 4 living who
are written in the book 5 of the living.
Receiving instruction about 6 themselves, they recover themselves 7 from
the Father. They return to 8 him, because the 9 completion of the All is in
the Father. 10 It is necessary for the All to go 11 to him. Then, as anyone
12 comes to know, he receives what 13 belongs to him, and he draws them
to 14 himself. For the one who is 15 ignorant is in need, and what he lacks
is 16 great, since 17 he lacks what would make him 18 complete.
Because the completion 19 of the All is in the Father, and it is necessary 20
for the All to go 21 to him, and each 22 one has to receive what belongs to
him, 23 which he had inscribed in advance, 24 having prepared it to give to
those 25 who had come forth from him, those whose names 26 he already
knew from the beginning, 27 in the end they were called.14
28 Because it is "one who knows" 29 whose name the Father has called.15 30
For the one whose name has not been 31 spoken is "an ignorant," 32 how
else would 33 someone listen unless 34 his name has been called? For the
one who is ignorant 35 to the end is a delusion 36 of oblivion, and he 37
will vanish with it, if it were otherwise, 38 why do such miserable
21.18-27 is one long and quite complicated sentence. The first three clauses are co-
ordinated on the same level and headed by the cataphoric "because." Together these clauses
constitute the causal background to the final clause. Between the initial causal block and
the final clause there is a lengthy description of what it is that each one has to receive.
In the analytical translation the just mentioned relations are clear, but the rhythmical
character of the text, which appears by the initial "because" in 21.18 and 21.28 is lost in
the analytical translation, but preserved in the basic one.
The combination of "ETH;wc with circumstantial has been a problem for translators.
It is solved, however, when treating 21-28-29 as a cleft sentence with "ETH;wc as a causal
conjunction. The focus on the ones who know is interrupted by a parenthetical part
concerning those who belong to Error. This part is carefully construed with two initial
"for" and two rhetorical questions. In 22.2 the thread from 21.28 is taken up again and
continues in the habitual until a series of asyndetons indicates a new passage.
O, with such great doctrine he draws himself down to death, although life
eternal clothes him! When Jesus had stripped himself of his perishable
rags, he put on imperishability that which no one can take away from him.
And when he had entered the empty spaces of terror, he escaped from the
clutches of those that are stripped naked by oblivion, for he is knowledge
and completion, proclaiming what is in the intellect (21) ....... When"mdash;
"ndash; instructed those who will receive teaching. And those who will receive
teaching are the living who are written in the book of the living.
Because it is about themselves that they are instructed, they recover them-
selves from the Father. They return to him, because the completion of the
All is in the Father. It is necessary for the All to go to him. Then, as anyone
comes to know, he receives what belongs to him, and he draws it to himself.
For the one who is ignorant is in need, and what he lacks is great, since he
lacks what would make him complete.
In advance, the Father inscribed what belongs to each one. He prepared it
in order to give to those who had come forth from him, those whose names
he knew from the beginning. This is the completion of the All that is inside
of the Father, and it is necessary for the All to go to him, and for each one
to receive what belongs to him. Because of all this, at the end the Father
Because it is "the one who knows" whose name the Father has called. For
the one whose name has not been spoken is "an ignorant." How else, in
what way will someone listen unless his name has been called? For the one
who is ignorant to the end is a delusion of oblivion, and he will vanish with
oblivion. If it were otherwise, why do such miserable people
102 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
(22) not have [voiceless]16 2 names? Consequently, a 3 person, when he
knows, is from above. 4 When called, he hears, 5 responds, 6 and turns to
the 7 one who is calling him, goes to him, and 8 understands why he is being
called. 9 Knowing he does the 10 will of the one who called 11 him, he wants
to please him, he receives 12 rest, and the name of such a person 13 becomes
his own. The one who will know 14 in such a way understands from where
he has come and 15 where he will go. 16 He understands just as someone
who, 17 after having become drunk, has shaken off 18 his drunkenness.
19 When he had returned to himself, he 20 set right those things that belong
to him, reclaimed many 21 from Error, went 22 before them to the ways
from 23 which they had swerved when they 24 accepted Error 25 because of
the depth of him who surrounds 26 everything, while nothing 27 surrounds
It was a great 28 wonder that they were in the Father, 29 though not
knowing him, and that they were 30 able to come forth alone, 31 since they
were not able to 32 comprehend themselves, nor could they know the one
in whom they 33 were. For if his will 34 had come forth from him "mdash;17
For he 35 revealed it, and 36 they knew in harmony 37 with all its gifts,18
38 this is the knowledge of the living 39 book that he (it) at the end 40
revealed to the Eternal ones.19 (23) in the form of its (his) texts.20 2 When
it (knowledge or book) becomes revealed, they speak, 3 not as if they were
passages21 for 4 voices, nor as if they were texts 5 needing sound,22 and 6
so for someone to read them out and 7 think of foolishness,
There is a small lacuna before mmnteu. I restore to emmnteu reaching my
translation. In this way, the difference between a normal name and the name that comes
from above is emphasized.
The Coptic "Oacute;h has often been translated with "way." However, it is equally probable
that it comes from the verb "Oacute; "give" as was suggested by Schenke 2001, and I adopt his
suggestion, although the field is wide open for speculations.
The common translation is "aeons," but to me, this seems to be like a translation to
Greek rather than to English.
The noun can mean letters or texts. As in 23.12-15 it is used about a book that
consists of texts in harmony, rather than of letters in harmony it directs my choice of
translating here as well.
The Coptic/Greek word topoc , which normally means places, can also be used in
the meaning of a passage of text. In the context the contrast between the kind of texts
that the living book of the living consists of, and texts that are written in normal books
and can be read by normal voices is emphasised and guide my way of translating.
In the analytical translation I use "tones" in order to stress that these texts neither
need music or speech.
(22) not have voiceless names? Now, as it is "the one who knows" that the
Father calls, consequently, a person, when he knows, is from above. When
called, he hears, responds, and turns to the one who is calling him. He goes
to him, and understands why he is being called. When he knows, he does
the will of the one who called him. He wants to please him, and he receives
rest, such a person receives the name that belongs to him. The one who will
know in such a way understands from where he has come and where he will
go. He understands just as someone who, after having become drunk, has
shaken off his drunkenness. When that person had recovered himself, he set
right what belongs to him. He reclaimed many from Error and went before
them to the ways from which they had swerved. For they had gone astray
because of the depth of him who surrounds everything, and who himself is
It was a great wonder that they were in the Father without knowing him,
and that they were able to come forth on their own accord. It was a wonder
since they were not able to comprehend themselves, nor could they know
the one in whom they were. For if his will had come forth from him"mdash;-23
For he revealed the book, and the eternal ones knew in harmony with all its
gifts, this is the knowledge of the living book that he at the end revealed
to the Eternal ones (23) in the form of its texts. When the book becomes
revealed, the texts speak, not as if they were chapters intended to be read
by voices, nor as if they were texts in need of tones. They are not texts that
someone should read out loud and think of foolishness.
Probably one line missing.
104 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
but 8 rather they are texts of 9 truth, they themselves speak 10 they know
themselves. Each text 11 being a perfect thought24 12 just as a book 13 that
is perfect consists of texts 14 written through 15 the unity, as the Father
had 16 written them 17 "iexcl;for"iquest; the Eternal ones that through these, his texts,
18 they would know the Father.
As his 19 wisdom meditates upon 20 the Word,
his teaching 21 utters it,
his 22 knowledge has become revealed.25
23 His forbearance is a 24 crown upon him (it),
as his (its) 25 joy is in harmony 26 with it (him).
His (its) glory has 27 exalted him (it),
his (its) image 28 has revealed him (it),
his (its) 29 repose has 30 embraced him (it),
his (its) 31 love has embodied him,
32 his faith has guarded 33 him.
In this way26 the Word 34 of the Father goes forth 35 in the All, as it is
the fruit (24) [of] his intellect and 2 an outward manifestation of his will.3
Indeed, it helps the All, 4 choosing them and also taking on 5 the outward
manifestation of the All. 6 It (he) restores them by bringing them back into
7 the Father, into the Mother, 8 Jesus of the infinity of 9 sweetness!
In the manuscript the word is me. As "truth" is spelled mhe in the GospTruth,
we need an emendation even if we choose the alternative translation with "truth." As I
restored the lacuna on page 18.1 with "thought," and since it is attested in Valentinianism
that the "aeons" or as I have translated "the eternal ones" in the Father are called "thoughts"
I emend to meeue.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a emend to aFouan"ETH;f, but this is not necessary. On
the contrary the absence of a direct object to the verb is ingressive and means that the
knowledge enters into a state of being revealed, see 18.4-31. This is also indicated as the
Word gradually takes on personal characteristics, and in 23-30-31 he is embodied, which
in Valentinian terms refers to the becoming of the church. Thus, the hymn begins in pre-
historic time, turns to the revelation of Jesus that is in compliance with the prophecies
about him and ends with the actualization of the Valentinian church.
This passage expounds upon the preceding hymn, and especially the part from 23.22
ff in which the revelation of the Word as a reality was touched upon.
On the contrary, they are texts of the truth. They speak by themselves and
know themselves. Each text is a perfect thought in the same manner as a
book that is perfect consists of texts that are written in unity. So the Father
had written them for the Eternal ones in order that they would know the
Father through his texts.
Because the Father"s wisdom meditates upon the Word, his teaching utters
it, his knowledge has become revealed.
His forbearance is a crown upon him,
as his joy is in harmony with it.
His glory has exalted him,
his image has revealed him,
his repose has embraced him, his love has embodied him, his faith has
In this way, the Father"s Word goes forth in the All, as it is the fruit of
(24) his intellect and the visible manifestation of the Father"s will. Indeed,
the Word helps the All, by choosing them, and also by taking on their own
outward form. The Word restores them by bringing them back into the
Father, into the Mother, Jesus of the infinity of sweetness!
106 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
When the Father uncovers his bosom,27 10 and his bosom is 11 the Holy
Spirit,28 he 12 reveals his 13 secret, his secret is 14 his Son,29 so that 15
through the inner parts of the Father the Eternal ones 16 might know him,
and 17 stop labouring by searching for the 18 Father, resting 19 deep within
him, knowing that 20 this is the rest.
When he had 21 filled the lack, he loosened up the 22 form, his form 23 is
the world,30 this 24 in which he served. 25 For where there is envy and strife
26 there is lack, 27 but where there is unity there is 28 completion. Since
the lack came into 29 being because the Father was 30 unknown, when 31
the Father is known the lack 32 will not occur again.
Just 33 as in the manner of 34 someone"s ignorance, then when he 35 knows,
in this manner 36 his ignorance ceases, 37 just as the darkness 38 ceases
when (25) the light appears. Just so also 2 the lack ceases 3 through
completion. Indeed, 4 from that moment the form does not appear, 5 but
will be loosened up through 6 the harmony of unity.
7 For now their 8 affairs are scattered, but 9 when Unity will complete 10
the ways into Unity, 11 each one 12 will receive the way into 13 Knowledge.
He will purify himself 14 from Multiplicity into 15 Unity, by consuming 16
matter within himself 17 as fire, 18 darkness by light and death by life.
19 Now indeed, these things have happened 20 to all of us! 21 Thus it is
fitting for us to31 22 be mindful of the All, so that 23 the house will be holy
24 and peaceful for the Unity.
25 Just like when people 26 have moved out of some places 27 where there
were 28 jars that were not good 29 in spots, 30 they would break them, and
the owner of the house 31 suffered no loss when the jars were broken,
In the same manner as in 19.27-20.6 the enlightenment is described by a gradual
knowledge, beginning in the superficial knowledge, which was described in the previous
passage, and ending with the knowledge of the deepest secrets of the Father.
This clause is maybe an interpolation.
This clause is maybe an interpolation.
This clause is maybe an interpolation.
I emend qe into "Ntilde;e .
When the Father uncovers his bosom, which is the Holy Spirit, and he
reveals his secret, which is his Son, so that through the Father"s inner most,
the Eternal ones might know him and stop labouring by searching for the
Father. Instead, the Eternal ones may rest deep within the Father, knowing
that this is the rest.
When Jesus had filled the lack, he loosened up its form, this form is the world
in which he served. For where there is envy and strife there is lack, but where
there is unity there is completion. Since the lack came into being because the
Father was unknown, when the Father is known the lack will not occur again.
This is just as in the manner of someone"s ignorance. When someone knows
in this manner, his ignorance ceases, just as the darkness ceases when (25)
the light appears, just so the lack ceases through completion as well. Indeed,
from that moment the form does not appear, rather it will be loosened up
through the harmony of unity.
For now the others affairs are scattered, but when Unity will complete the
ways into Unity, each one will receive his way into Knowledge. Everyone
will purify himself from Multiplicity into Unity. Each one purifies himself
by consuming matter within himself just as fire, darkness by light and death
Now indeed, these things have already happened to all of us. Thus it is
fitting for us to be mindful of the All, so that the house will be holy and
peaceful for the Unity.
Just like when people have moved out of some places where there were jars
that were partly broken, they would break them, and the owner of the house
would suffer no loss.
108 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
on the 32 contrary, it made him glad, for 33 instead of such bad 34 jars,
those when they are filled are 35 completed.32
Because this is the judgement33 36 that has come (26) from above, as it has
judged 2 everyone, being a drawn 3 two-edged sword that cuts in 4 either
side, since the Word 5 came forth in the 6 minds of those who spoke it, 7 it
was not only a sound, 8 but it became a body, 9 a great disturbance took
place among 10 the jars.
Because some were 11 emptied and some were 12 full, one half34 had been
supplied 13 the other had leaked out, 14 some had been purified and 15
others had been broken, 16 everything moved.
And they were disturbed,35 17 because they neither have basis 18 nor sta-
bility, 19 as Error is anxious, 20 not knowing what to do, 21 suffering inside,
mourning, 22 crying that it understands 23 nothing because the knowledge
24 has drawn near it, and this 25 is the destruction of Error and of 26 all
its gifts. Error is empty, because it has 27 nothing inside!
The Truth 28 appeared, all its gifts 29 recognised it, 30 they greeted the
Father in truth and 31 power, which is complete and 32 unites them with
The text appears to be corrupted. mou"ETH; according to Crum 1939 208b has a
number of adequate meanings. The most common is "full," but it can also characterise
a valuable coin, meaning "sterling." Yet another possibility is "wide open" as for instance
about sleeves of a garment. Consequently, mh"ETH; can mean "filled," "valid" or open." As we
on page 26 have a contrast between full and emptied jars I prefer the first interpretation
with an underlying Gnostic pun, those who belong to the fullness are complete. It also
resembles page 36 where the full jars are completed by the ointment. Therefore, I emend
the text to neteyaumh"ETH;yau"Ntilde;akou .
The imagery of the good and bad jars from the previous passage is elaborated on. The
sword divides two groups, one of them belongs to the church and constitutes the body of
"Ntilde;ec Has confused many. I follow Layton"s suggestion (2004, p. 144],
and treat it as
a form of the Sahidic qoc , which means half. This is yet another example of Bohairisms
in the GospTruth, (Crum 1939, "sect;832a). But in contrast to Layton (1987) I do not treat
it as complementary information to the preceding word "full," but to the following one.
In this way one half of the jars are full, supplied and purified, whereas the other half is
emptied, has leaked out and is broken. This makes good sense with the good and bad
jars on page 25, the description of the judgement in terms of the two-edged sword in the
previous passage and the destruction of Error"s gifts and the rejoice of the gifts of the
Truth in the following passages.
It would have been natural to omit "and"
and continue the line of thought with an
asyndeton. However, "and" signals a break in the text. Moreover, the focus shifts to Error
and its gifts only. The past tense is replaced by the present one that makes it probable
that "Error" and "they" refer to people outside of the community, and who still
are anxious because of the knowledge that has undermined Error.
On the contrary, it made him glad, for instead of such bad jars, those good
ones, when they are filled they also become completed.
This is the judgement that has come (26) from above as a drawn two-edged
sword that cuts in either side. It has judged everyone. Because when the
Word that was in the minds of those who spoke it, when it appeared, it was
not only a sound but a body as well. Because of this judgement the jars
Some were emptied and some were full, half of them had been supplied and
the other half had leaked out, some had been purified and the others had
been broken, therefore, the jars moved.
And they trembled, because they neither have basis nor stability, since Error
is anxious, does not know what to do, suffers inside, mourns, and cries that
it understands nothing, because the knowledge has already approached it,
and indeed, this is the destruction of Error and of all its gifts. Error is empty
because it has nothing inside!
The Truth appeared, all its gifts recognised it. They greeted the Father in
complete truth and power, which unites them with the Father.
110 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
33 For everyone who loves the 34 Truth, because the Truth is the Father"s
mouth, his 35 tongue is the 36 Holy Spirit that joins itself to (27) the Truth,
he joins 2 himself to the Father"s mouth 3 through his tongue, he will 4
receive the Holy Spirit.
5 Since he (this) is the revelation of the Father, 6 and the uncovering of him
7 to his Eternal ones, he revealed 8 his secret, and unloosened himself. 9
For who is the one who contains, 10 if not the Father himself? 11 All are
his gifts. 12 They have known him, because they have come forth from 13
him, just as 14 children from an 15 adult.
They knew that they 16 not yet had 17 received form, nor been 18 given
name. When the Father begets 19 each person, 20 then, they receive form by
his 21 knowledge. Otherwise, they would be 23 in him 20 without knowing
24 But the Father is adult, he knows 25 everything that is in him. 26 When
he wishes, 27 he reveals what he wishes, 28 as he gives it form and 29 as he
gives it name. And he gives it name 30 and he 31 causes it to make them
come into being.
32 Those who not yet have come into being 33 are ignorant of the one who
has fashioned them. 34 Now, I do not say that they are 35 nothing, those
who not yet have 36 come into being, rather, they exists (28) in him who
will wish so that they 2 come into being 3 when he wishes.
Just as in 4 the time that is to come, 5 before everything that yet not has
appeared, 6 he knows what he will bring 7 forth. But the fruit that has 8
not yet appeared 9 knows nothing, nor does it 10 do anything.
In this way 11 everything that exists 12 also is in the Father, but on the other
hand, 13 they derive from the Existent, 14 the one who has 15 established
it from the nonexistent. 16 Because he who has no 17 root, also has no 18
fruit.36 19 On the contrary, even though he thinks 20 "I exist" yet he 21 will
be loosened up by himself. 22 Therefore, 23 everything that has not existed
at all also will not 24 exist.
Now, what does he wish 25 him to think of himself? "I 26 am like 27 the
shadows and phantoms of 28 the night." When the light 29 shines on the
fear 30 that lays upon such person, 31 he understands that it (he) is 32
Some letters of "fruit" are uncertain but putting them in
square brackets would overem-
phasise the uncertainty.
The Truth is the Father"s mouth and his tongue is the Holy Spirit. Accord-
ingly, each one who loves the Truth has joined himself to (27) the Father"s
mouth. In this way will each one receive the Holy Spirit through the Father"s
Since Jesus is the revelation of the Father, and the uncovering of him to
his Eternal ones, the Father revealed his secret, and unloosened himself.
For who is the one who contains, if not the Father himself? All are his
gifts. They have known him, because they have come forth from him, just
as children from an adult.
They knew that they not yet had received their form or name, since when
the Father begets them, they receive form by his knowledge. If it was in
another way they would be in the Father without knowing him. But the
Father is adult and knows everything that is in him. When he wishes, he
reveals what he wishes by giving it form and name. And by naming them
he causes them come into being.
Those who not yet have come into being are ignorant of the one who has
fashioned them. Now, I do not say that those who not yet have come into
being are nothing. But I say that they exist (28) in the Father who will
wish so that they come into being when he wishes. The Father knows in
advance everything that he will bring forth. But the fruit that has not yet
appeared knows nothing and is fruitless. So on the one hand, everything
that exists also is in the Father, but on the other hand, they derive from the
Existent one who has established them from what does not exist. Because
he who has no root, also has no fruit. On the contrary, even though he
thinks "I exist" yet he will be loosened up by himself. Therefore, everything
that has not existed at all also will not exist.
Now, what does the Father wish a person who has not yet come into being to
think of himself? This: "I am like the shadows and phantoms of the night."
When the light shines on the fear that covers such person, he understands
that the fear is nothing.
112 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
Because37 in this way they were 33 ignorant of the Father, as it was him
whom they (29) did not see, because there was 2 fear, disturbance, 3 in-
stability, 4 doubt and 5 division, there were many 6 illusions at work by
means 7 of these and uninstructed 8 foolishness, just as when 9 one falls
sound asleep 10 and finds oneself in 11 disturbing dreams, either 12 fleeing
to anywhere or 13 without strength coming from having persecuted 14 oth-
ers, or being involved in striking blows or 15 receiving blows, falling from 16
heights or 17 being drawn up by the 18 wind without even having 19 wings,
20 sometimes it is also as if someone is 21 murdered without even being 22
persecuted, or 23 killing one"s neighbours 24 because one is smeared with
25 blood, until the 26 time when those 27 who have gone through 28 all
these things wake up, 29 those who are in 30 these disturbances, they can
see nothing, 31 since thus these things are nothing. 32 In this way are these
persons (things)! 33 This is the way of those who have cast 34 off ignorance
35 as sleep, 36 as they do not 37 esteem it because it is nothing, nor do they
esteem its (30) other works as 2 real works, rather 3 they put them aside
as a 4 dream of the night, and the knowledge 5 of the Father they deem as
the 6 dawn!
This is the way 7 each person has acted, 8 as though asleep at the time 9
when he was ignorant. 10 And this is the way he will 11 come to stand up,
as if 12 he had awakened, and good for 13 the man who will return and 14
awaken and 15 blessed is the one who opened the eyes of the 16 blind!
17 And the quick spirit ran after him 18 in order to raise him 19 up. It gave
the hand to him who lay 20 upon the 21 ground so that he became strong
enough to stand on 22 his feet, for indeed, he had 23 not yet risen!
The knowledge 24 from the Father and the 25 revelation of his Son gave
them 26 means to understand. 27 For when they saw him (it) and 28 heard
him (it), he (it) gave them so that they 29 could taste him (it), and 30 smell
him (it), and touch the beloved Son. 31 When he (it) had become revealed,
it is about 32 the Father, the incomprehensible, that he (it) 33 teaches them.
When he (it) had breathed in them 34 what is in the Father"s thought, it is
his 35 will that he (it) does. When 36 many had become enlightened, they
turned to him.
It is always difficult to make a precise numbering of the lines and at the same time
produce a readable translation, but here it is especially difficult. Thus, the line numbers
should be taken as indications and nothing else.
(29) Those persons were ignorant of the Father, as the Father was shrouded.
Because of fear, disturbance, instability, doubt, division and uninstructed
foolishness there were many illusions at work. It is just as when one falls
sound asleep and finds oneself in disturbing dreams, either fleeing to any-
where, or exhausted returning after having persecuted others in hand-to-
hand combat, falling from heights or being drawn up by the wind without
even having wings. And sometimes it also is as if someone is murdered with-
out even being persecuted or killing one"s neighbours as one is smeared with
blood. Because these persons were ignorant of the Father until they have
gone through all these things and woken up, and as the Father was shrouded
by fear, those who are in these disturbances can see nothing because these
things are nothing. Such are these persons! This is the way of those who
have cast off ignorance as it was sleep. They do not esteem it because it is
nothing, nor do they esteem its (30) other works as real works. But they
put these works aside as a dream of the night, and the knowledge of the
Father they deem as the dawn!
This is the way each person has acted. When he was ignorant, he was as
sleeping, and he will come to stand up, as if he had awakened. Good for the
man who will return and awaken! And blessed is the one who opened the
eyes of the blind! The Spirit hastened to him in order to raise him up. It
stretched out its hand to him who lay upon the ground so that he became
strong enough to stand on his feet, for indeed, he had not yet risen!
The knowledge from the Father and the revelation of his Son gave them
means to understand. For when they saw and heard him, he granted them
so that they could taste, and smell and touch the beloved Son. When he
had become revealed, he instructs them about the incomprehensible Father.
And when he had breathed in to them what is in the Father"s thought, he
made the Father"s will. When many had become enlightened, they turned
114 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
Because the material ones (31) are foreign, 2 and they did not see his image,
3 they had not even recognized him (it), 4 because it was 5 by means of a
fleshly 6 form he had come forth, no one had been able to block 7 his way,
because 8 incorruptibility means 9 unseizability.38 .
Again 10 in a new way he tells 11 what he already had told about what is
in the Father"s intellect. As he 12 had brought forth the 13 flawless Word,
since the 14 light and 15 his voice that 16 gave birth to life had spoken
through his mouth, he gave them 17 thought and intelligence 18 and mercy
and salvation and the 19 powerful spirit from 20 the Father"s infinity and
21 By having made punishments 22 and tortures cease, because 23 they led
certain others who were 24 short of mercy astray from his face into 25 Error
and bondage, with 26 power he unchained them 27 and reproved them by
28 He became a 29 way for those that had gone astray, 30 and knowledge
for those who were 31 ignorant, a 32 discovery for those who had searched,
and 33 stability for those who had trembled, 34 purity for those who were
35 defiled, since it is he who is the shepherd 36 who left behind the (32)
ninety-nine sheep that had not gone astray. 2 He came and searched for the
one who had gone 3 astray and rejoiced when he 4 found it, for ninety-nine
is 5 a number that 6 remains in the left hand. 7 But the time when the
one will be found, the 8 entire number 9 passes to the right. In this way,
10 what such one needs, this is 11 what the entire right needs, 12 which it
draws from what has become deficient, and the right 13 receives it from 14
the left side, 15 in this way, the 16 number becomes hundred.
The symbol of their 17 sound is the Father. 18 Even on the Sabbath, when
he had 19 found the sheep that had fallen into 20 a pit, he worked over 21
the sheep, kept it alive when he had carried it up from 22 the pit, in order
that you 23 intellectually will understand what the 24 Sabbath is, when it
is not fitting for 25 the salvation to be idle, 26 in order that you will speak
out 27 of the day, which is from above, this 28 that has no night, 29 and
out of the light that does not 30 set because it is perfect!
Other translations have rendered the initial "because"
"Ntilde;e in an unspecific manner. In
my translation it is taken up in 31.6. The two auw in 31.2 and 31.3 makes sense if they
are treated as a Greek ka"Egrave; ka"Egrave; "and"mdash; even."
(31) Because the material ones were not able to see his image, nor could
they even recognise him, as he appeared in a fleshly form. Consequently,
the material ones were foreign to Jesus no one could block his way, because
incorruptibility is unseizability!
In a new way, Jesus again told what he already had told about what is in
the Father"s intellect. As he 12 had brought forth the 13 flawless Word,
since the 14 light and 15 his voice that 16 gave birth to life had spoken
through his mouth, he gave them 17 thought and intelligence 18 and mercy
and salvation and the 19 powerful spirit from 20 the Father"s infinity and
Punishments and tortures led astray certain persons who were short of
mercy, so that they went from the Father"s face into error and bondage.
Therefore, the Father made punishments and tortures cease, and with power
he unchained these persons and reproved them by knowledge.
He became a way for those that had gone astray, and knowledge for those
who were ignorant, a discovery for those who had searched, and stability
for those who had trembled, purity for those who were defiled, since it is he
who is the shepherd who left behind the (32) 99 sheep and searched for the
one who had gone astray. He rejoiced when he found it, for 99 is a number
expressed with a gesture of the left hand. But when the one is found, the
sum total transfers to the right hand. In this way the thing that is in need
of 1, namely the whole right hand, draws what is missing, and takes it from
the left-hand so that it transfers to the right hand. And thus the number
Their cry means "Father." He found the sheep that had fallen into a pit.
Even on the Sabbath he worked over it and lifted it. When he had carried
it up from the pit, he kept it alive. This was in order that you interiorly
will understand what the Sabbath is. It is the day when it is not fitting for
the salvation to be idle. And the Father made this in order that you might
speak out of the day, which is from above and has no night. And that you
might speak out of the light that does not set because it is perfect!
116 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
31 Now, speak out of intellect because 32 you are the day that is 33 perfect,
and the light 34 that does not set dwells in you. 35 Speak about the truth
together with those who search 36 for it, and the knowledge for those who
37 have sinned in their error. 38 You are the children of the intellectual 39
understanding. (33) Make steady the feet of 2 those who have stumbled,
and stretch out your 3 hands to those who are sick, feed those 4 who are
hungry, and to those who are 5 weary give repose, to those who are 6 awake,
and so wish, 7 raise them up, awaken those who are 8 asleep, for it is you
who are the 9 unsheathed intelligence. If the strength becomes like this, it
10 truly strengthens!
11 Pay attention to 12 yourselves. Do not pay attention to 13 others (other
things), that is, those you have 14 discarded. To what you 15 have vomited
forth do not return in order to 16 eat it. Do not be 17 moth-eaten. Do
not be worm-eaten, for you have already 18 cast it off. 19 Do not become
20 a place for the Devil, for you have 21 already defeated him. 22 Do not
add strength to your impediments "iexcl;for"iquest; those 23 who fall, because it is a
support. 24 For the 25 lawless person will do no more wrong than the lawful
person. For the 26 former 27 does his works because he is 28 lawless. But
the latter, because he is 29 "lawful," does 30 his works among others. 31
Now, do the Father"s will 32 because you are from him! 33 For the Father
is sweet and 34 in his will is goodness 35 he has known what belongs to
36 you in order that you might receive 37 rest. For from the 38 fruits they
know to whom you 39 belong.
Because the Father"s children (34)) are his fragrance, because they come
forth 2 from the grace of his 3 face, therefore, the Father loves his 4 fragrance
and he reveals it 5 everywhere And when it mingles 6 with matter, he gives
his fragrance 7 to the light, and through his silence he causes 8 it to exceed
every form "iexcl;and"iquest; every 9 sound. For it is not the ears that 10 smell the
fragrance, rather it is 11 the Spirit that smells the 12 fragrance, and it
draws it to itself for 13 itself, and it sinks 14 into the Father"s fragrance and
thus shelters 15 it "iexcl;and"iquest; takes it to the place from 16 which it has come
forth, 17 out from the first fragrance, which 18 has grown cold, and39 it is
a 19 soul-endowed delusion, being is 20 just as water 21 that has frozen.
Having sunk, it is like earth that 22 is not solid, that when those who 23
see it suppose that it is 24 earth.
Normally the text has been interpreted as oueei "ETH;nn but it makes more sense to
treat it as the northern Egyptian conjunction oueei"ETH;nn.
Now, speak out of intellect because you are the day that is perfect, and the
light that does not set dwells in you. Speak about the truth together with
those who search for it and the knowledge for those who have sinned in their
error. You are the children of the interior understanding. (33) Make steady
the feet of those who have stumbled, and stretch out your hands to those
who are sick, feed those who are hungry, and to those who are weary give
repose, to those who are awake, and so wish, raise them up, awaken those
who are asleep, for it is you who are the unsheathed intelligence. If the
strength becomes like this, it truly strengthens!
Pay attention to yourselves. Do not pay attention to "those others" that
you have discarded. Do not return in order to eat what you have vomited
forth. Do not be corrupted and worm-eaten, for you have already cast it off.
Do not become a dwelling-place for the Devil for you have already defeated
him. Remove your stumbling-block! Because for those who fall, the removal
would be a support. For the lawless person will do no more wrong than the
lawful person. For the former does his works because he is lawless. But the
latter, because he is "lawful," does his works among "the others."
Now, because you are from the Father, do the Father"s will. For the Father
is sweet and in his will is goodness. He has had knowledge of what belongs
to you in order that you might receive rest. For from your fruits people will
know to whom you belong.
The Father"s children (34) are his fragrance, and they come forth from the
grace of his face. For these reasons, the Father loves his fragrance and he
reveals it everywhere.
When the fragrance mingles with matter, the Father enlightens the fra-
grance. And through his silence he causes it to exceed every form and every
sound. For it is not the ears that smell, but the Spirit that smells the fra-
grance and draws it to itself. And the Spirit sinks into the Father"s fragrance.
In this way the Spirit shelters the fragrance and takes it to the place from
which it came forth. And the Spirit takes it out from the fragrance that first
had grown cold, and is a soul-endowed delusion. It is just as frozen water.
When the fragrance has sunk, it becomes as porous earth. Those who see it
suppose that it is earth.
118 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
Afterwards, it loosens up 25 again when it is breathed in and 26 warmed
up. Now, cold fragrances 27 are from division. 28 Therefore, Faith 29 came,
loosened up the division, 30 and brought the Fullness that 31 is warm of
love, in order that 32 the coldness should not return, 33 but the Unity of
the 34 complete thought.
This "iexcl;is"iquest; the word of the good news40 36 of the coming41 of the Fullness 37
for those who await the (35) salvation, this42 which will come 2 from above.
3 As their hope, 4 which they await, which is their image, the 5 light that
has no shadow 6 in it, awaits.
Indeed, at that time 7 the 8 Fullness was on its way while 9 the lack that
belongs to matter had not come into being. 10 Through the infinity of the
Father 11 who was coming, he43 bestowed time upon the 12 lack. Of course,
no person 13 could say in what 14 way the incorruptible would come. On
the contrary, the 15 Father"s depth 16 is immense and it is 17 not with him
that the thought 18 of Error resides. 19 It is a fallen thing. It is a thing that
can easily be made 20 upright through the discovery of him 21 who came to
that which he would 22 bring back, for the return is 23 called repentance.
24 Therefore, incorruptibility 25 breathed forth, followed 26 the one that
had sinned, in order to 27 bring him to repose. For the forgiveness is 28 the
remainder to the light in the lack, 29 the Word of Fullness!
30 For the physician hurries to the place 31 in which sickness is, since 32
that is the will that is in him. 33 Now, the deficient person does not hide 34
it (himself) since he44 has what 35 he45 needs. Thus the 36 Fullness, which
has no lack, 37 but which through itself fills the lack "iexcl;with"iquest; what (36) it
bestowed of itself to 2 the one in order that he, 3 indeed might receive grace,
because 4 when he was deficient, he did not have 5 the grace.
Therefore, 6 there was diminution, which exists 7 where there is no grace.
On pages 16-18 the Greek word peuaggelion was used, while here it is translated
I emend to "the coming" ntqinei , while others have
preferred "the discovery" that would imply the emendation mpqine .
Refers to coming.
On basis of the fragment in NHC XII.2 I emend from atn ouaeiy to af"Oacute;
The deficient person.
But when the Spirit breaths it in and warms it up, it loosens up again. Now,
cold fragrances are from division. Therefore, Faith came and brought the
Fullness that is warm of love in order that the coldness never should return
but the Unity of the complete thought should rule.
This is the account of the good news about the coming of the fullness. It is
(35) the salvation that will come from above for those who await it. Their
hope is their image and the shadowless light. They await the hope as it
awaits them. Indeed, while the lack that belongs to matter yet had not
come into being, the fullness was already on its way. Through the infinity
of the coming Father, the Father bestowed time upon the lack. Of course,
no person could say in what way the incorruptible would come. On the
contrary, the Father"s depth is immense and it is not with him that the
thought of Error resides. It is a fall, but a fall that can easily be made
upright through the discovery of him who came to that which he would
bring back, for the return is called repentance!
Therefore, incorruptibility breathed forth and followed the sinner in order
to bring him to repose. For the forgiveness is the Word of Fullness that the
light in the lack still needed.
Now, the wish of the physician is to hurry to the place in which there is
sickness in order to provide the deficient person with what is needed, and
the deficient person does not hide the deficiency for the physician. Thus the
fullness, which has no lack, through its fullness (36) bestowed the deficient
one with grace, because it was this he really needed!
Therefore, there was diminution, it occurs where there is no grace,
120 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
8 When the diminished part was received, 9 he who needed it (him) 10
appeared as Fullness 11 that is the discovery of the light 12 of the truth
that has risen upon him since it is 13 immutable.
Therefore,46 The Christ, 14 publically 15 they spoke about him in order
that47 16 those who were disturbed might return to him and that he might
anoint 17 them with the ointment. This ointment is 18 the mercy of the
Father who will have mercy 19 on them. And those whom he anointed are
those who 20 have become completed. 21 For full jars are 22 ointed. And
whenever 23 the ointment of one48 is ruined 24 it leaks open, and 25 the
cause of the deficiency is the thing 26 by which the ointment goes, 27 for
at that time, 28 a breath and49 29 the power that belongs to it draws it
out.50 30 But from that which is 31 not deficient no seal is 32 removed nor
is anything emptied, 33 but what he lacks, the 34 perfect Father fills again.
35 He is good. He knows his 36 plantings because it is he who 37 planted
them in his paradise, 38 and the paradise 39 is his place of repose. This
(37) is the completion in 2 the Father"s thought, 3 and they are the words
of his meditation. 4 Each of his words 5 is the work of 6 his will and the
revelation of 7 his speaking. Since when they constituted the 8 depth of his
thought, the Word, 9 which first came forth, revealed them and a 10 mind
that 11 speaks the word and51 12 a silent grace. They called it (him) 13
"the thought," since they 14 dwelled in it without becoming revealed.
15 Now, it happened that 16 it first came forth, when it 17 pleased the will
of 18 him who willed. 19 And the will is what the Father 20 rests in, and 21
is pleased with. Nothing happens 22 without it (him) nor does 23 anything
happen without the will of 24 the Father. But his will is incomprehensible.
25 His will is his 26 imprint, and no one 27 will comprehend it nor does
he 28 exist in a way that he might be observed in order to be 29 grasped.
But 30 when he wills, what he willed 31 that is, even if 32 the sight is not
pleasing, some are nothing 33 in the presence of God"s divine 34 will.
A possible reading is "About the coming," referring
to the coming of Christ.
As Thomassen 2002 p. 116 seems to do, I emend yine that means "
seek" to yina
that means "in order that."
I read it as oueei"ETH;n "and."
The contents of the jar.
I read oueei"ETH;nn "and."
and when the one who lacked received the diminished part he appeared as
fullness. This manifestation of the fullness is the discovery of the light of
the truth that has risen upon such person since it is immutable.
Therefore, they publicly spoke about Christ in order that those who are
disturbed might return to him and be anointed. This ointment is the mercy
of the merciful Father." And Christ anointed those who had become com-
pleted. For one usually anoints full jars. Otherwise a jar would leak open
when the ointment is loosened up. The deficiency is caused by the damaged
spot through which the ointment pours out. Because when the ointment is
damaged a strong wind draws out the contents of the jar. But from the jar
which is not deficient no seal is removed nor is anything emptied. But if
anything anyway should be missing, the perfect Father fills it again.
The Father is good. He knows his plantings because it is he who planted
them in his paradise that is the Father"s place of repose. This (37) is the
completion in the Father"s thought and the plantings are the expressions of
his meditation. Each expression is the work of his will and the revelation of
his speaking. The expressions constitute the depth of the Father"s thought.
First at that time, the Word came forth. It revealed the expressions, and it
revealed a mind that pronounced the Word, and it revealed a silent grace.
The depth they called "the thought," since before they became revealed, the
expressions dwelled in the silent grace. Now, the Word was the first to
come forth from the silent grace. It was when it pleased the one who willed
it. And the will is the Father"s resting-place and what he is pleased with.
Nothing comes to pass without what pleases the Father, nor does anything
happen without the father"s will. But his will is incomprehensible and his
imprint. No one will comprehend his will nor is the Father someone who
can be observed and grasped. But when the Father wills, what he wills
becomes real even if this reality is not pleasing for some who are nothing in
the presence of God"s divine will.
122 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
For he knows the 35 beginning and the end of them all, 36 for at their end
he will question them 37 directly. And the end is the reception of knowledge
38 about the hidden, and that is the Father, (38) the one from whom the
beginning came 2 forth, the one to whom all who have come forth from him
will 3 return. 4 And they appeared, 5 glorified and 6 rejoiced in his name
7 and the Father"s name is the Son!
8 It is he who in the beginning named 9 the one who came forth from him
who indeed was, and 10 he begot him (it) as a Son. 11 He gave him his
name that 12 belonged to him. It is what belongs to 13 him as all things
that are surrounded 14 by the Father. 16 The Son it is possible to see, but
17 his name is invisible, because 18 it (he) itself (himself) is 19 the invisible
mystery 20 that comes to the ears that are 21 entirely filled with it. For 22
the Father"s name is not spoken, 23 but it IS manifest as a 24 Son. Indeed,
thus great is the name!
25 Now, who is able to utter a name for him, 26 the great name, 27 unless
he himself to whom the name belongs? 28 and the children of the name,
29 those in whom the Father"s name 30 rested, in 31 their turn themselves
rested 32 in his name?
Because the Father is 33 unengendered, he alone was 34 the one who himself
bore him as his name.
35 Before he had put the eternal 36 ones in order so that the Father"s name
might be 37 over their head as Lord, that is (39) the true name, which is
confirmed by 2 his command through perfect 3 power.
Because this name does not 4 result from words, nor does his name consist
of 5 acts of naming, 6 but his name is invisible. 7 He alone named him,
8 since he alone sees him 9 who himself 10 is the one who is able to name
11 Because what does not 12 exist has no name, 13 for what name would
be given to him, 14 "the one who is nonexistent?" 15 but the one who exists,
16 exists together with his name as well, 17 he alone knows 18 him, and he
alone is able to name 19 him, and his name is the 20 Son! Now, he did not
hide 22 it in this event, 23 but it (he) existed, 24 the Son named himself.
Indeed, the name belongs to the Father, 25 just as the 26 Father"s name is
the Son, the innermost part of him.
For the Father knows the beginning and the end of them all. For at their
end the Father will question them directly. And the end is the reception of
knowledge about the hidden that is the Father, (38) the one from whom
the beginning came forth. Everyone who came forth from him will return to
him. And those who came forth from him appeared, glorified and rejoiced
in his name. And the Father"s name is the Son!
In the beginning the Father named the one that came forth from him, and
who indeed already was, the Father begot him as a Son. He gave him his
name that belonged to him. It is what belongs to him as all things that are
surrounded by the Father. To him belongs the name. To him belongs the
Son. The Son can be seen, but the name is invisible because it itself is the
invisible mystery that comes to the ears that are entirely filled with it. For
the Father"s name is not spoken, but it manifests itself as a Son. Indeed,
thus great is the name!
Now, who is able to utter a name for him, the great name, unless he himself
to whom the name belongs? And who are able to utter it unless the children
of the name in whom the Father"s name rested, and who in turn themselves
rested in his name? Because the Father is unengendered, he alone was the
one who himself bore him as his name. Before he had put the Eternal ones
in order so that the Father"s name might be over their head as Lord, that
is (39) the true name, which is confirmed by his command through perfect
Because this name is no result of mere words, nor does it consist of acts of
naming, but his name is invisible. He alone named him, since he alone sees
him who himself is the one who is able to name him.
What does not exist has no name, for what name would be given to him,
"the one who is nonexistent?" but the one who exists does it together with
his name as well.
Now, the Son did not hide his name in this event, but it existed in him, and
the Son named himself. Indeed, the name belongs to the Father just as the
Father"s name is the Son, the innermost part of him.
124 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
27 For where would he find a name 28 except from the Father? But no 29
doubt someone will say 30 to his neighbour: 31 "Who is it that will give a
name to him who 32 existed before him, 33 as if offspring do not receive the
name (40) from those who begot them?"
Now, 2 it is fitting for us 3 to consider what 4 thing the name 5 is. It is the
6 true name. Indeed, it is not the 7 name from the 8 parent because 9 it
is what exists as the proper name. Indeed, he did 10 not receive the name
on loan as 11 other "iexcl;names"iquest; according to the form in which 12 each one is
13 created. 14 But this is the proper name, and there is no one 15 else who
gave it to 16 him. Rather, he is 17 unnameable, ineffable52 18 until the time
when he who 19 is complete spoke of him 20 himself. And it is he who 21
has the power to utter 22 his name and to see 23 him.
Now, when it pleased 24 him that his name 25 that he loved should be his
Son. And 26 he gave the name to him, that is he 27 who came forth from
the depth. He 28 spoke about his secret things, 29 knowing that the Father
is without evil. 30 For that very reason, he brought him 31 forth in order
to speak 32 about the place, and his 32 resting-place, from which he had
come 33 forth, (41) and to glorify the Fullness, 2 the greatness of his name
and 3 the Father"s sweetness!
The place 4 that each one 5 has come forth 6 from, he will speak about it,
and the 7 region through which each one received their establishment, 8 each
one will hasten to return 9 to it, and to take from that place, the place 10
where each one 11 stood, each one receiving a taste from 12 that place, and
receiving 13 nourishment, receiving growth and their own 14 resting-place
is his Fullness.
Indeed, 15 all the Father"s gifts are 16 Fullnesses, and all his 17 gifts are
rooted in the 18 one who caused them 19 all to sprout out of him. He has
set their 20 limits.53
Now, each one is 21 revealed 22 in order that through their 23 own thought
"iexcl;"mdash;-"iquest; 24 For the place to which they send their 25 thought that place "iexcl;is"iquest; 26
their root that takes them 27 up in all the heights 28 to the Father, having
his 29 head as rest for them, 30 and they hold themselves 31 close to 32
him, as if they 33 received kisses from his face.
Emend to pe .
the word can also be translated with "destiny."
Limit is a technical term that is common in Valentinianism.
For where would he find a name except from the Father?
But no doubt someone will say to his neighbour: "Who is it that will give a
name to him who existed before him, as if offspring do not receive the name
(40) from those who begot them?"
Now, it is fitting for us to consider what thing the name is. It is the true
name. Indeed, it is not the kind of name that one receives from the parent
because it is what exists as the proper name. Indeed, he did not receive the
name on loan as other names one receives according to the form in which
each one is created. But this is the proper name and there is no one 15 else
who gave it to him. Rather he is unnameable, ineffable until the time when
he who is complete spoke of him himself. And it is he who has the power to
utter his name and to see him.
Now, when it pleased him that his name that he loved should be his Son.
And he gave the name to him that came forth from the depth. He spoke
about his secret things, knowing that the Father is without evil. For that
very reason, he brought him forth in order to speak about his resting-place,
from which he had come forth, (41) and to glorify the Fullness, the greatness
of his name and the Father"s sweetness!
He will speak about the place from which each one has come forth, and about
the region through which they all received their establishment, and to which
each one will hasten to return, the place where they stood, receiving a taste
from it and nourishment and growth. This is their own resting-place, his
Indeed, all the Father"s gifts are Fullnesses that are rooted in the one who
caused them to sprout. He has set their limits.
Now, each one is revealed in order that through their own thought "iexcl;"mdash;-"iquest; For
the place to which they send their thought that place is their root that takes
them up in all the heights to the Father, having his head as rest for them,
they hold themselves close to him, as if they received kisses from his face.
126 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONS
But they are not manifested (42) in such manner 2 because they have
exalted themselves, 3 nor have they diminished the glory of the 4 Father,
nor did they think of him 5 as small, nor that he is harsh 6 nor that he is
wrathful, rather that he is without 7 evil, imperturbable, 8 sweet, knowing
8 everything before it has come into being, and 10 he does not need to be
This is the manner of 12 those to whom the 13 heavenly things of the 14
immeasurable greatness belong, as they 15 strain towards the unity itself,
16 and the complete one who is 17 there for them.
And they do not go down 18 to Hades, nor have they 19 envy nor 20
groaning nor death within 21 them, on the contrary, they rest 22 in him
who is at 23 rest, not striving nor being 24 entangled in the 25 26 search for
truth, rather it is what they themselves are, the truth! And the Father 27 is
within them, and 28 they are in the Father, being 29 completed, undivided
30 in the truly good one, imparting no 31 defect to anything, but rather 32
imparting repose and being fresh in 33 spirit. And it is to their 34 root that
they will listen, concerned with 35 things in which he might find his root,
36 and not damage his 37 soul. This is the place of the 38 blessed. This is
39 their place.
Now, may the rest (43) understand in their own places that 2 it is not fitting
for me 3 for I have been in the place of repose, 4 to speak about other
things, but it54 that I 5 shall be in, 6 continually being concerned with the
Father of the 7 All and of the 8 true brothers, upon whom the 9 Father"s
love is poured out, and in whose midst there is no 10 lack of him, 11 those
who 12 truly and obviously are in 13 the true and eternal life.
And 14 they speak of the light that is 15 perfect and filled of 16 the Father"s
seed and of 17 what is in his intellect and 18 Fullness.
His spirit rejoices 19 in it,55 and it glorifies 20 him in what it is. 21 For he
"iexcl;is"iquest; good,56 and his children are 22 complete and 23 worthy of his name.
For indeed, such are the 24 children that the Father loves.
The place of repose or the Fullness.
A pe has to be added in order to construe a nominal clause.
But they are not manifested (42) in such manner because they have exalted
themselves, nor because they have diminished the glory of the Father, or
thought of him as small, harsh or wrathful. On the contrary, they think
that he is without evil, imperturbable, sweet, knowing everything before it
has come into being and without need to be instructed.
This is the manner of those to whom the heavenly things of the immeasurable
greatness belong, as they strain towards the unity itself, and towards the
complete one who is there for them.
And they do not go down to Hades, nor have they envy, or groaning or death
within themselves. On the contrary, they rest in him who is at rest, not
striving nor being entangled in the search for truth, it is they themselves
who are the truth! And the Father is within them, and they are in the
Father, being completed, undivided in the truly good one, they impart no
defect to anything. On the contrary, they impart repose as they are fresh
in spirit. And it is to their root that they will listen, concerned with things
in which he might find his root not damaging his soul. This is the place of
the blessed. This is their place.
Now, may the rest (43) understand in their own places that it is not fitting
for me who has been in the place of repose to speak about other things. I will
only speak about the place in which I shall be, continually being concerned
with the Father of the All and of the true brothers, upon whom the Father"s
love is poured out, and in whose midst there is no lack of him, those who
truly and obviously are in the true and eternal life.
And they speak of the light that is perfect, filled of the Father"s seed and of
what is in his intellect and Fullness.
His spirit rejoices in the Fullness, and it glorifies him in what it is. For he
is good, and his children are complete and worthy of his name. For indeed,
such are the children that the Father loves.
128 CHAPTER 4. TRANSLATIONSChapter 5
The Gospel of Truth and
As was stated in the first chapter, an investigation of the nature of the
Saviour"s body and of the soteriology of the GospTruth are important issues
when we want to make clear whether the GospTruth should be placed in the
eastern Valentinian framework. In order to carry out such an investigation
on relatively few pages, I have chosen to analyse one central concept: "The
All." Of importance is whether "the All" is the Saviour"s body according to
the Valentinian theology described in chapter one, and whether it includes
more than one group of beings, which would make it more likely to adhere
to the eastern school. As a bonus the investigation probably will provide us
with additional information that will deepen our general understanding of
The All and earlier definitions
pthrf pterf is one of the most central concepts in the GospTruth. It
has been rendered with "the totality,"1 , "the entirety"2 and with "the All"3 .
In German and French the translations have been "das All," and "le Tout"
respectively. All these translations in a good way render the Coptic pterf
and the choice primarily is a matter of taste. Even though the translation
is fairly straightforward, and although "everything" ought to be included in
"the All," scholars have proposed different definitions of it. Thus, it is fitting
to begin with a discussion of this problem.
Literally pterf means "the everything." Even though it in the GospTruth
Attridge "" Macrae 1985a.
always occurs in the singular with the masculine definite article and suffix,
pthrf terfp it is frequently combined with verb forms in plural. It probably
reproduces the Greek to pan in singular, but also ta panta and "aring;i pantej
in plural. Thus, we have to reckon with that it both refers to a group as
a collective unity, but also to its plurality of individual members. Anyhow
it is far from clear what the concept includes. In what follows we will first
discuss some suggested definitions of "the All," and then turn to an analysis
of this problematic concept.
The maximalistic view
Grobel4 translates with "the totality of creatures." He comments as follows:
"Totality of creatures" is chosen so as to include all men
but exclude neither supernatural beings nor all created things,
though clearly persons are primarily intended, probably human.
The totality of the Eons conceivably might sometimes be meant.
The reason to include all created things in the definition depends on the
interpretation of "Ntilde;in "ETH;a8h ntkatabolh "ETH;mpthrf in 20.1-2. I
render it with "From before the foundation of all things." Even though pterf
occurs in 20.2, there are reasons to assume that it refers to something else
than the same expression in 17.5 does. In the Sahidic New Testament the
combination of "Ntilde;in and katabolh occurs in Mathew 25:34, Luke 11:50,
Hebrews 4:3, 9:26 and Revelations 13:8 17:8.6 The combination of "ETH;a8h
and katabolh occurs in John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20. In
all these examples katabolh is followed by Kocmoc "world." Conse-
quently, it is unlikely that the author of the GospTruth would have used
these expressions if simply the creation of the spiritual beings was intended.
On the other hand it would not be surprising if the users of the GospTruth
hesitated to utilize a word as kocmoc. If, kosmos had been used it would
probably have led the thoughts solely to the material world. Due to the
anticosmic tendency that is stronger in the GospTruth than for instance in
the TripTrac7 the use of kocmoc is avoided. On 21.1-2 both the spiritual
and material universe might be included. Normally however, pterf refers to
an actor with consciousness and ability to act8 that has need of the Father.9
Grobel 1960, p. 39.
The electronic Sahidic New Testament from Packhard Humanities Institute.
See the discussion regarding Error on pages 87-92.
For instance 17.5.
For instance 18.35, 19.9 and 21.10.
THE ALL AND EARLIER DEFINITIONS 131
pterf is made by the Father10 and it has been fashioned by him.11 Even
though pterf is inside of the Father12 it has come forth from him.13 In the
GospTruth The Father and his offspring are contrasted with the material
sphere that belongs to Error.14 It is therefore unlikely that the All that
belongs to the spiritual sphere of the Father also would include material
things. Accordingly, the pterf in 20.2 with regard to the form is equivalent
to the term in for instance 17.5, but the terms refer to different entities. On
this ground I translate them differently, and 20.2 will not be included in the
analysis of the All.
Therefore we have to determine when pterf denotes an actor with needs and
consciousness, and when other uses of the same term are applied.
pterf in 25.22 is a difficult case. I have rendered it with "the All" although
"everything" also would be a good choice. In 28.23 the reference is very
general and is thus translated with "everything."
To sum up, Grobel"s maximalistic definition of pterf seems to be too wide,
as I in a few cases when the concept seems to refer to something without
consciousness have to use other translations than "the All."
The minimalistic view
Ludin Jansen15 puts forward what will be referred to as the minimalistic
view. He suggests that "the All" refers to the spiritual spark in human
beings.16 . His argumentation runs as follows: 1. The Father created the
all. 2. The completion of the All is inside of the Father.17 From this Ludin
Jansen concludes that the All is an imperfect creation18 with its perfection
inside of the Father. In a "fall" one part became alienated from the Father,
whereas another part remained in the Father"s harmony. In this way "the
All" simultaneously exists inside and outside of the Father.19 Ludin Jansen"s
suggestion raises a crucial problem. What is the difference of "the All" inside
of the Father compared with "the all" outside of him? For the moment we
leave this question pending in order to return to it later in this chapter.
17.6, 18.34, 19.8.
Ludin Jansen 1968, pp. 115-118.
Ludin Jansen 1968, p. 118.
Ludin Jansen 1968, p. 116.
17.5-7 and 22.24-26.
The intermediate view
What I call the "intermediate view" was put forward by Layton who defines
"the All" in the following way: "it refers especially to spiritual reality as
alienated from its source."20 With this definition "the All" is not restricted
to mankind. In this manner it is closer to "the maximalistic view." However,
as the "minimalistic view" it stresses the alienation, although Ludin Jansen
in his attempt expressed it as imperfection. We now leave the survey of
earlier definitions and turn to an analysis of "the All" in order to find a more
precise understanding of this concept.
The birth of the All in two steps
In 17.4 a protological myth begins in which "the All" appears for the first
time.21 From 17.4-18 we can draw the following conclusions:
"bull; The All had come forth from the Father and it went about searching
"bull; The state of ignorance of the Father brought anguish and fear that
"bull; As a result Error gained dominion and in futility produced a substitute
for the Truth.
"bull; But in addition we are told that the All was inside of the Father.
"bull; The Father"s magnificent nature made it impossible for the All to
Of the five above given items, the first three relates to the All in an alienated
state. The All is able to understand that there is someone for whom it is
worth searching. This presupposes individuation on the part of the All,
and simultaneously a longing for and need of unification with the Father.
The individuation occurs when the all comes forth from its source. Item
four and five, probably describes a condition of symbiosis and/or potential
existence. The symbiotic state is described as being "inside" of the Father,
which is contrasted with the condition of having come forth from him. In
addition to the contrast between being inside versus being outside of the
Father, another pattern has to be taken into consideration.
Layton 1987, p. 253.
For a detailed discussion of the philological problems that are related to this passage
see pages 65-73.
THE BIRTH OF THE ALL IN TWO STEPS 133
In the GospTruth two ways of obtaining knowledge about the Father are
described. The Father"s children get to know him when they are born by
him.22 Before they are born, they lack "form" morfh and "name" ren.
When the Father wishes he begets his children and thereby brings knowledge
to them.23 In the same context this birth is also called revelation. As being
in a womb those who are unborn are hidden in the Father. Thus, the
unbegotten are in a formless and nameless state that is characterised by
ignorance. If we apply these ideas on the All we can deduce that while it is
inside of the Father, it is ignorant, nameless and formless. In this state the
Father knows the All that yet only has potential existence.24 Those with
potential existence are distinguished from those who are excluded from the
All since they do not exist, and in other words are products of illusions.25
This depends on that it is the Father who is the source of all kinds of
existence.26 Therefore, the All that has come forth from the Father without
obtaining knowledge is described in another way than those who do not exist
at all. Since the All is rooted in the Father it exists, but its existence is like
a nightmare. The Father wants those who live in this terrifying condition
to wake up and see the unreality of the illusions.27
From these observations we draw the following conclusions:
"bull; Those who are born in accordance with the Father"s will know him
and receive form and name by him.
"bull; But those who still dwell within the Father28 are ignorant until they
"bull; But before the All came forth, however, it was equipped with enough
intellect that it could know that it needed to search for the Father.
In 18.31-19.16 one part of the All that is called the completion p"Ntilde;wk is
kept within the Father, while the All has already come forth. The All seems
to be like a child that not yet fully has come out of the womb. The process
of giving birth is delayed because the Father wants the All to return to him
with knowledge and completion. Probably, the All first has to know itself
as a separate entity before it knows its root. Thus, the birth is completed
according to the Father"s will when the whole process of gradually increased
knowledge has taken place.
With this in mind we have an opportunity to understand a passage that
long has puzzled scholars.
Since he (Jesus) knew29 that his death is life for many30 just
as in the case of a will before it is opened, the fortune of the
deceased master of the house is concealed, and just as in the
case of the All that was concealed, as the Father of the All was
invisible, even though the All had come forth from him, the one
from whom everything comes forth, therefore Jesus appeared,
clothed himself in that book, was nailed to a tree, and published
the edict of the Father on the cross. 32
mphei enta"ETH;mou mprhte de mpthrf ete nef"ETH;hp erepiwt
mpthrf o na"ETH;oratoc eoueei abal n"ETH;htf pe peei ete-
yaremaeit nim abal "ETH;itootf etbe peei afouan"ETH;abal nqi ihc afqalef mpi"Ntilde;wme etmmeu auaftf auye aftwqe
mpdiatagma abal nte piwt "ETH;i pectroc
Thus Jesus" death on the cross uncovers "the All that was concealed." I
assume that this All is the unbegotten All that was inside of the Father in
17.6-7. In the actual passage, the main problem is in what way we under-
stand erepiwt mpthrf o na"ETH;oratoc eoueei abal n"ETH;htf pe
peei eteyaremaeit nim ei abal "ETH;itootf . The first clause is
either causal or temporal. In order to keep this ambiguity I render it with
"as the Father of the All was invisible." But the following clause eoueei
abal n"ETH;htf represents the main difficulty in our passage. As Layton33
I let oueei refer to the concealed All. But the converter in eoueei Layton
probably takes as causal, while Schenke and I treat it as conditional, "even
... so war auch das All verborgen, solange der Vater des Alls
fcaune "Ntilde;e pimou ntootf ouwn"ETH; n"ETH;a"ETH;pe is in the present tense. I treat it
as a historical present.
This clause has always been subordinated to the preceding text, and that is a perfectly
reasonable construal of the syntax. But if we in accordance with my translation subor-
dinate the initial clause to the final part of the actual passage, we obtain the following
connection: "Since he (Jesus) knew that his death is life for many ... therefore Jesus
appeared, clothed himself in that book, was nailed to a tree, and published the edict of
the Father on the cross." Then, in a parenthetical manner the intermediate text expounds
on the initial clause, and simultaneously prepares the audience for the final part of the
paragraph. This construal resembles the one in 17.4-18.31 .
1987, p. 255.
THE BIRTH OF THE ALL IN TWO STEPS 135
unsichtbar blieb, obgleich es doch etwas ist, das aus ihm stammt,
(aus) ihm, durch den jeder Weg kommt.34
With my construal of the syntax we reach a similar contrast as in 17.5-7, in
which we had the All that had come forth from the Father, and the All that
dwelt within him. The logic would be that the Father was invisible for the All
as long as the All within him is hidden. When the hidden All has emanated
from the Father, it may see the Father and know him. At the same time the
Father of the All was invisible for the All that already had come forth from
him. Of course this All that errs in the fog of fear and anguish cannot see
the Father. With this understanding, I let "...as the Father of the All was
invisible, the All had come forth from him" get its tense from the preterit in
ete nef"ETH;hp "that was concealed."35 Schenke and Attridge "" MacRae also
extend the tense from the preterit, but only to the first of these two clauses.
"solange der Vater des Alls unsichtbar blieb."36 But why the two clauses
should differ in tense remains unclear. With the preterit use the following
habitual: peei eteyaremaeit nim ei abal "ETH;itootf "the one
from whom everything comes forth"37 becomes meaningful. It describes an
ongoing process of emanation. The appearance of the All is not restricted
to a past time. This function of the habitual is clear when contrast it with
the preceding preterit constructions.
With Layton"s translation the meaning of the text becomes obscure:
- Since the father of the entirety is invisible - and the entirety
derives from him, from whom every way emanated - Jesus ap-
peared, wrapped himself in that document, was nailed to a piece
of wood, and published the father"s edict upon the cross. -38
With this translation it is hard to see the point that is made of that the All
derives from the Father.
Attridge "" MacRae treat oueei as an indefinite pronoun,39 which they
reproduce with "something., But from the context it is obvious that they
anyway let it refer to the hidden All.
... so (it is) with the totality, which lay hidden while the
Father of the totality was invisible, being something which is
from him, from whom every space comes forth. For this reason
Schenke 2001, p. 35.
"As long as the Father of the All remained invisible." For Attridge"s "" MacRae"s
translation see below.
Layton 1987, p. 255.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, p. 59.
Jesus appeared; he put on that book; he was nailed to a tree; he
published the edict of the Father on the cross.40
An interesting attempt is put forward by Thomassen in his fairly free Nor-
...slik var Altet skjult sa lenge Altets Far var usynlig - for han
som alle rom utgar fra, stammer bare fra seg selv.41
In English the translation would be:
...Just as the All was hidden, as long as the Father of the all
was invisible - since he, from whom all spaces come forth, derives
from himself alone.
Thomassen lets eoueei abal n"ETH;htf refer to the invisible Father and
thereby achieves a three member nominal construal. It has the advantage
of that oueei refers to the nearest preceding noun. But nonetheless, it
remains unclear why the Father"s emanation out of himself should be the
reason for his invisibility, and nowadays Thomassen sides with my construal
of the syntax.42
To sum up, 20.13-27 concerns the birth of the All that was inside of the Fa-
ther. When the concealed All has appeared the Father no longer is invisible.
It makes it likely that the concealed All within the Father is a part of the
All that already has come forth from him. This also fits well with what was
told in 18.31-19.16. In that context the part that was inside of the Father
was not called the concealed All, but the completion of it.
The disclosure of the All, and of the Father as well, takes place when Jesus
wraps himself in the edict in which the All was hidden. In the GospTruth
this edict normally is called "the living book of the living," and in order to
understand the constitution of the All we now turn to an investigation of
The living book of the living
The first time that "The living book of the living" appears is in 19.34-35.
It was disclosed in the intellect of the "little children."43 To these children
belonged the knowledge of the Father, and they knew and glorified him
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 87.
Thomassen 2002, p. 106.
Oral information from Thomassen.
THE LIVING BOOK OF THE LIVING 137
when they were taught about the Father"s outward manifestation.44 But
the revelation was not merely an intellectual understanding of a message.
From the beginning the book dwelt in the Father"s thought and mind,45 but
it had to enter the empirical world for the sake of the revelation. But who
are those who come forth through the book?
The reason for the need of the manifestation of the book is expressed in a
passage that requires some philological remarks.
If that book had not come forward, no one could have ap-
peared through those who had been entrusted with the salvation.
empelaue youan"ETH;abal "ETH;n neei ntaun"ETH;outou apiou"Ntilde;eei
enempefei etmhte nqi pi"Ntilde;wwme etmmeu.
Even if there are some minor problems in this passage, it is sufficient to
focus on the crucial ones. Does mpelaue mean "no one" or "nothing?"
and what does ntaun"ETH;outou mean?
n"ETH;out comes from na"ETH;te which according to Crum47 means "trust" or
"believe." "Believe" has been the normal way of translating the verb in the
GospTruth as well.48 However, this manner of translating fails to render the
suffix in n"ETH;outou that we have in the GospTruth.
In Thomassen"s translation he treats na"ETH;te as "entrust," even if he is more
free in his Norwegian translation: "dem som var utsett til frelse."49
As Crum notes the suffixal form of na"ETH;te is attested in the Achmimic
translation of 1 Clement 43:1: aou o pe pimai"ETH;e "Ntilde;e netatn"ETH;outou
n netaur"ETH;arp n"Ntilde;ooce.50 I translate it as follows: "What wonder is it
that those who by god were entrusted with such work in Christ appointed
those before mentioned...?"
When the GospTruth combines ntaun"ETH;outou "who were entrusted"
with apiou"Ntilde;eei "with the salvation," first Clement combines netatn"ETH;outou
"those who were entrusted" with ar"ETH;wb n"Oacute;mine "ETH;n pxc "such work
Crum 1939, 246a.
For instance, Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 87, Layton 1987, p. 255 and Schenke
2001, p. 35 "glauben."
Thomassen 2002, p. 106.
The first Epistle of clement in Achmimic, 43:1., in Schmidt Carl 1908, Der Er-
ste Clemensbrief in Altkoptischer "Uuml;bersetzung: untersucht und herausgegeben von Carl
Schmidt, J.C. Hinrich"sche Buchhandlung, Leipzig.
in Christ." Thus, in the GospTruth "the salvation" replaces "the work in
Christ" from first Clement. Nevertheless, it is likely that the GospTruth
refers to the epistle of Clement. For this assumption there are at least two
reasons: First of all, the combination of "entrust" and "work" or "entrust" and
"salvation" is rare. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, first
Clement clearly constitutes the best parallel. The second reason is based on
the context in the GospTruth and on what precedes first Clement 43.
First Clement 42 describes how Jesus appointed the apostles. In their turn
the apostles appointed their "firstfruits" that became the first bishops and
deacons.51 Consequently, first Clement 42-43 concerns the transfer of the
work of redemption from Jesus to the apostles and later to many members of
the church. In first Clement 43, the apostles are those who through god were
entrusted with the work in Christ. In the GospTruth this corresponds to
"those who were entrusted with the salvation." It makes it likely that "those
who were entrusted with the salvation" refers to Jesus" apostles. Along this
line of thought "no one" in 20.6 refers to a group of people upon whom the
work of salvation depends. Consequently mpelaue in 20.6 is translated
with "no one" rather than "nothing," as it rather refers to persons than to
The raising of the living book of the living means that the work of salvation
passes from few persons to many.52 Moreover, in 20-13-27 the raising of
the book was spoken of in terms of that Jesus wrapped himself in the book.
The revelation was also described as the contents of a will that was unknown
until Jesus died for the sake of many. This was compared with the All that
was concealed as long as the Father was invisible. Thus, what we read on
page 20 of the GospTruth in a striking way resembles what was spoken of
in terms of the Saviour"s body on page 20-29. It is especially interesting
to compare the TripTrac 16.5-17.8 that was quoted on page 23. There the
apostles and disciples are described as parts of the Saviour"s body that is an
image of the All. In this manner the Saviour"s body is an image of a unity,
the church, but at the same time it comes forth in the form of a plurality.
This corresponds to 22.36-23.18 of the GospTruth in which the living book
is described as many texts. These texts, although being a multitude are
written in unity and accordingly together they constitute a perfect book.
On this ground it is likely that we on page 20 of the GospTruth have come
across a discourse that without a Valentinian reading becomes fairly obscure.
Furthermore, it seems as the GospTruth may draw upon first Clement, and
that the expression from first Clement 43.1 came to the mind of the author
of the GospTruth. That the discourse on page 20 could evoke the recalling of
First Clement 42:4.
As will be demonstrated below the theme of spreading out is closely related to the
THE LIVING BOOK OF THE LIVING 139
first Clement 43 probably depends on the Valentinian discourse according to
which the apostles and disciples descend with Jesus, constituting his spiritual
body that is the church. By this analysis we both reach an intelligible
reading of page 20 of the GospTruth, and also explain to what those who
are entrusted with salvation refer to. Granting this we have to figure out
whether the spiritual body of the Saviour consists of one or many groups of
In 25.19-27.4 we have a key to understanding how the Saviour"s body is
constituted. In the extensive discussion on pages 168-172 it is made prob-
able, although not certain, that we have to reckon with two groups. One
of them is characterized by its completed beings that are anointed, while
the other group belongs to Error and is signified by emptiness. This favours
the assumption that the GospTruth belongs to eastern Valentinianism as the
Saviour"s body rather consists of Pneumatics than of Psychics and Pneumat-
ics. Another indication of that we have to do with an eastern Valentinian
text is that the Saviour suffers. On page 20 it is obvious that Jesus suf-
fers and dies, and consequently also is in need of redemption in order to
So far we can propose that the All consisted of two parts that both were
the All. One part existed in the cosmic sphere. It had a limited capacity
to know the Father, but enough knowledge to search for him. However,
what it lacked came with the completion that dwelt within the Father and
descended in the form of the Saviour"s body. Although still in the world
the individuals became the embodiment of the unity that was called the
church. This state of simultaneous plurality and unity was touched upon in
the TripTrac 16.5-17.8 on page 23. In order to deepen our understanding of
the process of spreading out and the process of uniting in the GospTruth,
we will discuss some themes that so far either has been little discussed or
The enlightenment, the crucifixion and the Eucharist in 18.5-
In 18.5-31 those who became enlightened are called "complete" "Ntilde;hk abal.53
In 18.16-21 the complete ones are instructed by Jesus and thereby receive
the way that is the truth. Then the persecution of Jesus begins. The cli-
max is reached when Jesus is nailed to a tree.54 He becomes the fruit of
the knowledge about the Father. But this fruit does not bring destruction
because it is eaten. On the contrary, those who eat it rejoice in it.55 The
There are many philological difficulties in this passage, but none of them are crucial
for the present purpose. For a detailed discussion see 81-87.
passage ends with a scene of mutual discovery. Those who rejoice discovered
him in themselves, and he discovered them in himself.56 this mystical union
is far from unexpected since the eating of Jesus, who after all is the fruit of
knowledge of the Father, alludes to the eucharist.
But as the enlightenment took place before the crucifixion, it is important
to consider what the crucifixion means as it does not seem to be the crucial
event of redeeming knowledge.
30.14-31.1 as post-crucifixal revelation
In 30.14-31.1 we are faced with many hermeneutical problems. The passage
is preceded by a description of how a person who has been ignorant wakes up
and becomes illuminated. In 30.14-31.1, it is often very hard to determine
who the subject is. Our passage begins with the enigmatic exclamation "And
blessed (makarioc) is the one who opened the eyes of the blind!"57 In this
sentence two diverging reference fields appear. On the one hand we think
about the lauding from Mathew 5:3-11. this part fits well together with the
persons who have turned from ignorance to knowledge. This would be a
natural continuation of the preceding description of the ignorant who turns
into someone who knows. On the other hand the one who opens the eyes of
the blind leads our thoughts to Messianic sayings from the Old Testament
that in the New Testament are ascribed to Jesus.
Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him (Jesus),
and he healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. And
all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of
If this would be the superordinated field of reference, the subject would be
Jesus. No other combinations of these two kinds of allusions are known to
me, and as we will see, many scholars join me in the state of bewilderment.
The narration continues with a description of this blessed person who lays
prostrated on the ground. The Spirit hurries to him in order to give him
a hand and raise him up. As many scholars have observed this resembles
Jewish myths about the primal man. This is a common theme in other Nag
Hammadi texts and we pick up the following example:
Now all these things came to pass by the will of the father of
the entirety. Afterwards, the spirit saw the soul-endowed man
Mathew 12:22-23, all quotations from the Bible are taken from the Revised Standard
Version at the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia.
THE LIVING BOOK OF THE LIVING 141
upon the ground. And the spirit came forth from the Adaman-
tine Land; it descended and came to dwell within him, and that
man became a living soul. It called his name Adam, since he
was found moving upon the ground.59
This is the field of allusions that Attridge "" MacRae asserts is most relevant,
and they stress that there is no direct reference to Jesus in our passage.60
Thus, with this interpretation the theme of the ignorant who rises and be-
comes a Gnostic is extended. On the other hand Menard suggests that the
passage refers to the descent of the Spirit on Jesus at his crucifixion,61 while
Wilson alludes to the resurrection of Christ,62 Both Menard and Wilson also
put forward Jesus" baptism in Jordan as a possible reference.63 From these
examples it is obvious that scholars have chosen one of the two fields: "the
one who is blessed," or "the one who opened the eyes of the blind." The
former field of reference would then continue the story of the illumination
of the ignorant person, whereas the latter one concerns Jesus. But as we
will see this kind of ambiguity is a consciously chosen rhetorical strategy
in the GospTruth. Consequently, we better keep both these fields in mind.
The enlightened Gnostic goes on the same path as the redeemer. The focus
changes when the prostrated person rises. It is no longer centred on the
Spirit that provides help to the prostrated person. Instead, it is in what
manner the many receive knowledge that is important. The knowledge of
the Father, and the revelation of the Father"s Son give the many means to
understand. But still it is not clear who provides them with this knowl-
edge and revelation. It might be the Spirit, Jesus or the enlightened person.
When the many had seen and heard the Son, the Spirit gave them so that
they could taste, smell and touch the Son. If we presume that the prostrated
person is Jesus, he is raised by the Spirit, the many may touch him and taste
him. This use of language alludes to the post-resurrection story from John"s
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the
doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be
with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and
his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has
sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he
breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
The Hypostasis of the Archons NHC II.88.10-16 translated by Layton.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, p. 86.
M"eacute;nard 1972, p. 139.
Wilson 1958, p. 106.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the
sins of any, they are retained." Now Thomas, one of the twelve,
called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the
other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said
to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and
place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in
his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were
again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were
shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace
be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here,
and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my
side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him,
"My Lord and my God!"64
The tasting resembles what we read in 18.26-27 about the fruit of Knowledge
that could be eaten. Obviously the Eucharist is referred to. In the above
quoted passage from John as in the GospTruth as well, Jesus breaths on the
disciples who receive the Spirit, as they listen to him, see him and touch
The smelling in the GospTruth resembles Second Corinthians:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in tri-
umph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of
him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among
those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance
from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?65
In 34.1-34, a warm fragrance comes from the Father. It warms up the fra-
grance that had grown cold in the world. The fragrance is the Father"s
children. The scheme resembles the pattern that we have seen above con-
cerning the spiritual body of the redeemer, as the smell from above descends
in order to make the smell from below ascend to where it originally came
With these observations in mind, we interpret 30.14-31.1 as a description of
the manner in which the Spirit raises Jesus after the crucifixion. Simulta-
neously, however, it is equally true that page 30 of the GospTruth also is
an example of how the enlightened Gnostic should be after his resurrection.
The first interpretation clings well together with 20.13-14 where Jesus dies
for many. If we instead focus on the ignorant who is raised and enlightens
2 Cor. 2:14-16.
THE LIVING BOOK OF THE LIVING 143
many, the redeeming scheme that was ascribed to Jesus has spread to the
The Gnostic as redeemer
In 22.2-20 a person who has turned from ignorance to knowledge is described.
Such a person is "from above" and knows his origin, where he is and to
which place he will go. When the Father calls him, he responds and wishes
to fulfil the Father"s will. To reach this illuminated state is as turning
away from drunkenness into soberness. At this point the narration clearly
reflects the earthly existence of the enlightened Gnostic. The knowledge
about from where the enlightened person has come and to what place he
will go, also reflects the baptismal instructions from the following passage
It is not, however, the bath alone that makes free, but knowl-
edge too: Who we were, what we have become; where we were,
where we have been placed, where we are going; from what we
are redeemed, what birth is, and what rebirth.66
But in 22.20-24 the interpretation becomes more difficult. Even though
no change of subject is explicitly made, and the primary tense still is the
narrative first perfect, it is nevertheless unclear whether the acting person
is the enlightened Gnostic or Jesus. This obscurity depends on the use of a
vocabulary that resembles the one by which the Saviour use to be depicted.
He has reclaimed many from Error and he goes before them to the realm
from which they have roved about. This had led scholars to interpret the
text as referring to Jesus.67 If we imagine that it primarily is Jesus that is
intended in 22.20-24, the texts relates Jesus" ascending from the Cosmos to
the Fullness from which he came, and the many are those who once fell from
the Fullness, but now are being prepared for the reunion with the Father.
But if we instead recall the same kind of ambiguity that we discussed in
30.14-31.1, we better refrain from excluding one of the possible perspectives.
After all 22-20 is preceded by a passage in which a vocabulary that usually
is used for the enlightened Gnostic is used.
The person who goes before the many to the place from which they have
come probably does so in a post-resurrectial state. This may happen in an
eschatological future, or it might be a case of realised eschatology. 22.20-24
shares similarities with 20.13-39 inasmuch as we in both texts encounter the
ExcTheod 78:2, Thomassen 2006.
For instance, Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, p. p. 65 who refers to Acts 3:26, Layton 1987,
p. 56 who suggests an allusion to John 10:4, although he clearly marks the uncertainty,
and Schenke 2001, p. 36, who explicitly mentions Jesus in his translation.
many as objects for the redemption, and as this is the case in 30.34-35 as
well it is hardly a coincidence. The idea behind the ambiguous manner of
expressing the subject is probably caused by the same line of thought as in
the following quotation from the Gospel of Philip:
God is a dyer. As the good dyes, which are called "true," dis-
solve with the things dyed in them, so it is with those whom God
has dyed. Since his dyes are immortal, they become immortal
by means of his colours. Now God dips what he dips in water.
It is not possible for anyone to see anything of the things that
actually exist unless he becomes like them. In the world man
sees the sun without being a sun, and he sees the heaven and
the earth and everything else without being these things: this is
not how it is in (the realm of) the truth. Rather, having seen
something of that place, you (sg.) became those things. You
saw the spirit, you became spirit. You saw Christ, you became
Christ. You saw [the Father, you] shall become a father. There-
fore: [in this place] you see everything and [do] not [see] yourself,
but [in that place] you do see yourself and what you see you shall
As the Saviour took upon himself the sufferings of this world so does the
enlightened Gnostic as well.
In order to redeem the spiritual ones the Saviour passed from the realm
of unity and peace to the realm of plurality and strife.69 In the following
manner this is expressed in the Gospel of Philip:
The Eucharist is Jesus. For in Syriac it is called Pharisatha,
which means "that which is spread out." For Jesus became one
who was crucified to the world.70
But what does the spreading out mean? From the just cited passage from
the Gospel of Philip it seems likely that Jesus in the Eucharist is divided in
order to spread to everyone who takes part of the mystery. What the Saviour
is, he gives to those he redeems. As we have seen that every Gnostic becomes
a Saviour as well the following passage would not surprise us:
It is, however, in unity that our angels were emitted, for they
are one, having come forth from one single. Since we, however,
The Gospel of Philip 61.12-35, Thomassen 2006.
The contrast between the realm of unity and the one of strife and division is amply
described on pages 24-25 of the GospTruth.
The Gospel of Philip 63.21-24, Thomassen 2006.
THE LIVING BOOK OF THE LIVING 145
were divided, Jesus was baptised, so as to divide the undivided,
until he unites us with them in the Fullness, so that we who are
many may become one and all be merged again with him who
for our sake was divided.71
In the GospTruth there are no angels that spread out in order to redeem
those who have gone astray. What we have is the living book of the living
that I have claimed consists of the apostles, evangelists and later disciples.
When the book is published on the cross its many texts are revealed.72 The
result is that Jesus strips himself of his carnal existence and ascends to the
Fullness. The spreading out is symbolised by the horizontal cross bar, while
the ascention is symbolised by the vertical one. A similar imagery is found
in the Interpretation of Knowledge:
so that the Church [might] be seen when it proceeds upwards.
For the Head pulled it up (and) out of the pit, as [it] bent over
from up on the cross and looked down to Tartaros, in order that
those who were below should look upwards. For in the same way
as when someone looks into a well, and the face of him who had
been looking downwards (then) looks upwards, thus, when the
Head had looked (down) from on high to its limbs, the limbs
[hastened] upwards to where the Head was. The cross, on its
part, served to nail fast the limbs, and only so that they should
be able ...73
Unfortunately the quotation ends in a lacuna, but it is clear that a Pauline
ecclesiology with Jesus as the head of the church fits perfectly both with the
discussion regarding the Saviour"s body, as well as with the imagery of the
cross. When the living book of the living is published, everyone who is from
above receives what belongs to him. In the GospTruth, this is described
in terms of being called and receiving ones name.74 But as long as the
members of the spiritual body are in the material sphere, they still suffer
from the earthly conditions. They have to ascend to the Father in order to
receive their completion.75 Consequently, the restoration of the All goes in
two steps. The first is to unite the hidden All with the All that already had
come forth. The next step is for each individual to pass from division into
unity. That means to pass from the material existence into the Fullness.76
To prevent premature ascending, the cross also functions as a limit between
ExcTheod 36:1-2, Thomassen 2006.
The Interpretation of Knowledge NHC XI 13.24-38, Transl. Thomassen.
the cosmic and the spiritual realm. Here, it is worth noting that this theme
frequently occurs in the heresiologists reports about the Valentinians, and I
quote one of the examples:
They term this Limit both Cross and Deliver, and Libera-
tor, and Limit-setter, and Conveyors. And by this Limit they
declare that Sophia was purified and established, while she was
also restored to her proper conjunction.77
Accordingly the cross has a protecting function. It is when the Father wishes
it that the Gnostic is born as we saw on page 27-28 of the GospTruth. At
the same time it unites the body of Christ with the head. Seeing Christ
also makes it possible to ascend to the spiritual realm. To a large extent
the GospTruth resembles the just quoted passage from Irenaeus. Those who
ascend to the Father will be filled, supplied and purified when the Father
From these observations we may conclude that the baptism is the crucial
event for the enlightenment. This is often emphasised in the Gospel of Philip
and in the ExcTheod. After the baptism a further education takes place in
order to develop the neophyte. At this stage the Gnostic takes on the role
of the redeemer and suffers in the world of plurality. This was expressed
about Jesus as the Eucharist in the Gospel of Philip 63.21-24 quoted above,
and the spreading out for the sake of the redemption of those who had gone
astray was described in ExcTheod 36:1-2. In the Valentinian interpretation
of the crucifixion we see a process that is enlightenment and purification for
the Gnostic, combined with a mission of spreading out of the knowledge to
many others. With this in mind the context from first Clement 42-43 that
has been discussed above fits well. Those who were entrusted with salvation
are the apostles and other disciples who continue Jesus" mission. In this
they share in his crucifixion, and on the cross they constitute the body
to which Jesus is the head, as we have already seen in the Interpretation of
knowledge 13.24-38. In this manner the gnostic by the unification with his or
her heavenly counterpart that came down as the Saviour"s body is embodied
with Jesus in the crucifixion. A difference between the GospTruth and the
TripTrac can be the spiritual body that in the GospTruth comes directly
from within the Father, whereas in the TripTrac it comes from the Ogdoad.
This may depend on a real difference on this aspect of the theology, but can
also depend on the difference in genre. The GospTruth is a homily and does
not express all details, while the TripTrac is an extensive systematic work.
If I would guess, however, I would say that the GospTruth represents an
early stage within eastern Valentinianism that preceded the TripTrac.
IrenHaer I 2:4.
The GospTruth clearly shows the characteristics of what we could expect of
an eastern Valentinian text. The All consists of a part that is in the world
and has to be saved. The liberation takes place through the unification with
the part of it that dwelt in the Father and that comes down in the form of the
Saviour"s body. As was seen from the analysis of page 26 of the GospTruth
the body only consists of spiritual beings. There are no indications of three
groups of beings as we would expect from a western Valentinian text.
The cross and the crucifixion may also be related to plurality and suffering
in a way that well fits with what other Valentinian texts say about these
themes. Every gnostic has to follow Christ in a mission in which they all
become redeemers. From this perspective the strong emphasis on missionary
activity that will be discussed in the next chapter is logical.
148CHAPTER 5. Chapter 6
The socio-religious context of
the Gospel of Truth
Among the Nag Hammadi texts the GospTruth has attracted relatively much
attention. As discussed elsewhere in this book scholars from the beginning
connected the GospTruth to Valentinianism, and in 1959 Schenke claimed
that the GospTruth could have a connection to the circle around the Odes of
Solomon. But these attempts did not shed much light on the social setting
of the GospTruth. In the end of the 1950:s and in the beginning of the
1960:s Scandinavian scholars tried to pinpoint the rituals that could have
been performed by the community of the GospTruth. Save-Soderbergh1
proposed that the GospTruth was a baptismal homily. Somewhat later
Segelberg2 instead claimed that the GospTruth was a confirmation homily.
He also objected to Schenke"s opinion3 that the GospTruth was related to
the group that used the Odes of Solomon. In 1965 Ludin Jansen devoted a
short article to the traces of sacramental rituals in the GospTruth.4
Apart from these early Scandinavian and German attempts for almost 40
years little attention was paid to the social setting of the GospTruth. This is
understandable due to the scanty material that is provided by the text. But
in 2004 Thomassen5 took up the challenge and claimed that the GospTruth
was written by Valentinus at a time when the Valentinian church withdrew
from the endless quarrels among other Christian groups in Rome.
In all the above mentioned endeavours many things by necessity have to
be hypothetical. Among other things we neither know authorship, date of
composition and purpose of the writing or location of the receivers. Con-
Ludin Jansen 1964-1965.
150CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
sequently to describe the milieu of the GospTruth involves a great deal of
speculation. This is a problem, but it should not stop us from carefully
working out hypothesis concerning the setting for the author and receivers
of the GospTruth.
Thus, in this chapter the aim is to analyse passages that may help us to
stipulate the original setting of the GospTruth. When the analyses have been
carried through, we will discuss in what manner the results can be linked
to proposals concerning the socio-religious context. Further, we will also
discuss passages that may shed light on the use of rituals in the community.
Already from the beginning some assumptions are necessary. We assume
that the GospTruth in a broad sense is a homily. Therefore, we assert that we
have a preacher who talks in first person. Further, the speaker directs himself
or herself to a congregation. In this genre, the preacher normally deals with
matters that are especially important for the congregation. Extensive and
complete dogmatic expositions are rare. Thus, what the preacher wants to
highlight may lead us to the setting for the composition.
With the above given presuppositions in mind, we will scrutinize passages in
which the congregation is directly addressed. It means that we have to look
for passages with second plural, (you) and with first plural, (we). Further,
we will discuss texts in which the author speaks in first person singular, (I).
Besides the above mentioned passages, there are other passages in which the
author of the GospTruth might indirectly tell how the congregation ought
to be. These passages are harder to define, but we will discuss some of the
probable texts. We will also touch upon texts that may provide information
about the rituals that were performed in the community.
For our purpose it is natural to begin with a discussion of the paraenetic
section of the GospTruth. Strictly speaking the paraenesis begins with 32.31.
Where it ends is harder to determine, but I have chosen to end it in 33.39.
But in order to understand the paraenesis we have to discuss some difficulties
in the text that immediately precedes the paraenesis. Thus, the analysis will
begin with 31.17b. Moreover, the latter part of the paraenesis is one of the
THE PARAENESIS 151
philologically most difficult parts of the GospTruth. It is therefore fitting to
divide the passage in two parts. We will first discuss them separately, and
then deal with the whole paraenesis.
Critique of immorality and legalism
This section will be divided in three units. The first unit runs from 33.11-23,
the second from 33.24-30a and the third from 33.30b-39. Unit one is easily
distinguished by the chain of prohibitive imperatives. The second unit is
an explanatory paragraph which opens with gar "for" in 33.24,6 and ends
with a recurring marker in 33.30a. "ETH;nkekaue "others" connects the end
of the explanations to "ETH;nkaue "others" in 33.12-13. From a text linguistic
perspective the recurring marker indicates that "others" is of vital importance
in the sections from 33.11-30a. The hypothesis that "others", aside from
being a recurring marker also is a closing marker is confirmed by the new
imperative in 33.30b. This imperative indicates that the explanatory unit
has ended. The imperative that heads the third unit is the only positive
imperative. In this manner it contrasts with the prohibitive imperatives in
In the third unit (33.31) we also find the particle qe "now" that sums up the
information of the two preceding units and proceeds to concluding state-
ments. Granting these three units, we have to determine their hierarchical
relations. The two first units constitute a block. Unit one is superordi-
nated to the second unit inasmuch as the second unit explains the first one.
The third unit with its positive imperative obviously contrasts with the first
unit. Thus, they are on the same level. Less obvious, but still fairly certain,
we also have a contrast between what the "unjust" and "just" persons do in
the second unit and what "you" should do in the third unit. When we now
turn to a more semantically oriented discussion we rely on these structural
The first question is in what manner "others" in 33.12-13 should be under-
stood. The notion can refer to persons or to things. But if things would
be intended the normal Coptic construal would include ke "ETH;bhue.7 The
context is centred on persons, which also indicates that "others" in 33.12-13
The first clause of what I call the second unit has often been included in the prior
unit. The reason for my delimitation will be discussed below.
Orlandi, 1992, p. 67.
152CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
rather refers to persons than to things. These two arguments are equally
valid for "others" "ETH;nkekaue in 33.30a.
Next we must decide in what way mmaf in 33.18 should be treated.
There is no masculine antecedent to the suffix. This could be explained
by an unfortunate rendering of a Greek noun. Orthographically however,
the suffixes f and u are easily confused. Therefore, I emend the text to
In 33.22-23 we encounter many difficulties. pe "it" in 33.23 is not in congru-
ence with "those who fall" neei et"ETH;aeie in 33.22-23. By emending neei
to nneei "for those." It thus becomes the indirect object of the preceding
clause instead of the beginning of a new one. As Orlandi notes9 this would
fit well with an allusion to 1 Corinthians 8:9 where we also have the impedi-
ments or obstacles that can cause weak persons to fall. As the entire eighth
chapter is important as a key for our passage, I quote it here:
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of
us possess knowledge." Knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up.
If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet
know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known
by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know
that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God
but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or
on earth as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords" yet
for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things
and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through
whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not
all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto
accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and
their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend
us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better
off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow
become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you,
a man of knowledge, at table in an idol"s temple, might he not
be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to
idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed,
the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your
brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you
sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother"s
falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.10
This possibility was put forward by Orlandi, 1992, p. 67.
Orlandi 1992, p. 67.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13.
THE PARAENESIS 153
co"ETH;e has caused many problems. It is a part of a nominal clause that is
headed by "ETH;wc. All translations that I have seen render "ETH;wc with "as if,"
or similar. This would maybe be the most natural choice if the clause had
been circumstantial. In our case however, it is more likely that "ETH;wc should
be understood in a causal sense "because" "ETH;wc with an anaphoric causal
function. It explains why the impediments should get no more strength.
Most translators assume that co"ETH;e is a variant of coo"ETH;e.11 Granting
this, co"ETH;e means "correction" "reproval" "set upright" and similar. It is
along these lines of thought Attridge "" MacRae12 came up with "support"
in their translation. Even though we construe the syntax differently I adopt
their idea. To avoid adding strength to the stumbling blocks is a support
for those who risk falling. This understanding may seem far-fetched but to
me it is a less problematic solution than others at hand.
The section from 33.24-30a has puzzled me for a long time. First of all we
have to determine whether the clause oulaue gar pe "for it (or he) is
nothing" should begin a new sentence or form the end of the preceding one.
Earlier 13 I chose to include this clause as the end of the prior sentence. This
was an unfortunate attempt since it provides little new information to what
previously have been said in the text. Schenke14 treated oulaue gar pe
as a whole sentence.15 This is probably better than my earlier attempt but it
still suffers from the same drawbacks. Layton16 extended the clause so that
it also included piat"ETH;ep "the unjust" and translated "For the lawless is
nothing." Both these attempts are probably influenced by the need of finding
a reasonable understanding of a"Ntilde;itf in 33.24-25. Layton treats it as an
imperative and renders it with "Treat such a one more forceably than the
just, since the lawless acts on the supposition of being lawless, while the just
acts toward others on the supposition of being just."17 With this rendering
it is hard to make this passage fit into the context. Schenke18 treated a
in a"Ntilde;itf as a Lycopolitan (Subachmimic) future. this made it possible
to treat a"Ntilde;itf reflexively, which resulted in "The lawless person will suffer
more violence from himself than from the law."19 I would have expected "the
lawful person"20 rather than "the law"21 as the end of the sentence. However,
For a discussion about the different attempts to translate this term, see Attridge ""
MacRae 1985b, p. 97.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 105.
In the seminar paper in Helsinki 2004, Can Text Linguistic Theories Contribute to the
study of the Gospel of Truth? Unpublished..
Schenke 2001, p. 40.
"Denn es ist nichts."
Layton 1987, p.260.
Layton 1987, p. 260.
Schenke 2001, p. 40.
"Der Ungesetzliche wird sich mehr Gewalt antun als dem Gesetz."
154CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
this translation is close to my translation from 2004 "The lawless person has
done worse to himself than to the lawful person, for the former does his
works because he is lawless. But the latter, because he is just, does his
works in the midst of others (just persons)." Although I emended a"Ntilde;itf
to af"Ntilde;itf and thereby reached a perfect tense. However, both Schenke"s
and my translations suffer from the same problem as Layton"s. It is hard to
get much sense out of these attempts.
Attridge "" MacRae22 also let oulaue gar pe head a new sentence but
construe the syntax differently: "For the lawless one is someone to treat ill,
rather than the just one." They translate oulaue with "someone" instead
of the normal "no one" or "nothing."23
This is possible, but nevertheless their
solution suffers from the drawback that it does not provide much sense to
the text. A radically different attempt was put forward by Thomassen.24 In
Thomassen"s Norwegian translation he aims at reproducing the elegance in
the GospTruth, which inevitably goes lost in literal translations. We have to
keep this in mind when we compare it with the more literal translations that
I quoted above. My English rendering of Thomassen"s Norwegian transla-
tion runs as follows: "For the violence one suffers from the lawful person
is no less than the violence one suffers from the lawless person. The latter
acts on his own behalf, while the lawful person makes others to act on his
behalf."25 Thomassen assumed that the text is corrupt, and as I also emend
it I agree with him, although my emendation is different.26 His translation
is an attempt to make sense out of the text in compliance with his general
understanding of Valentinianism in general and the GospTruth in particular.
Turning to my translation I let the suffix in a"Ntilde;itf refer to oulaue "noth-
ing" or "no." In the Sahidic New Testament we find a similar construction:
mpetn"Ntilde;itlaau nqonc "You did [me] no wrong."27 consequently I
have to delete pe in 33.24 and treat a in a"Ntilde;itf on the same line as a
piat"ETH;ep in 33.24 and pi"ETH;ep in 33.25 are not easy to translate. Normally
"ETH;ep is translated with "judgement" or "inquest."28 Most often it renders the
Greek krisij. With my translation however, we rather expect at"ETH;ep and
"ETH;ep ano,moj and no,moj in the Greek original. My choice of translation
Attridge "" MacRae 1985a, p. 105.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, p. 98.
Thomassen 2002a, p. 115.
Thomassen 2002a, p. 115: "For den tvang man utsettes for av den som handler etter
loven, er ikke mindre enn den man lider av den som handler lovlost. Den siste handler pa
egne vegne, mens den som holder seg til lov og rett, far andre til a utfore handlingene for
Oral information from Thomassen.
Galathians4:12, in the electronic Sahidic New Testament from Packhard Humanities
THE PARAENESIS 155
is based on the context in the GospTruth, but also on the fact that the
TripTrac 109.14 provides us with a clear instance in which tmnat"ETH;ep
probably has reproduced an original anomoi? lawlessness.
In the above presented translations qanc has been translated with "vio-
lence." qanc as the Sahidic qonc is often used in order to translate forms
of the Greek b i?zw, which means to violate and use force, as for instance
in Mathew 11:12, Luke 16:16 and Acts 2:22. But qanc at least as often
renders forms of the Greek ?d"ETH;kew. All the following examples are from the
Sahidic New Testament.29 n"Oacute;i mmok an nqonc "I am doing you no
wrong."30 nterefnau eoua eu"Ntilde;i mmoF nqonc "when he saw one
(of them) being wronged."31 etbeou tetn"Ntilde;i nnetnerhu nqonc
"why do you wrong each other?"32
On this ground we reach the translation "For the lawless person will do no
more wrong than the lawful person."
For "ETH;wc in 33.27 and 33.28, as well as for 33.23, a causal treatment is
"ETH;n in 33.30 usually has been understood locative "among." Thomassen33
treats it instrumentally and so do I as well. We will return to the basis for
this choice below.
"ETH;nkekaue in 33.30 is a bit problematic. As Orlandi notes34 it is a form
that we would have expected in a Bohairic text. I suspect that the Gosp-
Truth in codex I has been transformed from a north Egyptian dialect as
Bohairic to the more southern Lycopolitan dialect. Occasionally in this pro-
cess traces of the northern version remain. Thus, I treat "ETH;nkekaue as
"ETH;nkaue in 33.12-13.
oupetnanouf ne in 33.34-35 is a bit strange. Orlandi35 emends to
oupetnanouf, and even though he does not seem to be entirely satisfied
with this solution I follow his suggestion.
The first allusion might be found in 33.14-16: "To what you have vomited
forth do not return in order to eat it." nentatetnkabal mmau
mprcwte arau aouamou. Although the dog is not mentioned I
Electronic edition from Packhard Humanities Institute.
Thomassen 2002a, p. 115.
Orlandi 1992, p. 68.
Orlandi 1992, p. 68.
156CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
agree with Attridge "" MacRae36 that this alludes to either Proverbs 26:11,
"Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly," or to
second Peter 2:22, "It has happened to them according to the true proverb,
The dog turns back to his own vomit..." Despite of many methodological
difficulties it is worth some effort investigating whether it is to Proverbs or
to 2. Peter that the GospTruth alludes. In order to approach this problem
I have to discuss some Greek texts. The word for vomit that is used in the
Septuagint of Proverbs 26:11 is "acirc;meton, and in second Peter it is "acirc;c"egrave;rama.
After a check in the database "Thesaurus Linguae Graecae" (TLG), it is
evident that these two words are interchangeable when they are used in
texts that are relevant for the actual proverb. Besides the saying in proverbs
26:11 and second Peter 2:22, the earliest use of the saying I have found is
in Origen"s fragments on Psalms 1-150 77. "plusmn;j k"Ocirc;wn "acirc;pistr"egrave;yaj "acirc;p"Oslash; ton "Oslash;dion
"acirc;meton Although Origen uses "acirc;meton instead of "acirc;c"egrave;rama, a comparison with
the passage from Origen, second Peter and Proverbs makes it probable that
Origen had second Peter in mind rather than Proverbs. In second Peter
2:22 we read K"Ocirc;wn "acirc;pistr"egrave;yaj "acirc;p"Oslash; t? "Oslash;dion "acirc;c"egrave;rama, and in Proverbs from
the Septuagint "plusmn;sper k"Ocirc;wn "aring;tan "acirc;p"egrave;lqw"uacute; "acirc;p"Oslash; t"igrave;n "aacute;auto"Uuml; "acirc;meton. Similar
evidence for "acirc;meton in what seems to be an allusions to second Peter are for
instance: Athanasius of Alexandria, Doctrina ad Antiochum ducem 2.12.23,
Epiphanius, Panarion 1.268.3 and John Chrysostomus, De beato Philogonio
48.755.29.37 In the texts that I assert refers to second Peter 2:22 we find
forms of the Greek "acirc;pistr"egrave;fw, which means to turn about, turn round,
while in the texts that may refer to Proverbs 26:11 we find forms of the
Greek "acirc;p"egrave;rxomai, which means to come upon, come near, come suddenly
upon. With this in mind we have to discuss the meaning of the Coptic
Grobel38 employed the normal meaning "redeem." However, in the actual
context it provides little sense. Attridge "" MacRae39 notes that it might
stand for cwt in 34.32 and 38.2. The meaning could be return.40
Without claiming that I have carried through any complete investigation of
cwt, the only evidence of cwt that refers to Greek words of interest for us
seems to be in Job 10:21, in which ?nastref"egrave;in is used. On the other hand I
have found no evidence for cwt rendering "acirc;p"egrave;rxomai or related words. De-
spite the insufficient evidence the respective semantic fields of "acirc;p"egrave;rxomai and
"acirc;pistr"egrave;fw makes it more likely that cwte in 33.15 comes from "acirc;pistr"egrave;fw.
If my above presented presuppositions are tenable we have an indication that
the GospTruth alludes to second Peter. However, cautiousness is advisable
Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, p. 97.
All from TLG.
Grobel 1960, p. 141.
Attridge "" MacRae 1985b, p. 97.
Crum 1939, p. 360.
THE PARAENESIS 157
due to the scanty evidence.
From my observations it is clear that the frequency with which Proverbs
26:11 is quoted is very low, not only in Greek literature, but also in Hebrew.
Even though commentators on 2 Peter sometimes assert that the use of the
saying is widespread, they fail to provide us with evidence.
An argument that favours that we in the GospTruth have an allusion to
Proverbs 26:11 rather than to second Peter is that in the GospTruth we also
lack the saying "...the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire."41 Only
the part that is common to both Proverbs and second Peter appears in the
GospTruth. This would favour the connection to Proverbs. To conclude,
the semantically based analysis favours that the allusion in the GospTruth
is to second Peter. But the semantically founded analysis provides too little
information to be decisive. We therefore have to approach the problem from
In Proverbs 26 the fool is described as a person that always repeats its
mistakes. It is his nature, just as it is the nature for a dog to return to its
vomit. Second Peter provides more information. In second Peter 2:18 the
focus is on false prophets who betray recently converted Christians. These
Christians are drawn back into their old life of "licentious passions." The
victims are described as persons who have escaped from error. In Coptic
this is "ETH;nouplanh. The seducers are "slaves of corruption,"42 something
that reminds us of the language in 33.16-17. In second Peter members of
the community who have once lived in the defilements of the world leaves
the purity in the community and return to the earlier state. When we again
look at the saying about the dog that returns to eat its vomit, it is clear
that second Peter applies this proverb, not only on fools in general, but on
persons who have given themselves back to vices in particular. Accordingly,
second Peter is a good example of the way in which the saying in Proverbs
26:11 could be used to depict people who engaged themselves in vicious
living. Thus, I assert that there is a connection between second Peter and
the GospTruth. It is unlikely that the connection had gone in the opposite
direction since the dog is not explicitly mentioned in the GospTruth. If
the GospTruth alludes to an intertext, this text must have had the explicit
mentioning of the dog.
"Do not be moth-eaten. Do not be worm-eaten for you have already cast
it off."43 Often scholars have seen an allusion to Mathew 6:19-20: "19: "Do
not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume
and where thieves break in and steal," But the combination of moth and
worm does not appear in Mathew with NT parallels, but in Logion 76 of
2 Peter 2:22b.
Second Peter 2:19.
158CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
the Gospel of Thomas it does:
Jesus said, "What the kingdom of the father resembles is a
merchant who owned some merchandise, and then learned about
the existence of a certain pearl. - That merchant was shrewd,
sold the merchandise, and bought the single pearl. - You (plur.),
too, seek the ceaseless and enduring treasure, where moth does
not approach to eat nor worm to destroy."44
It seems that the GospTruth draws upon a saying that resembles that which
became included in the Gospel of Thomas. It is worth noting that "Do not
be moth-eaten" equally well could be translated with "Do not be rotten." At-
tridge "" MacRae45 notes that the exhortation is intended to prevent people
from returning to the material world of ignorance. As will be demonstrated
below I would rather stress that it is a warning from living an immoral life.
"Do not become a place for the Devil, for you have already defeated him."46
It is not clear to what the first part of this sentence refers. The latter part,
however, might refer to 1 John 2:13: "because you have overcome the evil."
This command functions as a bridge between the two parts of the chain of
imperatives. It sums up: Do not act like the immoral persons that you once
were, because you have passed that state.
"Do not add strength to your impediments (for) those who fall..."47 As noted
in the semantic analysis I have emended the text. As Orlandi observes,
with this emendation the text resembles 1 Corinthians 8:8-9: "Food will not
commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if
we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling
block to the weak." The members of the community should not use their
knowledge and freedom, in a way that they cause the fall of others. To
support the weak is the important thing, and not to excel in demonstrating
one"s freedom. It is in this manner I interpret the final clause "because it is
a support."48 That no punishments are referred to is typical for the attitude
in the GospTruth. As we see in 33.30b-39, the basic motif for the care of
the weak is to do the will of the Father, and in this will is goodness. "For
the lawless person will do no more wrong than the lawful person."49 Since
the translation of this passage is very difficult, it is risky to suggest allusions
The Gospel of Thomas Logion 76 NHC. II 46.14-23, (Layton 1987, p. 393). Thomassen
drew my attention to this passage but also notes that the hypothetical relation between
the GospTruth and the Gospel of Thomas can be indirect.
Attridge "" macRae 1985b, p. 97.
THE PARAENESIS 159
to other texts. With this reservation in mind, I will anyway suggest that
Romans 2 fits as a very good intertext.50
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being
who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and
honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and
also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have
sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all
who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.51
We can also keep in mind the beginning of the same chapter in Romans:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when
you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you con-
demn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same
things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon
those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man, that when
you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself,
you will escape the judgment of God?52
In the above quoted passages from Romans we rather speak of similarities of
thought than of direct allusions. However, as many scholars have observed,
Pauline theology was very important for the Valentinians and of course
Romans was an inspiration for the author of the GospTruth. As in Romans
we face a situation in which the congregation is warned against judging
others. Instead, all should focus on themselves instead of on others.
The benefit of the analysis
With the results from the structural, semantic and intertextual analyses in
mind, we are better off when we try to interpret the difficult passage from
33.11-39. 33.11-23 deals with those who want to continue their life with a
moral that they may have had before they joined the church. Alternatively,
overenthusiastically as the persons in 1 cor. 8 might have been because
they now possessed knowledge, they wanted to abandon the rules that they
had followed as members of other Christian, but non-Valentinian groups. In
this way, they now risked becoming a danger for those who were weaker.
Avoiding provoking the weak persons, which in our case means delimiting
the freedom of the stronger, is a support for the weak persons. Although
I admit that 33.22-23 is problematic to construe satisfactory, it seems that
Oral suggestion by Ismo Dunderberg.
160CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
the suggested intertexts provide sufficient support for this interpretation. In
this manner 33.11-23 describes a problem that a Gnostic53 could have faced.
In 33.24-30, the perspective is different. The author of the GospTruth wants
to make clear that the preceding exhortations were no inflammatory speech
for the Jewish law. The lawless person is set on the same level as the
righteous person. The lawful person depends on others to fulfil the law.
A legal system is never a matter of one person, as it requires institutions
for judgment and punishment. Consequently, the righteous does his works
Thus, lawlessness and lawfulness both belong to the cosmic sphere. By
paying attention to themselves the members of the community will focus on
the order from the sphere that transcends legalism as well as immorality.
The basis for the moral of the children is the will of the Father. Much of the
basis for this interpretation will be discussed in the analysis of the incipit
part of the paraenesis. That the Jewish law is contrary to the mode of
the GospTruth is clearly expressed by the following quotation: "...he (Jesus)
had made punishments and tortures cease, for they led certain others who
were short of mercy astray from his face into error and bondage, with power
he unchained them and reproved them by knowledge."54 Retaliation and
immorality is far from the goodness that is the will of the Father. We now
turn to discuss parallel views of the law.
In search of a parallel view of the law
So far we only possess meagre information concerning the view of the law in
the GospTruth. Nevertheless, we have enough information to begin search-
ing for conceivable parallels. If we assume that "the law" we are talking about
is that of the Old Testament it is natural to have a look at the letter from
Ptolemy to Flora.55 In this letter the law of the Old Testament is divided in
three categories. The law from the god of righteousness, the law from Moses
and the law from the elders.56 Ptolemy makes a distinction between the
"god of righteousness" and the "perfect Father of
the All."57 The law of the
Old Testament that comes from god is from the "god of righteousness" and
not from the "perfect Father of the all." The law from god is divided in three
parts: The first is pure but imperfect. This is the Ten Commandments.
In this case I prefer the term Gnostic rather than Valentinian, as similar problems
could have occurred in, for instance, a Jewish Gnostic group, and not in exclusively in
Christian Gnostic groups. Thus, Gnostic serves as a better analytical category.
The quotations are from Layton 1987 who at some points has modified Quispel"s
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.4.1-2.
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.3.7.
THE PARAENESIS 161
The Saviour had to fulfil it because the commandments were pure but not
perfect.58 The second part is mixed with injustice. What signifies this part
is its connection with retaliation and repayment of those that had sinned.59
The one who murders as retaliation makes the same act as the murder that
is retaliated. The only difference is the order. Therefore, the Son abol-
ished this law, even though it also included many good things.60 the third
part deals with "offerings, circumcision, the Sabbath, fasting, Passover, The
Feast of Unleavened Bread and the like."61 Their significance in the visible
realm was abolished by the Saviour. However, since they were images of the
spiritual realm, the Saviour exalted their function to the symbolic sphere.
And he wishes us to perform circumcision, but not circum-
cision of the bodily foreskin, rather of the spiritual heart; and
to keep the Sabbath, for he wants us to be inactive in wicked
acts; and to fast, though he does not wish us to perform physi-
cal fasts, rather spiritual ones, which consist of abstinence from
all bad deeds.62
But how similar are the views of the law in the GospTruth and Ptolemy"s
letter to Flora? Due to the scarcity of information this is hard to say.
The critique of legalism could be a consequence of the critique against the
principle of retaliation. This fits well with Ptolemy"s view on the two first
parts of the law from the righteous god. However, from the analysis of the
next passage in this investigation, it is obvious that the view of the Sabbath
in Ptolemy"s letter to Flora sharply differs from the view of the GospTruth.
The hypothetical connection between the ideas of the GospTruth and the
thoughts that we meet in Ptolemy"s letter to flora remain uncertain but
The exhortation to rescue the lost sheep from the Cosmos:
an analysis of 32.17b-33.11a
So far we have dealt with the latter section of the paraenesis, but now we
will concentrate on its former part.
Starting in 32.31 we have seven positive imperatives. With the seven imper-
atives from 33.11 in mind we can see that the paraenesis is a consciously and
well composed passage.63 These seven incipient imperatives are of the kind
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.5.3.
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.5.4.
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.5.4-7.
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.5.8.
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.5.11-12.
This was observed by Desjardins 1990, p. 78.
162CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
that we could see in many Christian texts. The care for the weak persons
fits well with what we said about the perspective of 33.11b-39. The support
of the weak is of vital importance in the GospTruth. But the former and the
latter part of the paraenesis have different perspectives. In the latter part
the focus primarily was internal, whereas in the former one the main stress is
on how the congregation should act towards people outside the community.
The strength with which the congregation provides the outsiders is rooted
in the identity of the community members. they are "the unsheathed intelli-
gence,"64 "the children of the intellectual understanding"65 and "the day that
is perfect."66 But which is the prerequisite for an identity that is expressed
in these terms? The key to the answer is hidden in the following enigmatic
Even on the Sabbath, when he (the Father) had found the
sheep that had fallen into a pit, he worked over it, kept it alive
when he had carried it up from the pit, in order that you intel-
lectually will understand what the Sabbath is, the (day) when it
is not fitting for the salvation to be idle, in order that you will
speak out of the day, which is from above, this that has no night,
and out of the light that does not set because it is perfect.67
Thus, it is necessary to understand what the Sabbath is in order to speak
out of the day from above. Consequently it is time for us as well to make
an effort to understand what the Sabbath means.
The passage about the Sabbath is preceded by a description of how the
Redeemer unchained those who were in bondage:
When he had made punishments and tortures cease, for they
led certain others who were short of mercy astray from his face
into error and bondage, with power he unchained them and re-
proved them by knowledge.68
This is followed by the parable about the lost sheep.69 A sheep goes astray
from its ninety-nine companions. The Father leaves the ninety-nine sheep in
order to rescue the lost one that had fallen into a pit. As we saw above the
THE PARAENESIS 163
Father has detected the pit and labours in order to lift up the sheep and save
its life, and so he does on the Sabbath as well. But what help to understand
the Sabbath do we get from this imagery? In order to understand what the
Sabbath is we have to consider the texts to which we find allusions in this
The Father works on the Sabbath. This is contrary to the god of the Old
Testament who rested on that day:
And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had
done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which
he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it,
because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in
Thus, the Father in the GospTruth acts contrary to the one in the Old
Testament. But could Genesis 2:2-3 also explain the passage about the "day
from above?" That day has no night, and the light never sets. In Genesis
1:1-2:4a, every day except the seventh day ends with the formula "And there
was evening and there was morning." The drawback with this explanation
is that the Sabbath is a reality in ordinary life. It does not only belong to
the textual world. In reality the Sabbath has both morning and evening.
Consequently, the day that has no night, rather is a contrast to the Sabbath
than a description of it.
Aside from the influence between Genesis 2:2-3 and the working Father in
the GospTruth, we also have to consider Mathew 12:11 "He (Jesus) said to
them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the
Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?," But as Baarda notes,71 the
GospTruth blends the motif from Mathew with John 5:15-17 and 21:
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who
had healed him. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus,
because he did this on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them,
"My Father is working still, and I am working." For as the Father
raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to
whom he will.72
Baarda 1987, p. 24-25.
164CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
The Coptic verb for working eire "ETH;wb occurs both in John 5:1773 and in
the GospTruth 32.20. The verb for giving life tan"ETH;o occurs in John 5:21
and in the GospTruth 32.20. Moreover, Baarda74 observes that the combi-
nation of the work of salvation together with the Sabbath and the pit also
occurs in the Interpretation of Knowledge.75 However, the Interpretation of
Knowledge is a deplorably damaged text. Therefore, it is hard to determine
how closely the GospTruth and the Interpretation of Knowledge are related.
I will give some examples that have relevance for our discussion and are
from passage that are relatively well preserved:
In the same way I made myself quite small, in order that by
humbling myself I might bring you back to that high rank, the
place from which you had fallen when you were brought down
into this pit. So if you believe in me, I am the one who will bring
you up above, by means of this shape that you see. I am the one
who shall carry you on my shoulders.76
From [his uni]on with the woman sleep [came into being],
and the Sa[bbath]. And th[is is the] world. For as a result of the
[oblivion about] the Father [through] sleep, [the Sabba]th [was
observed]. Af[ter that,] [the] bea[sts issued] from the . . . . . .
. . For the wo[rld] is [oblivion] and [sleep]. Therefore, [he] who
has gone astray [is not an] enemy. And from [the be]asts that
had issued [a] tunic was put on [him] as his sentence. For [the]
woman [had] no other garment [to put] on her seed except [that]
which she had brought forth on the Sabbath.Nothing beastly
exists in fact in [the] Aeon. For the Father does not observe the
Sabbath. Rather, he works in the Son, and through the Son.
Moreover, he gave him the aeons: The Father possesses living
rational elements by which he clothes him with the a[eons] as
The Interpretation of Knowledge does not furnish us with such connections
to the GospTruth that we may speak about interdependence or allusions.
Nevertheless, the two text show such similarities that we may speak of a
common view on the Sabbath. Thus, the Sabbath is a notion for the cosmic
sphere, and in this respect the GospTruth differs from Ptolemy"s letter to
Flora,78 in which the Sabbath is an image for not committing sins.
The electronic Coptic New Testament from Packhard Humanities Institute.
Baarda 1987, pp. 24-25.
The Interpretation of Knowledge NHC XI 10.27-34, translated by Thomassen.
the Interpretation of Knowledge NHC XI 11.17-38, translated by Thomassen.
Ptolemy to Flora, 33.5.8.
THE PARAENESIS 165
In the GospTruth the sheep symbolise the members of the community. The
Father has lifted them up from the pit, and now they know from what place
the Father has saved them. In John 5:17 that we cited above, The Father
works and Jesus acts like his Father. In the Interpretation of Knowledge
and in the GospTruth as well the Father does not observe the Sabbath.
On the contrary, he works on that day as well. In the Interpretation of
Knowledge the Sabbath results from the ignorance of the Father and the
sleep that is caused by it. Even though the Interpretation of Knowledge
is partly destroyed, it is probable that the view on the Sabbath in the
Interpretation of Knowledge is the same as in the GospTruth. If we combine
the scenario from the Interpretation of Knowledge with the lost sheep of the
GospTruth, this sheep wanders about in a scaring world that is filled with
beasts. This imagery resembles the view of the cosmos that is the Sabbath
in the Apocryphon of John as well:
Now the Ruler who is weak has three names. The first name
is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And
he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, "I am
God and there is no other God beside me," for he is ignorant of
his strength, the place from which he had come. And the Rulers
created seven powers for themselves, and the powers created for
themselves six angels for each one until they became 365 angels.
And these are the bodies belonging with the names: the first is
Athoth, a he has a sheep"s face; the second is Eloaiou, he has a
donkey"s face; the third is Astaphaios, he has a hyena"s face; the
fourth is Yao, he has a serpent"s face with seven heads; the fifth
is Sabaoth, he has a dragon"s face; the sixth is Adonin, he had a
monkey"s face; the seventh is Sabbede, he has a shining fire-face.
This is the hebdoad of the Sabbath. 79
The Sabbath clearly denotes the cosmic sphere with its tyrannical powers.80
The benefit of the analysis
From the evidence that was put forward in the previous section, we have
good reasons to say that "the day from above" is the opposite of the "Sab-
bath." The Sabbath is the pit from which the Father lifted the sheep. If the
Sabbath denotes the Hebdoad, the day from above is the Ogdoad. This per-
spective explains why the community is called "the elevated intelligence."81
NHC II.11.15-35. With minor alteration I use Wisse"s translation.
The Origin of the World NHC II 101.27 might have a slightly altered parallel, but the
similarities are striking.
166CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
As the Father came and searched for the lost sheep, the duty of the congre-
gation is to steady and lift up others that have fallen into the world. That
"the Sabbath" is used as the term for the pit is a critique of the order of
this world and the creator god of the Old Testament. With this anticosmic
background, it is far from surprising that the latter part of the paraenesis
comprises a critique of the moral that belongs to the Hebdoad. Neither a
vicious life or a legalistic law that is based on retaliation belongs to the
The Father is the prototype for the community, which members have the
same duty as the Father: to save the lost sheep from the cosmic pit of death
The paraenesis as a whole
In order to carry through the analysis of the paraenesis, we divided it in two
parts. Now, we have to make clear in what way the results from the parts
The general understanding of the paraenesis as an anticosmic text supports
the interpretation that I suggested above. This anticosmic tendency is ob-
vious when we keep in mind the meaning of the Sabbath. It is from the
understanding of the Sabbath that we find the key to the paraenesis. This
is the reason why I have to oppose some other possible interpretations of
Grammatically 33.24-25, could be understood as a passage that expresses a
need of punishing the lawless persons. In light of this the first part of the
paraenesis should be a missionary exhortation in which the congregation is
exhorted to rescue those who actually belong to the community, but yet are
left in the cosmic pit. The second part of the paraenesis, 33.11-30, with
such interpretation would be a fairly harsh warning to those who leave the
community, they should be punished, and some of those who live a vicious
life inside of the community should be expelled.
Against this interpretation speaks the interpretation of the Sabbath, but
also the difficulties this interpretation leads to when we try to interpret
33.26-30. I can not see in what way these lines could be intelligible from the
just described interpretation of retaliation.
Another problem is in what way the exhortation to pay attention to oneself
and not to others would fit in. According to my interpretation, to pay
attention to oneself means to pay attention to someone who belongs to a
sphere that transcends the cosmic realm. With this presupposition in mind,
it is clear that the perspective of the Ogdoad demands another life than that
of retaliation and depravity, as such things belong to the Hebdoad.
THE PARAENESIS 167
With the interpretation that asks for excommunication and retaliation how-
ever, it seems more likely that the members of the community should pay
more attention to others than to themselves.
We began with a narrow perspective in which grammatical problems was in
the foreground. Then we used intertexts as an aid in the analysis. Now,
we end up with a key to interpret the paraenesis. Moreover, the proposed
interpretation solves most philological problems.
Even though the paraenesis could be used in a broader Christian framework,
many parts of the text would remain obscure and even contradictory without
an anticosmic Valentinian reading.
The paraenesis in its context
The paraenesis of the GospTruth has been important when scholars have
tried to relate the GospTruth to a ritual setting. S"auml;ve-S"ouml;derbergh82 claimed
that the paraenesis would fit well in a baptismal context. I agree that the
first part of the paraenesis could do so, even though the language is very
general. But the latter part rather indicates that the preacher aims at some
more specific matters in the community. 33.24-30 hardly fits in a general
Tite83 devotes a major portion of his dissertation to the paraenesis. He high-
lights the problems with the view that Gnostics were uninterested in ethical
matters.84 I find his examples of this view enlightening. Tite highlights
the problem of a twofold trajectory of "Christian"
and "Gnostic."85 However,
there still seems to be an advantage of using the category "Gnostic." Of
course, the GospTruth is a Christian text, but it is also Gnostic. In a good
way Tite"s work serves to demonstrate the use of paraenesis in Gnostic texts,
and he also raises an important issue when he criticizes the stereotyped view
of Gnostics that for many years was predominant. But I side with Meeks,
when he claims that the worldview and the attitude to the body has an
important impact on ethics.86 In the GospTruth, the paraenesis is framed
by the passage dealing with the Sabbath. The order of this world and of the
creator god is contrasted with the order of the perfect realm. The paraenesis
is followed by a passage in which the Gnostics, in the form of the Father"s
fragrance, are liberated from the material world and ascends. This perspec-
tive is based in the anti-cosmic view that marks the GospTruth. This world
cannot be reformed, and thus has to be transcended. In the GospTruth we
have a strong anti-cosmic tendency, one creator god that is different from
Tite 2005, pp. 192-195.
Tite 2005, p.195.
168CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
the highest deity, and the knowledge as means of achieving redemption could
be a mini-definition of Gnosticism. Solely using the Christian category risks
to conceal relations between Christian and non-Christian texts. We could
use Gnostic in the same way as we, for instance, can use "apocalyptic." On
the basis of my analysis of the Sabbath and the paraenesis, as well as on the
ground of the analysis in the prior chapter, I cannot follow King when she
seems to overlook the anti-cosmic basis for the ethics in the GospTruth.87
Moreover, there is a strong critique of the creator god of the Old Testament
who observes the Sabbath and the whole of humanity is not saved. King
and Tite justly criticize many stereotypes concerning Gnosticism, but they
go too far in the other direction when they overlook the features that come
from the anti-cosmic tendency in the GospTruth.
Tite asserts that the latter part of the paraenesis exhorts the community
to avoid outsiders.88 According to Tite, the outsiders are the obstacles
ta"Ntilde;ro that occur in 33.22. They are in a chaotic state and are depicted
as falling.89 But the use of "Ntilde;rop in this way would be odd. It probably
reproduces the Greek skandalon or pr"igrave;skwma. As I argued for above, I
propose an understanding of this term that resembles Paul"s usage. Tite
further claims that the outsiders should be treated poorly, something that
would contrast with the treatment of the insiders.90 The reason for this,
according to Tite, is that the lawless acts lawlessly and the righteous person
acts among others.91
Tite obviously represents the view that I criticized above when I discussed
alternatives to the Valentinian reading of the paraenesis. He never discusses
the many philological problems that make the paraenesis so difficult, and
his understanding of the Sabbath remains unclear. It makes it hard for me
to understand in what manner he reaches his conclusions.
An appeal to discard strife and division
In 25.19-25, the preacher refers to what has happened to the community.
This experience of the congregation and the preacher is the basis for the
exhortation: "Thus it is fitting for us to be mindful of the All so that the
house will be holy and peaceful for the Unity."92 In order to understand the
situation for the community, we thus have to look for these earlier events.
From the preceding analysis, we already know that the congregation has
See pages 42-43.
Tite 2005, p. 188.
Tite 2005, p. 188.
Tite 2005, p. 207.
Tite 2005, p. 207.
AN APPEAL TO DISCARD STRIFE AND DIVISION 169
been elevated from the cosmic pit to the higher realm that is called "the
perfect day." That is the same as to pass from ignorance to knowledge.
But as we saw in the previous chapter, knowledge is not the only impor-
tant thing. The perfect day is a condition that contrasts with the cosmic
existence. This existence is marked by egocentrism and strife. In the text
that precedes 25.19-25, the earlier state is depicted as division, envy, strife
and lack, whereas the congregation is in completion, unity and harmony.93
It is worth observing that obtaining knowledge is an irreversible state. The
lack is caused by the ignorance. When this is replaced by the knowledge
about the Father, the ignorance will not recur.94 But why does the preacher
remind the community to be mindful of the All and keep the house peace-
ful? There are two possible interpretations. The first is that the strife in
the community worries the preacher. The second interpretation is that the
community should be certain that those who belong to the All will come
to the church. Then, it would only be a matter of time. The first inter-
pretation must be rejected. Immediately before 25.19-25,95 we read that
there are people who at the moment are in the state of division. However,
they will purify themselves and turn from multiplicity into unity. But there
are also others who never will join the community. When the judgement
comes it is clear that they are broken.96 The broken jars are of a completely
different kind than those who could join the community. The consequence
of this situation is that the members of the community could be certain
that those who belong to them sooner or later will join. Those who do not
come are of a different origin and could never come to the peaceful house.
It is therefore advisable to refrain from fruitless missionary activities. As
a support for his or her attitude, the preacher continues with a description
of the conditions at the time when Jesus came to Earth.97 As we saw in
the preceding chapter, his spiritual flesh was the church that appeared with
him. Since 25.35-27.4 has an important function for 25.15-21 we will now
examine this passage before we return to 25.19-25.
Structural analysis of 25.35-27.4
I divide the section in five units. The first runs from 25.35-26.10a, the second
from 26.10b-26.16a, the third from 26.16b-26.23a, the forth from 26.23b-32a
and the fifth from 26.32b-27.4.
The first unit is headed by the causal "Because this is the judgement that
has come from above" teei te tekricic nta"ETH;ei abal mpca. This
170CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
causal clause is superordinated to another causal construction: "since it
judged everyone, being a drawn two-edged sword that cuts in either side"
eac "Oacute; "ETH;ep aouan nim euchfe te ecyalm mfo cneu ecy-
wwt nca pica mn peei. The construction explains why "this is the
judgement." It is a process of dividing. In its turn the second causal con-
struction is superordinated to a third causal construction "since the Word
came forth in the minds of those who spoke it, it was not only a sound
but it became a body" eafi atmhte nqi piye"Ntilde;e etn"ETH;rhei "ETH;n
p"ETH;ht nnetye"Ntilde;e mmaf ou"ETH;rau ouaeetf en pe alla afr
oucwma. When the Word became a body it was the cause of the dividing
process that on its part was the cause for the judgement that is the cause
for the superordinated main clause, "a great disturbance took place among
the jars" ounaq nytartr afywpe n"ETH;rhi "ETH;n nckeuoc.
In the second unit the movement among the jars is a consequence of their
different conditions. The differences have become obvious due to the dividing
process that was described in the prior unit.
The third unit contains additional information about the disturbance that
was the climax in the first unit. The anxiety of Error is the cause of the in-
stability of its offspring. We also turn from the perfect to present tense. The
destruction of Error is an ongoing process that is caused by the revelation
of the Word that is described in the perfect tense. When the Word became
manifest in the church, it was evident that some beings did not belong to it.
In the forth unit the Truth appears. It means the destruction of Error, but
the focus is laid upon the group that welcomes the knowledge. The gifts of
the Truth become united with the Father, which is contrasted to the gifts
of Error that became annihilated.
The fifth unit opens with the summarising "for" gar and expounds on the
theme from the preceding unit. Those who love the Father become united
with him. This is expressed by a somewhat peculiar imagery. The Truth is
the Father"s mouth and his tongue is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the
connection between the one who loves the Truth and the Father"s mouth
that is the Truth. What in the first unit was described as the judgement
and a process of separation, in the fifth unit becomes the way into unity
with the Father through the Holy Spirit.
Semantic analysis of 25.35-27.4
"Ntilde;ec in 26.12 has puzzled scholars. I follow Layton"s suggestion98 and treat
it as a form of the Sahidic qoc. According to Crum99 "Ntilde;ec is attested in
Bohairic. This is one of many occasions of Bohairisms in this Lycopolitan
Layton 2004, p. 144.
Crum 1939, 832a.
AN APPEAL TO DISCARD STRIFE AND DIVISION 171
document. However, I treat it differently than Layton. He lets "half" refer
to the preceding "full" that results in the translation "half full," whereas I
let it refer to the following word. In this way my translation results in two
groups of jars: one half of them are full, supplied and purified, whereas the
other half is emptied, has leaked out and is broken.
maeit nim in 26.15-16 is usually rendered with "all ways." However,
this translation often seems to be out of place. In 25.35-27.4 it is fitting to
render it synonymously with ouan nim in 26.1-2 and 26.32-33. Possibly
maeit nim reproduces the Greek t"igrave;poj, which Crum gives as a Bohairic
usage.100 Therefore, I frequently render maeit nim with "everything" or
Intertextual analysis of 25.35-27.4
"...a drawn two-edged sword that cuts in either side"101 might be influenced
by Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than
any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints
and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The
sword sorts out different groups of people from one another, and as was
discussed in the semantic analysis we have to reckon with two groups, one
that belongs to fullness and another that belongs to emptiness. In 25.19-
35 this division is expressed by the good and the bad jars. In 36.19-20 we
learned that full jars are ointed. As the ointment probably refers to the
baptism it fits well together with the imagery of moving into the house of
peace and unity that is described in 25.19-35. A completed jar is anointed,
and the ointment is the Father"s mercy by which Jesus oints the full jars.102
Probably a pun on Christ as "the anointed" underlies the text on page 36.
The ointment functions as a seal and protects the jar from leaking out its
contents, whereas from a deficient jar the contents easily leaks out.103
In the fifth unit104 it is through the Holy Spirit that those who love the
Truth are linked to the Father"s mouth that is the Truth. Thus, the Spirit
unites the enlightened person with the Father"s mouth. Again, the baptism
is a probable reference. We also have an imagery that stresses that the
illuminated person is the active word from the Father. This resembles the
pattern that we recall from the previous chapter. There, the redeemed
person becomes a redeemer.
"...it was not only a sound but it became a body."105 In a context in which
Crum 1939, 188b.
172CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
the Word comes forth as a Saviour it is natural to search in the Johannine
literature for Biblical parallels. Maybe "it was not only a sound" refers to
John 1:15: "John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom
I said, "He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me."rdquo;"
John 1:15 would easily have popped up in the mind of the author of the
GospTruth if "it became a body" is influenced by John 1:14: "And the Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld
his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." Granting that these
Johannine passages have influenced the actual quotation of the GospTruth,
then, the jars symbolise the reaction of different persons at the time of
Jesus" appearance. The body would not refer to carnal flesh, but rather to
the spiritual body of the Saviour. That it was not any longer only a sound
would mean that what the prophets had predicted now became reality. This
is a kind of argument that Origen ascribes to Heracleon:
The words, however, "I am the voice of one crying in the
wilderness," etc., may be taken as equivalent to "I am He of whom
the "voice in the wilderness" is written." Then John would be the
person crying, and his voice would be that crying in the wilder-
ness, "Make straight the way of the Lord." Heracleon, discussing
John and the prophets, says, somewhat slanderously, that "the
Word is the Saviour; the voice, that in the wilderness which John
interpreted; the sound is the whole prophetic order."106
What earlier was prophecy becomes the Saviour"s body, which we recognise
as the Valentinian jargon for the spiritual church.
The function of 25.35-27.4 with regard to 25.19-25
In 25.35-27.4 the time for Jesus earthly mission is mixed with the time in
which the preacher lives. Since some persons still are ignorant, Error has
not yet disappeared. The perspective on time is "Already now, and not
yet." We are in the framework of realised eschatology. Not even when Jesus
came, everyone greeted him. Some others responded to the redeemer and
they were baptised and joined with the Word. The appearance of the Word
made it clear that there were different kinds of people. Those who join
with the Father"s tongue and mouth speak with one voice. They obviously
contrast with the multitude of quarrels in other groups. The addressing of
the time for the Saviour"s appearance, probably consoles the congregation.
They should continue the mission, but not even the Saviour himself could
save those who belonged to Error.
Origen"s commentary on the Gospel of John VI.12.
AN APPEAL TO DISCARD STRIFE AND DIVISION 173
The importance of 25.25-35 with regard to 25.19-25
In 25.25-35, we are told about a man who moves from his old house to a new
one. Before he takes pains to carry all the jars to the new home, he checks if
any jars are broken. The broken jars he throws away. This is the imagery of
this parable. In our context the house may symbolise the community. But
how did this parable come up into the mind of the preacher at this occasion?
An intertextual observation will provide us with a deeper understanding of
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a
workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the
word of truth. Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people
into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will eat its way
like gangrene. Among them are Hymenae"us and Phile"tus, who
have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is
past already. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God"s
firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those
who are his," and, "Let every one who names the name of the Lord
depart from iniquity." In a great house there are not only vessels
of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some
for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from
what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated
and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work.
So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love,
and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure
heart. Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies;
you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord"s servant must
not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher,
forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may
perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth,
and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being
captured by him to do his will.107
With this passage as background it is easy to understand in what way the
preacher of the GospTruth came up with this parable.108 Without reading
in too much of second Timothy into the GospTruth, an influence from it
is very likely. The imagery of the jars and the house are not common in
other Biblical texts. The advice to withdraw from squabbles with others is
explicit in second Timothy and a probable understanding of the GospTruth
The second epistle to Timothy 2:15-26.
Orlandi 1992, p. 57, gave Romans 9:20-24 and Second Timothy 2:20-21 as references
to this passage. Even though the terminology in Romans also resembles that of the
GospTruth, it hardly fits in this context.
174CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
as well. To keep peace is common to both sources as well as the terminology
of the Jars and the house. "The pure heart" in second Timothy resembles the
stress on purification in the GospTruth. In the context of the GospTruth the
associations that would have become evoked by the proposed intertext fits
well with the exhortation that the community should desist from fruitless
Conclusion to 25.19-25
In 25.19-20 the preacher directs him/or herself to the community. "If this has
happened to all of us." the congregation must probably agree: "yes, this has
really happened to all of us!" They thereby confirm that they have left the
realm of envy and strife. Through purification they have discarded division
and entered the realm of completion and unity. Some persons are scattered,
but they will sooner or later join with the church. Others will never join,
but that depends on that they belong to error, and consequently do not
really exist. Through the peace and unity the outsiders will be attracted
and come to the congregation.109 It is because of this, the community should
be mindful of the All and keep the house holy and peaceful.
What happens with the rest? an analysis of 42.39-
After having described the unity and peace that those who ascend to the
Father will enjoy, the preacher for a moment asks what will happen to
another group. This group is called "the rest" pkeyw"Ntilde;p. The rest will
remain in their own places. The preacher does not want to focus upon them.
Instead, he or she says that it only is fitting for the one who has been at
the place of repose to speak about that place, the Father of the All and the
Father"s children. This scanty information does not provide us with much
information when we want to understand who those are who are described
as the rest. However, we will anyway try to draw some conclusions. To
which category of people does the rest belong? According to Grobel,110 the
rest simply might refer to non-Christians. Menard111 suggested that the
GospTruth, without employing the terms Pneumatics, Psychics and Hylics,
reckons with similar categories.
However, in the analysis of 25.35-27.4 on pages 168-172 we stated that the
GospTruth only reckons with two groups of beings. One belongs to Error
Grobel 1960, p.191.
Menard 1972, p. 191.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE REST? AN ANALYSIS OF 42.39-43.16175
and the other to the Father. Consequently, the Rest cannot constitute a
third group that would correspond to Psychics. But how do we understand
the Rest? From 40.30 and to the end of the GospTruth the focus is on the
Father and on how the Father should be viewed. In 40.30 it is the Saviour
who is brought forth in order to speak about the place of repose and in 42.39
it is the preacher who tells us that it is what someone who has been in that
place should speak about. As we stated in the discussion regarding Error
on pages 87-92 it is clear that focusing on Error, which is all things that
does not belong to the Father, only causes anxiety. On the basis of these
discussions I propose that 42.39 to the end of the GospTruth is an extension
of the discussion that runs from 40.30 and onwards. The community does
not have to worry about other things than the Father as he is good and
knows everything in advance 42.7-8. On the contrary, all who think of the
Father will be lifted up to him, 42.24-33.
In this manner the pattern that was described in the previous chapter is
repeated. The Redeemer spoke about the Father and of the place from
which he has come, 40.30, and the Gnostic should act in the same manner.
To worry about the others is the same thing as thinking small thoughts
about the Father, and in the GospTruth such thinking is Error.
176CHAPTER 6. THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTHChapter 7
Rethinking The Gospel of
In chapter one I discussed different viewpoints on the GospTruth. Although
many scholars have favoured the position that the GospTruth is a Valen-
tinian work, the basis for their claim often is constituted by proposals that
contradict what other scholars with the same standpoint assert. It has there-
fore been interesting to scrutinise a recent and different way of approaching
the problem of placing the GospTruth in its original setting.1
Thomassen"s work2 has the advantage that it takes its point of departure in
primary sources, especially the TripTrac. In this manner we escape many of
the source critical problems that inevitably burden the positions that to a
large extent build upon the heresiological reports. According to Thomassen
the eastern Valentinian school was most faithful to the original doctrine of
Valentinus, and all the more important for this study, the GospTruth be-
longs to that brand as well.3 A distinct feature of the eastern school should
be the idea of the spiritual body of the Saviour. However, Thomassen has
not demonstrated in what way the Saviour"s body of the GospTruth is con-
stituted. If the Saviour"s body would consist of Pneumatics and Psychics
alike, the GospTruth would belong to the western school. If we fail to de-
termine the way in which the Saviour"s body is built, the location of the
GospTruth in the eastern school would heavily depend on its hypothetical
adherence to the protology that Thomassen calls type A and which I have
denoted as the eastern type. From this perspective the analyses that have
been carried through on page 132-139 and 168-172 not only provides us with
As one purpose of this chapter is to help the reader to see in what way I have related
my analyses to the different topics that were discussed in chapter one, I will account for
the pages on which the different analyses were carried out.
See page 20-29.
178 CHAPTER 7. RETHINKING THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
new information about the GospTruth, but is important when we determine
whether it is possible to make a relatively exact proposal regarding the rela-
tion between Valentinus, eastern Valentinianism and the GospTruth. From
my analyses I draw the following conclusions with regard to the constitution
of the Saviour"s body in the GospTruth:
"bull; In the GospTruth we only encounter two groups of beings: one that
belongs to the Father and another that belongs to Error. On this
basis we can exclude the possibility that the GospTruth would include
a group of the kind that in Valentinianism would be called Psychics.4
"bull; It is also likely that those who are entrusted with the salvation in 20.6-
9 are the apostles and the other disciples. In the same manner as in
the TripTrac 116.5-17.85 they constitute the heavenly church that in
the GospTruth descends with Jesus and is called the living book of
"bull; Although certainty hardly can be obtained in these matters, the above
proposed interpretation is coherent with regard to the GospTruth, and
provides an intelligible reading of many passages that otherwise would
"bull; Drawing upon the intertextual analysis of first Clement,6 the pattern
from first Clement regarding the spreading of the duty of the work of
God resembles that of the GospTruth.
"bull; But there seems to be differences between the spiritual body of the
TripTrac and that of the GospTruth. In the GospTruth the "living
book of the living," which I presume is the Saviour"s body, comes from
within the Father, whereas in the TripTrac it comes from the Ogdoad.
Perhaps this difference simply depends on the different genres. The
GospTruth is a homily, while the TripTrac is a systematic treatise.
However, I would say that it really depends on a difference in theol-
ogy on this point. The GospTruth seems to have a simpler system
than that of the TripTrac and might reflect an earlier stage in the
development within Valentinianism.
In my analyses on page 150-168 I have tried to solve some very difficult
philological problems, and simultaneously to deepen our understanding of
the attitude that the author of the GospTruth had in some ethical questions.
I would like to stress the following points:
See especially the analysis of the two groups of jars on page 168-172.
See page 23.
See page ??-147.
"bull; As already discussed by for instance Desjardins7 ethics was an im-
portant field of debate for Gnostics as well as for others, and in the
GospTruth a paraenesis on page 32-33 of the GospTruth is an example
of this ethical concern.
"bull; In the GospTruth an ethic is advocated for that is based on something
that transcends the worldly laws of retaliation as well as egocentric
living that could hurt others. The conduct that belongs to the Father"s
children is based in their kinship with the Father who is without evil
"bull; Although the critique of the law of retaliation probably resembles the
one that is put forward in Ptolemy"s letter to Flora, there also are
differences between the position in the GospTruth and the one that
was held by Ptolemy. In contrast to Ptolemy the GospTruth shows no
appreciation of the law as a metaphor for good conduct. The law of
the Old testament belongs to the Sabbath that in the GospTruth is
a designation for the cosmic world. When the Father rescues the lost
sheep on the Sabbath, he is an example for the community members.
The children should continually encourage those who want to know the
truth, and help them to ascend from the cosmic pit. In this manner
the GospTruth probably has a lot in common with the Interpretation
"bull; The ethics of the GospTruth is intelligible from an anti-cosmic perspec-
tive. I therefore side with Meekson page 41 who stresses the important
link between the worldview and ethics. As is evident from the discus-
sion regarding the law and the Sabbath but also from the discussion
about Error on page 87-92 the demiurge figure is depicted as an evil
and aggressive being. From this perspective it would be surprising if
something good could be found in the law of the Old Testament, since
after all it has its origin in Error. But other wordly attitudes towards
ethics are rooted in the cosmic sphere as well. It is in this light I inter-
pret page 33 of the GospTruth. The one who hurts people because of
lawless living causes fear and pain, but so does the one who punishes
through the legal system as well.
"bull; If Grobel on page 40 represents a traditional position according to
which Gnostics would be uninterested in ethics, the paraenesis of the
GospTruth undermines such attitude. But King seems to go too far
in the other direction when she overlooks that the anti-cosmicity both
is strong and has importance for the ethics in the GospTruth.8 The
GospTruth concerns ethics and it is Christian, but the world view that
See page 40.
See page 42-43.
180 CHAPTER 7. RETHINKING THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
is more anti-cosmic than the one of for instance the TripTrac is a good
example of what we could call Gnosticism.
On page 14-15 I discussed the scholarly discourse in which too much focus
has been laid upon the heresiological material. For quite a long time we have
had access to many Valentinian texts, but still, many of the topics that
the Valentinians discussed has drowned in the heresiologically influenced
discourse. On page 139-147 I have tried to give a voice to the Valentinian
interpretation of the crucifixion, plurality and unity. When the heavenly
church descended in order to join with the part that was stuck in the cosmic
sphere, it had to suffer from the cosmic conditions as well. In valentinian
terms such suffering often is called division, as it is a break with the unity
that is the ideal state. In the GospTruth all enlightened persons will suffer
and resurrect in the same manner as Jesus. They will become redeemers
for others, and thus they are entrusted with the work of salvation.9 In this
way the salvation spreads to many. The horizontal cross bar represents the
spreading in the world, while the vertical bar unites those who are in the
world with the path to the spiritual realm. In the Valentinian discourse the
cross is related to purification and restriction as well as to the ascending to
the Father. On the cross the members of the church are subordinated to
the head that is Jesus. In this manner the cross is a path from egocentrism
to unity when the individuals are incorporated in the body of Christ. At
the same time it is the way out of the cosmos, and when the Father wants
it, each one will ascend to him. This discourse is known from for instance
the Gospel of Philip and the Interpretation of Knowledge that often are
held to be Valentinian texts, but has never been used as a perspective for
the reading of the GospTruth. In the GospTruth the spreading of the work
of salvation from Jesus to the apostles and to other disciples according to
the same pattern as in first Clement, naturally is combined with the strong
emphasis on mission that we encounter in the GospTruth. All who have
been enlightened become a redeemer and will joyfully follow the Father"s
will to speak about the Father"s sweetness and goodness and thereby do
away with Error. With this reading new perspectives are opened, and we
gain new insights to the world of the community of the GospTruth.
According to the scheme in which everyone becomes a redeemer, the mis-
sionary zeal that is expressed in the paraenesis of the GospTruth 32-33 is
natural. But I would also say that we have a tendency to temper the in-
volvement with outsiders. On page 168-174 I have used intertexts in order
to detect how 25.19-27.4 functions in the process of communication. Al-
though we admittedly are on the field of fairly wild speculations, it is not
at all unlikely that the GospTruth reflects a situation in which the preacher
exhorts the community to refrain from the quarrels that might have plagued
The GospTruth 20.6-9.
the neighbouring communities, and instead encourage them to focus on their
own peace and purification. Therefore, the proposal by Thomassen10 that
the GospTruth reflects the situation in which the Valentinian congregation
in Rome withdrew from the quarrels among the other communities is attrac-
tive. This explains why the Valentinians in Rome never could be thrown
out of the church, as they had already left it on their own accord.
In chapter three I have presented an analysis of 16.31-18.31 that both serves
to demonstrate the benefit of using text linguistic tools, and also to highlight
some aspects regarding Error that so far scarcely have been discussed. The
GospTruth implicitly elaborates on a strongly aggressive demiurge figure.
But step by step this figure is transformed into a psychological condition.
To view God as evil, harsh and jealous causes the anguish and fear that will
snare people in Error. Instead one should focus on the Father whose sweet-
ness and goodness will make anguish and terror cease. I have also suggested
that Error often is best understood as a group of people rather than as a
mythological figure. Many times translators have chosen to translate the
third person plural with a passive construction when the active translation
would work equally well, or perhaps would be preferable. In this way they
risk to conceal some of the social aspects of the GospTruth. The text lin-
guistic tools often help to reveal in what way the line of thought is carried
out, and often is of help in the work as translator as well.
The GospTruth is a text that is a challenge for the translator. The discus-
sions that are going on in the field of translation theory has increased my
awareness of problems and possibilities in the process of translating, and I
hope that my work can influence others and open doors to other disciplines
that are important for the historian of religions. On page 33-35 many is-
sues regarding the original language and the style of the GospTruth were
addressed. The work with the GospTruth has convinced me that it is a well-
composed text that probably originally was written in Greek and translated
to different Coptic dialects. Sometimes in NHC 1.3 we encounter traces of
a northern Egyptian version from which the Lycopolitan version was trans-
ferred. The elegance of the text that after all has survived through all the
stages of transfer both in Greek and Coptic favours the standpoint that the
Greek original showed great elegance and rhetorical skill.
But who was the author of this elegant Gnostic work? Probably we will
never know that. But my analyses have made me believe that we have in
the GospTruth an original work of Valentinus of Alexandria. The results in
chapter five and six has filled some gaps in Thomassen"s recent work. If we
build on the model with the two Valentinian schools the GospTruth belongs
to the eastern one. This is the results from the discussion regarding the
Saviour"s body. Moreover, the argument of non-expulsion that was described
See page 29-32.
182 CHAPTER 7. RETHINKING THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH
on page 29-32 is supported by the analysis on page 168-174. Ptolemy had
the rhetorical skill to be the author of the GospTruth but the view on the
Sabbath that he expresses in the letter to Flora is different from the one
that I have detected in the GospTruth. If we have to look for a Valentinian
in the eastern school with great imagination and rhetorical skill, Valentinus
is the best choice at the present stage of scholarship.
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By Jorgen Magnusson.
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"... The Logos-Wisdom is the principle of all Divine and Esoteric Revelations. She has the characteristics of being the indwelling revealer of God. She IS the active principle and the transmitter of all Divine knowledge as well as the cosmological cause of all Creation ..."