Gnostic Doctrine

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

The Restoration of Sophia

The Restoration of Sophia



and she repented and she besought the Father of the truth, saying, "Granted that I have renounced my consort. Therefore I am beyond confirmation as well. I deserve the things (passions) I suffer. I used to dwell in the Pleroma putting forth the Aeons and bearing fruit with my consort" And she knew what she was and what had become of her.



Valentinians explicitly identified Sophia (Wisdom), the youngest of the Aeons with Eve, "mother of the living" (Hippolytus Refutation 6:29 cf. Genesis 3:20). According to Valentinian teachers, the separation of Sophia/Eve from her male counterpart results in her expulsion from the heavenly Pleroma.

According to Valentinian teachers, the passage "In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Genesis1:27), means the creation of the "spiritual humanity" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:18:2). Specifically, "the 'male' are called angels, while the 'female' themselves are the superior seed" (Excerpts of Theodotus 21,1). The 'male' are of course Adam/Christ while the 'female' are of course Eve/Sophia.

The creation of Eve from Adam's rib is understood to mean that Eve has become separated from him. In their interpretation, it is this separation of Eve from Adam rather than the eating of the forbidden fruit which constitutes the fall. The "sleep" of Adam (Genesis 2:21) is the sleep of ignorance into which Sophia/Eve fell as a consequence of which she was separated from him. According to the Interpretation of Knowledge, "From being counted with the female (i.e.Eve), sleep brought labor and the sabbath which is the world" (Interpretation of Knowledge 11:18-20 cf. Gen 3:17). As Ptolemy says, she "plunged forward and fell victim to suffering without the embrace of her consort" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:2:2).

According to Valentinian myth, Sophia/Eve "cut herself off from her consort"(Valentinian Exposition 34) and this results in the creation of the material universe. Just as Sophia separated from her partner, "so also in the case of Adam: the male remained in him, but the entire female seed was taken from him and became Eve (i.e. Sophia), from whom the female beings derive, as do the males from him. The males were drawn together with the Word" (ExTheo 21:2-3).

The Gospel of Philip states that "Eve separated from Adam because she was never united with him in the Bridal Chamber"(Gospel of Philip 70). According to Valentinian myth of the fall, God held back perfect knowledge (gnosis) of himself from his Aeons (including Sophia) so that they would search for him. Until Chist manifested himself to them, the Aeons had not united in the "bridal chamber", a metaphor for perfect knowledge of God. It was as a result of this withholding of gnosis that the fall occured.

The separation of Sophia/Eve is described as the origin of our deficient relationship with God. In Valentinianism deficiency or ignorance is identical with spiritual death. According to the Gospel of Philip "When Eve was still in Adam death did not exist. When she was separated from him death came into being" (GP 63 cf. Genesis 3:19 see also Gospel of Philip 70). However, this allegory ends on an optimistic note. The passage in Genesis that follows the separation of Eve from Adam describes how "a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife and they become a single flesh" (Genesis 2:24). According to the Valentinians, this "man" is Christ who descends from the Fullness (pleroma) to unite with his partner Sophia/Eve. As Theodotus says, "he came forth, full of the Aeons, as one who proceeded from the All" (Excerpts of Theodotus 23,1).

Christ is the second Adam, who comes to undo the fall. According to the Gospel of Philip, "Adam came into being from two virgins, from the Spirit and from the virgin earth. Christ, therefore, was born of a virgin to rectify the fall which occurred in the beginning" (Gospel of Philip 74). Elsewhere in the same work, it says, "Christ came to came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and again unite the two, and to give Life to those who died as a result of the separation and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated" (Gospel of Philip 70)

The Gospel of Philip "if she (Sophia/Eve) enters into him and he takes her to himself, death will no longer exist" (Gospel of Philip 63). Similarly, according to the Exegesis on the Soul, "once they unite with one another, they become a single life. Wherefore the prophet said concerning the first man and woman, 'They will become a single flesh'. For they were originally joined to one another when they were with the Father, before the woman led astray the man, who is her brother" (Exegesis on the Soul 132:34-133:6).

The Interpretation of Knowledge contrasts the "sleep"(Genesis 2:21) of ignorance which brings about the separation with the "sleep" of gnosis which reverses it. According to this author, "From being counted with the female (i.e.Sophia), sleep brought labor and the sabbath which is the world. But from being counted with the Father, sleep brought the Sabbath and the exodus from the world of the beasts" (Interpretation of Knowledge 11:18-22) It allows us to reverse the fall and "enter through the rib whence you came" (Interpretation of Knowledge 10:34-35 cf Genesis 2:21-22).

Thus Sophia/Eve will be to be reunited with Christ/Adam and the fall undone. Similarly, the female "seed" within each of us is to be reunited with its male angelic counterpart. As Theodotus concludes in his discussion of the separation of Adam and Eve, "the female . . . unites itself with the angels and enters into the Fullness" (Excerpts of Theodotus 21:3). Through gnosis, "we are raised equal to angels, restored to the males, member to member, to form a unity" (Excerpts of Theodotus 22:2). Accordingly, "when Sophia (Wisdom) receives her consort and Jesus receives the Christ and the seeds and the angels; then the Fullness will receive Sophia (Wisdom) joyfully, and the All will come to be in unity and reconciliation" (Valentinian Exposition 39)

What humanity lost in the separation of Adam from Eve, psyche from pneuma, Christians now may recover through the sacraments that enact Christ's reunion with his church. The gnostic Christian receives baptism, then, not only, as psychics do, as a "going into death' (cf. Gos. Phil. 77,11; cf. Rom. 6:3-4) and purification from sins but as a reunion with the syzygos Adam lost in separating from Eve. The partidpant, once bom naturally ("from Adam"), now receives, through baptism, "the gift of the holy spirit' (Gos. Phil. 64,26; 77,14). Yet the process that baptism initiates (rebirth through the holy spirit) receives completion only in chrism ("anointing"), which effects, as well, rebirth in the image of her syzygos Christ. Those receiving chrism are reborn from a complete syzygy, becoming children "of the bridal chamber' (Gos. Phil. 72,20-21; compare Ex. Theod. 68.79—80.1-3). The author of the Gospel of Philip explains that:

Through the holy spirit we are indeed bom but we are bom again through Christ. In the two we are anointed through the Spirit, and when we have been bom we are united.

Those who experience, through these first two sacraments, spiritual reconciliation then receive the eucharist as a celebration of “spiritual love' (Gos. Phil. 59,1-6), participating with Christ in the eucharistic prayer that consecrates the “mystery of marriage' (Gos. Phil. 64,31-32): “You who have joined the perfect, the light, with the holy spirit, unite the angels with us also, the images' (Gos. Phil. 58,10-12).

Partaking of the eucharistic bread and wine, the gnostic Christian perceives these, in turn, as symbols of the masculine and feminine elements of the pleromic syzygy. Interpreting John 6:5.3, 'Whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood has no life in him,' the author of the Gospel of Philip suggests that 'his flesh is the logos (in which dwells life, as Eve in Adam; cf. John 1:4) and his blood, the holy spirit. Whoever has received these has food and drink and clothing' (Gos. Phil. 57,2-8).

Participation in this whole sacramental 'mystery,' then, undoes the effects of Adam and Eve's transgression. The participant receives, first of all, 'clothing,' having 'put on Christ,' in baptism, to cover the nakedness that shamed the fallen Adam and Eve (Gos. Phil. 56,26—57,22). Second, while Adam, eating from the tree of knowledge, lost access to the tree of life, bringing death upon his progeny, the eucharist restores to the recipient—in the oil of chrism—the fruit of the tree of life (Gos. Phil. 73,15-20). Third, since Adam's progeny, following his transgression, could find 'no bread in the world,' that is, nothing to nourish their true humanity, 'man used to feed like the beasts' from the trees that symbolize 'the enjoyment of things that are evil' (Tri. Trac. 107,1-2), nourishing only their hylic nature. But when Christ, the perfect man, came, he brought bread from heaven (cf. John 6:53) so that man might be nourished with “human food' (Gos. Phil. 15). Whoever partakes of that food (logos and pneuma) in the eucharist receives the 'resurrection in the flesh,' life that cancels the penalty of death (Gos. Phil. 57). The sacraments, as the author of the Gospel of Philip emphasizes, consecrate the whole person, including, in particular, the body (Gos. Phil. 77,2-7).

Pistis Sophia

The long and elaborate dialogue called Pistis Sophia centers on the account of Sophia's thirteen-step restoration by the Savior, each step interpreted by a disciple using a psalm or ode, and the Savior's subsequent teaching the disciples the First Mystery so they too can escape the authorities and preach to others. They are to say, 'Renounce the whole world and all the matter within it, and all its cares, and all its sins, in a word, all its relationships which are in it, so that you may be worthy of the mysteries of the light' (102). Yet this is interpreted in three pages of renunciations of everything from talkativeness to theft to adultery to sorcery, culminating in the ultimate renunciation of false teachings (102). Either encratism is so much assumed that it remains unspoken, or, more likely, radical sexual asceticism has been modified by this writing into general social discipline and knowledge of how to escape punishment. The Lord's word, 'He who does not leave father and mother and come and follow me is not worthy of me,' is now interpreted as, *You should leave your fathers, the archons, so that I make you sons of the First Mystery forever' (131).

This could be intended to allegorize away the literal ascetic requirement. But what follows shows that ascetic practice was still an issue. Salome expresses alarm at the law of Moses' curse that 'whoever leaves father and mother will surely die.' Mary embraces her and reassures her that she has misread the meaning—apparently to condemn her own leaving her parents. She is greatly relieved and embraces Mary when she hears that the father she must not leave is the savior without whose mysteries she will die (132). If there is no longer a rejection of the three- part role throughout this community, the women who speak may yet represent such an option. And Mary who is called 'superior to all the disciples' (17; 97) represents a supplanting of traditional female roles as well with her key role seeking and interpreting wisdom

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