Gnostic Doctrine

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Apocryphal Gospels

Apocryphal Gospels

In the most recent decades, there has an astonishing rebirth of scholarly interest in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. The renewed interest has been and continues to be stimulated in part by new manuscript discoveries. One thinks of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. These have provided access to much more extensive knowledge of Judaism and Christianity in the period immediately following the close of the Old and New Testaments. 

Apocrypha (Apocrypha a Greek word meaning hidden or concealed) 


- Each of the disciples wrote his own gospel, recounting what the saviour said to him ‘in secret or in the open: James (after the crucifixion): “...the twelve disciples were all sitting together and recalling what the Savior had said to each one of them, whether in secret or openly, and putting it in books - But I was writing that which was in [my book] - lo, the Savior appeared...” (Apocryphon of James 2:8)

- The disciples wrote down his words ‘according to their desire’: “Then many will follow him (the saviour), and they will labor in their birthplaces. They will go about; they will write down his words according to (their) desire.” (Concept of Our Great Power 42:31)

- There are no canonical books. Rather, each may write through ‘grace’ and ‘the gift of prophecy’, without fear of provoking jealousy: “By having a brother who regards us as he also is, one glorifies the one who gives us grace. Moreover, it is fitting for each of us to enjoy the gift that he has received from God, and that we not be jealous, since we know that he who is jealous is an obstacle in his (own) path, since he destroys only himself with the gift and he is ignorant of God. He ought to rejoice and be glad and partake of grace and bounty. Does someone have a prophetic gift? Share it without hesitation. Neither approach your brother jealously nor ... (8 lines missing). Now your brother also has his grace: Do not belittle yourself, but rejoice and give thanks spiritually, and pray for that one, in order that you might share the grace that dwells within him. So do not consider him foreign to you, rather, (as) one who is yours, whom each of your fellow members received. By loving the Head who possesses them, you also possess the one from whom it is that these outpourings of gifts exist among your brethren.” (Interpretation of Knowledge)

- This explains the appearance of many Gnostic Gospels, attributed to different disciples, with divergent points of view.


- Just as divine prophecy allows the Gnostic to write a gospel, it also inspires his reading of the gospel, allowing him ‘to discern the Word’: “But is someone making progress in the Word? Do not be hindered by this; do not say: ''Why does he speak while I do not?", for what he says is (also) yours, and that which discerns the Word and that which speaks is the same power.” (Interpretation of Knowledge)


- Some Gnostic texts are the testimony of a vision: “... and he said to me, ‘Write down the things that I shall tell you, and of which I shall remind you, for the sake of those who will be worthy after you. And you will leave this book upon a mountain and you will adjure the guardian: "Come Dreadful One"’. And after he said these (things), he separated from me. But I was full of joy, and I wrote this book which was appointed for me, my son Messos, in order that I might disclose to you the (things) that were proclaimed before me in my presence. And at first I received them in great silence, and I stood by myself, preparing myself. These are the things that were disclosed to me, O my son Messos ... (13 lines missing)... proclaim them, O my son Messos, as the seal for all the books of Allogenes.” (Allogenes)


- The Gospel of the Egyptians is called a ‘God-written book’. See GOD-WRITTEN BOOK.
- The Gospel of the Egyptians is also attributed to the saviour-figure Seth. It will be placed ‘in a high mountain’ until its message is revealed ‘at the end of times’ for the salvation of ‘the holy race’: “This is the book which the great Seth wrote, and placed in high mountains on which the sun has not risen, nor is it possible (that it should do so). And since the days of the prophets and the apostles and the preachers, the name has not at all risen upon their hearts, nor is it possible (that it should do so). And their ear has not heard it. The great Seth wrote this book with letters in one hundred and thirty years. He placed it in the mountain that is called 'Charaxio,' in order that, at the end of the times and the eras, by the will of the divine Autogenes and the whole pleroma, through the gift of the untraceable, unthinkable, fatherly love, it may come forth and reveal this incorruptible, holy race of the great savior, and those who dwell with them in love, and the great, invisible, eternal Spirit, and his only-begotten Son, and the eternal light, and his great, incorruptible consort, and the incorruptible Sophia, and the Barbelon, and the whole pleroma in eternity. Amen.” (Gospel of the Egyptians)

Canonicity of a book therefore does not rest in whole or in part on whether some council, committee, or community accepts or rejects it. The voice of such no inspired men is valuable only as witness to what God has already done through his accredited representatives. 

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