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Apocryphon of James

(176 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] (NHC I,2; Ap.Jas.), Epistula Jacobi Apocrypha, attested only in Coptic translation, is an untitled Gnostic writing, attributable with certainty to no known movement, but belonging to the dialogue gospels or conversations of the Risen Jesus, ostensibly a letter (sender recontructable as James [p. 1.1], addressee as [Kerin]thos? [p. 1.2.]). Ap.Jas. understands itself as secret doctrine (p. 1.10). The time of composition of the Greek original is difficult to determine: early 2…

Protennoia, Trimorphic

(150 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] (NHC XIII, 1), preserved only in a Coptic translation, probably derives from an early phase of Gnostic Sethianism; its Sitz im Leben was probably the cult or more specifically baptismal ¶ practice. It contains three revelatory discourses devoted to important aspects of the drama of the fall and redemption (Gnosis). In these hymnic discourses, responses of the Gnostic community are interwoven with textual passages on familiar cosmological, eschatological, and soteriological topoi. The figure of Protennoia is the…

Origin of the World, On the (NHC II, 5; XIII, 2; OW)

(167 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] a Gnostic tractate or treatise of the late 3rd or early 4th century, supposed to have been written in Alexandria. It is extant only in a Coptic translation, and belongs to no known school. It is marked by the criteria of ancient rhetoric, and has no title. Following a prologue, it contains long descriptions, especially of primeval times (theogony, cosmogony, events from Gen 1–3), and the end times, viewed apocalyptically. It is based on numerous heterogeneous traditions, including earlier Jewish traditions, refers to other literary works, has affinities to the Hypostas…

Nag Hammadi

(2,060 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] I. General – II. The Texts Discovered at Nag Hammadi – III. Significance I. General Nag Hammadi is an Upper Egyptian industrial town on the west bank of the Nile, about 125 km downstream from Luxor. At nearby Jabal al-Tarif, in December 1945 a peasant accidentally found, in a jug deposited in a cave, twelve codices from the first half of the 4th century ce and the remains of another, with much original evidence of Gnosis, and further texts in the Coptic language. The content of the Nag Hammadi codices (NHC) is related to that of the 5th-cen…

Interpretation of Knowledge (NHC XI, 1; Interpr)

(284 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] Interpr (or the Interpretation of Knowledge) is a partly very fragmentary Christian-Gnostic text which is only preserved in Coptic translation. Some scholars attribute the text to Valentinianism, although it probably cannot be associated with any known religious movement. It can be classified as a homily of mostly ecclesiological and christological content. Its unknown author is the representative of a particular historical reception of the canonical Gospels and Pauline Epistles known to him, but also of Colossians and Ephesians. Interpr points to a persecu…

Hypostasis of the Archons (NHC II,4)

(215 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] is a document, only attested in Coptic translation, attributed to Gnostic Sethianism (Nag Hammadi), the first major section of which chiefly offers a paraphrase of events in Gen 1–4:6, while the second major section portrays a revelatory dialogue between Norea and Eleleth dealing with the origin, essence and power of the archons. The Greek prototype was composed in the late 2nd or first half of the 3rd century. Hypostasis of the Archons ( HA) relies on sources and traditions; the dialogue contains material that also found its way into “On the Origin of…

Dialogue of the Savior

(232 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] (NHC III, 5; Dial. Sav.), a Gnostic Christian text attested only in Coptic translation and not attributable to any known school. Set in a pre-Paschal (?) context, it contains several apophthegmatic question-response units in which Matthew, Judas (Thomas), and Mary (Magdalene) ask questions and Jesus responds. Dial. Sav. also includes comments on creation, a series of wisdom sayings, and an apocalyptic vision. The thematic focus lies especially on redemption and the finding of “rest” (ἀνάπαυσις/ anápausis). Dial. Sav. employs heterogeneous, literarily fixed ¶ mat…

Seth, The Three Steles of (NHC VII,5; StelSeth)

(169 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] Until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices, this work, preserved only in Coptic, was unknown. It probably originated in the first half of the 3rd century in Alexandria or the territory of Palestine (Samaria?) or western Syria. Its original language was Greek. It is a non-Christian text associated with Sethianism, a liturgical formulary for ecstatic ascent to the vision of God. At its center are three hymnic passages invoking the three supreme deities while also identifying wit…