Barbelo-Gnostic Marsanes, c.200 AD?

Discuss the world of the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Egyptians.
Post Reply
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 320
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Barbelo-Gnostic Marsanes, c.200 AD?

Post by billd89 »

I wonder where Marsanes was active, where his school was? (Link is to John Turner's excellent essay.) I doubt he was centered in Egypt. Any thoughts?

Reference
NHC 9

Marsanes (150?-210? AD) probably lived two generations before Plotinus (205-270 AD), who argued against his known teachings (c.250 AD). I presume Martiades (175?-235? AD) was a student and proponent of Marsanes -- not vice versa --, active (c.230 AD) somewhat before Ammonius Saccas (175-242 AD), so Marsanes might have taught as early as 175 AD.
andrewcriddle
Posts: 2042
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Barbelo-Gnostic Marsanes, c.200 AD?

Post by andrewcriddle »

Marsanes is probably contemporary to Theodore of Asine c 300 CE.
See for example Marsanes

Andrew Criddle
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 320
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Re: The Problems w/ Late Dating

Post by billd89 »

andrewcriddle wrote: Tue May 18, 2021 10:53 pm Marsanes is probably contemporary to Theodore of Asine c 300 CE.
See for example Marsanes

Andrew Criddle
Theodore of Asine looks to be a late descendent.

Yes I saw John D. Turner's dubious Late Date: "one might date Marsanes to the late third or early fourth century, contemporary with Iamblichus and Theodore." Plotinus, however, was probably addressing (c.250 AD) older material (c.175-200? AD) and not smthg published just yesterday. Given a reasonable lag-time, the widespread notice of "Marsanes' writings" might have begun several decades or even generations after the Founder's death. See how posters here typically date Xtian material, +150yrs after Jesus' death!

As with Philo's Therapeutae (DVC 29), the prophet should be (conservatively) deceased ~50-100 years, if not longer:
They have also writings of ancient men, who having been the founders of one sect or another have left behind them many memorials of the allegorical system of writing and explanation, whom they take as a kind of model, and imitate the general fashion of their sect


Birger A. Pearson's comments on the prophet Marsanes also suggest he's older than 300 AD and had a School lasting several generations. A "disciple" (like Paul) might never have met the Founder! On the Nag Hammadi tractate Marsanes:
"In this tractate Marsanes gives advanced instruction to a group of his followers who have already been initiated into gnosis. The author of the tractate may be the Gnostic prophet Marsanes himself; alternatively he may be an otherwise unknown teacher who claims to be writing in the name of the prophet Marsanes." (Ancient Gnosticism, pp. 92-93)

Origen wrote Contra Celsum at the request of Ambrosius, in response to Celsus’ True Logos, an attack on Christianity. Celsus was dead by this stage, and True Logos had been composed 70 to 80 years previously. The fact that it was still in circulation may have worried Christians like Ambrosius, but there must have been a lag-time of several decades for many works to become 'popular'. In this famous case, it took nearly 3 generations!
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 320
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Timeframe for Book Publication & Reception, in Antiquity

Post by billd89 »

Survivorship Bias of Key Texts forces 'Late Dating Fallacy' into perspective.

We can reasonably assume Xian theologians responded within about a decade to Emperor Julian's criticism (work destroyed). Even the First Surviving Mention of the work is one generation later, though Julian's criticism must have been widely 'known about' by Xians not long after Inception/ Publication. This link helped set dates.

Hypothetical Model: Estimation of Time-Progression for Famous Novel Religious Work's Dissemination in Antiquity
Teaching. Year 0.
Teaching First Published. Year 1.
Book First Mentioned. Year 5?-15
First Surviving Mention. Year 35.
Book generates Refutations. Year 10?-75.
First Surviving Refutation. Year 65-75.


437 AD : Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Iulium, (Late Estimation)
--
--
--
--
--
--
430 AD
--
--
--
--
--
424 AD : Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Iulium, 'Earliest Surviving Refutation' (Early Estimation)
--
--
--
420 AD
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
410 AD
--
--
--
406 AD : Jerome, Commentary on Hosea MENTION
--
? 404 AD: Philip of Side, 'Refutation, Untitled' ??
--
--
--
400 AD
--
398 AD : Jerome, Letter 70 (to Magnus) MENTION
--
--
? 395 AD : Theodore of Mopsuestia 'Refutation, Untitled' ??
--
--
--
--
390 AD : Five Unknown Refutations, Unknown Dates.
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
380 AD: Cyril of Alexandria born.
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
--
370 AD : Five Unknown Refutations, Unknown Dates.
--
--
--
--
365 AD
--
363 AD: Contra Galilaeos, written. Emperor Julian is Age 32.
--
.....

User avatar
billd89
Posts: 320
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Re: Barbelo-Gnostic Marsanes, c.200 AD?

Post by billd89 »

Outside Fact#1: Sethians were well-established and known in the time of Josephus, ergo 3 generations at least (before 10 BC). However, nothing suggests to me this Untitled Text of Bruce Codex is any earlier than 150-200 AD. The text was found in Egypt and - since Xian themes permeate and overwhelm Egyptian Gnostic literature after c.300 AD - we might expect it dates closer to 200 AD than +275 AD. Uncertain. I suspect this material might be too overworked, interpolated to clearly date 'levels' of the text.

Outside Fact#2: Epiphanius' Panarion (375 AD) describes Marsanes as long dead and legendary (2-3 generations). But Porphyry (c.260 AD) makes no mention of him, so it's likely they were contemporaries (even if P. didnt know of M. in this context.)

REVISION: Plotinus (205-270 AD) probably argued against teachings of Nikotheus' SCHOOL (c.250 AD): N., who was older & named by Porphyry. Porphyry's point was that Plotinus despised sectaries who read Nikotheus; Marsanes was N.'s student. I assume M. lived from c.220-270 AD.

I would therefore date the terminus 'Untitled Text of Bruce Codex' c.270-280 AD. Which seems LATE, I think. ??? The core material may well date c.225-250 AD. In other words, THIS is the teaching which Plotinus despised; it may come from Coastal Syria. I havent read these papers, however.

A few thoughts:
1) Marsanes was likely dead when this was composed, although he should have been alive recently: a decade or so prior.
2) Nikotheus was deceased: of the same sect, forebearer, a generation before.
3) Apparently, Post-Sethian; Setheus feels like (Late) Sethianism divorced from Judaism, w/ very little 'Jesus' attached.
4) Post-Valentinian, but caveat: much of the Gnostic material is indiscriminately labelled 'Valentinian'.
5) Hermes Trismegistus is name-checked but this doesnt feel Hermetic at all. (Hermeticism was dead OR this originates from an uninfluenced, distant cult.)
6) Where Theodorus of Asine (275-360 AD) may echo Marsanes c.270 AD, again a scholar is referencing material +60yrs older, ideas from one already long dead.

The powers of all the great aeons have given homage to the power which is in Marsanes (Marsianos). They said : "Who is this who has seen these things before his face, that he has thus revealed concerning him?" Nikotheus spoke concerning him; he saw that he was that one. He said: "The Father exists, surpassing every perfection. He has revealed the invisible, triple-powered, perfect one." Each of the perfect men saw him, they spoke of him, giving glory to him, each one in his own way. ... This is the only-begotten one hidden in the Setheus; this is he whom they called the light-darkness.

Post Reply