The Gospel of the Egyptians

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
mbuckley3
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

Post by mbuckley3 »

<t>How refreshing to see the Letter to Theodore treated as an ancient document ! By far the most impressive part of Morton Smith's 'Clement' is his argument for its authenticity, a wonderfully open collaborative effort. If only he had published this as a separate monograph, without the 'unedifying' interpretation, we might have been spared the torrent of tedious forgery theories. As Smith noted, scholars are perfectly relaxed about longer versions of Mark, it's just we call them Matthew and Luke.

The idea that 'secret' Mark is the Gospel of the Egyptians has its attractions. Not least in the name, which may be more than nominative, Egyptians = Alexandrians. Given the popular notion that Plato, Moses et al learnt all they knew from the sages of Egypt, this may incorporate a claim for mystic profundity. When railing against the 'Hellenes', Clement, rather incongruously, seems to appropriate the mask of the 'true Egyptian'.

The problem with the identification occurs at Strom.5.10. Here Clement quotes an agraphon : 'For it is not in the way of envy that the Lord announced in some gospel, "my mystery is to me and to the sons of my house"'. When this is also quoted in the Clementine Homilies (19.20), it is attributed to the gospel of Mark, so part of a longer version. Clement's deliberate vagueness ('in some gospel') points to it indeed deriving from 'secret' Mark, as elsewhere he openly cites from the Gospel of the Egyptians, which implies that it was a separate document.

As to Stephan's query as to whether for Morton Smith the two gospels were identical, let me refresh his memory. Because of c.Celsum 5.62, 'Harpocratians who follow Salome', Smith took care to list all texts where Salome was seemingly edited out, retained but downgraded, or retained as central. However, he is quite explicit in not identifying the Gospel of the Egyptians as 'secret' Mark, whether in its Clementine or Carpocratian form.

There is one place he could have been prompted to. Twice ('Clement' pp16,83) he asserts that Harvey in his edition of Irenaeus (1857) 'was led to postulate the existence in Egypt of a secret Gospel according to Mark'. This is, at best, an elision. Commenting on AH.3.11.10, mention of (unspecified) heretics who separate Christ from Jesus and prioritise Mark's gospel, Harvey wrote : 'The fragmentary view here given would suit the Ophite tenets...But it does not appear that the Ophites paid any particular veneration to the Gospel of S. Mark, unless indeed they identified with his name, as founder of the see of Alexandria, the false Gospel of the Egyptians, upon which they principally relied, as Hippolytus declares (Phil.5.7)'. Here at least there is a tenuous conjecture that Mark might have been regarded as the author of the Gospel of the Egyptians. It was not a conjecture taken up by Smith.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Peter Kirby wrote: Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:13 pmThe fact that Mary is associated with an exorcism provides a full explanation for the reaction in Mark 3:22, suggesting that Jesus could have performed an exorcism on Mary Magdalene in the pre-Markan text at this point. Some kind of surprising saying -- such as "The son of man came to abolish the works of the female" -- would explain the statement of the (so-called) family of Jesus in Mark 3:21 that he has lost his mind.
Interesting parallels which I do not recall ever explicitly thinking about:

Jesus in the Gospel of the Egyptians apud Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 3.9.63.1, “I came to abolish the works of the female” (ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὰ ἔργα τῆς θηλείας).

Jesus in the Gospel of the Ebionites apud Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 30.16.5, “I came to abolish the sacrifices” (ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὰς θυσίας).

Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 5.17, “Do not suppose that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets” (μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας). (Refer also to the Clementine Homilies 3.51.2, similar line without the prophets).

Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 5.17 apud most church fathers,* “I did not come to abolish the Law [or the Prophets]” (οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον [ἢ τοὺς προφήτας]).

* Hippolytus (×1), Origen (×1, ×1 as per Matthew), Julian (×1), Adamantius Dialogue (×1), Eusebius (×3), Didymus the Blind (×1), Amphilochius (×1), Gregory Nyssenus (×3), Epiphanius (×3, ×1 with neither law nor prophets), Athanasius (×2, ×1 as per Matthew), Asterius (×1), John Chrysostom (×5, ×7 as per Matthew), John Damascene (×1), Photius (×1). Cyril also has mixed results, so many that I did not bother counting.

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Secret Alias
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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There is another saying with hysteria. Similar in structure. Might go back to Hebrew. The "female" comes from a root which means "hole." נקב. It's the stuff rappers and vulgar people reference.
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Could he have come to destroy the law? Deuteronomy? Just thinking out loud while watching the end of the Queen's Gambit:

ὕστερος, ὑστέρα, ὕστερον, latter, later, coming after: ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς, 1 Timothy 4:1; ὁ ὕστερος equivalent to the second, Matthew 21:31 L Tr WH, but cf. Fritzsche's and Meyer's critical notes (especially WH's Appendix) at the passage Neuter ὕστερον, from Homer down, adverbially, afterward, after this, later, lastly, used alike of a shorter and of a longer period: Matthew 4:2; Matthew 21:29, 32, 37; Matthew 25:11; Matthew 26:60; Mark 16:14; Luke 4:2 Rec.; (Luke 20:32 L T Tr WH); John 13:36; Hebrews 12:11; with a genitive after one, Matthew 22:27; Luke 20:32 (R G).
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Peter Kirby
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Peter Kirby wrote: Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:13 pm There was a woman, Mary Magdelene ... who was possessed by seven demons ... Jesus said, "The son of man came to abolish the works of the female" ... and the demons came out of her ... And she followed him.
At first, this was mostly a guess. I just knew this text was in the Gospel of the Egyptians according to Clement, that it could be a shocking thing to hear, that it could have been said early on, and that an exorcism of a woman could be connected to abolishing the works of the female.

But now I think I have a clue. It comes from the Apocryphon of John, as elucidated by Birger Pearson.
And each authority supplied a characteristic in the form of the image which he had seen in its natural (form). He created a being [fem. sg. - referring to soul] according to the likeness of the first, perfect Man. And they said, 'Let us call him Adam, that his name may become a power of light for us.'

"And the powers began: the first one, goodness, created a bone-soul (ψυχή); and the second, foreknowledge, created a sinew-soul (ψυχή); the third, divinity, created a flesh-soul (ψυχή); and the fourth, the lordship, created a marrow-soul (ψυχή); the fifth, kingdom created a blood-soul (ψυχή); the sixth, envy, created a skin-soul (ψυχή); the seventh, understanding, created a hair-soul (ψυχή). And the multitude of the angels attended him and they received from the powers the seven substances of the natural (form) in order to create the proportions of the limbs and the proportion of the rump and the proper working together of each of the parts.
So this could explain why the number of demons is seven. It corresponds to the sevenfold "soul" that went into the creation of Adam.
And when the mother wanted to retrieve the power which she had given to the chief archon, she petitioned the Mother-Father of the All, who is most merciful. He sent, by means of the holy decree, the five lights down upon the place of the angels of the chief archon. They advised him that they should bring forth the power of the mother. And they said to Yaltabaoth, 'Blow into his face something of your spirit (πνεῦμα) and his body will arise.' And he blew into his face the spirit (πνεῦμα) which is the power of his mother; he did not know (this), for he exists in ignorance. And the power of the mother went out of Yaltabaoth into the natural body, which they had fashioned after the image of the one who exists from the beginning. The body moved and gained strength, and it was luminous.
The spirit (πνεῦμα) is "neither male nor female" -- instead it is neuter -- representing neither or both, as is the one who exists from the beginning.

Another text that associates the number seven with the creation of Adam is The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (T. Reub. 2f.), saying that seven enumerated "spirits of error" are given to man, with each corresponding to a different vice. These speculations likely stem from the statement in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make man in our image." Likewise, the later reference to the "breath" = "spirit" (πνεῦμα) being breathed into Adam to make him a "living soul" (ψυχὴν) in Genesis 2:7 encouraged the interpretation of the πνεῦμα being the higher, immortal part of man.

This is exactly how Philo interprets Genesis 2:7, with the only exception that he prefers the Greek term mind (νοῦς), at De Somniis 1.34. The "mind" terminology is under Greek influence. Philo calls the mind a "divine fragment," a term from Stoic philosophy. It is the human's higher νοῦς / πνεῦμα that is fashioned, for Philo, "according to the image of the Creator." Gnostics took this one step further, interpreting the creator in the garden of Eden as a flawed, petty, and jealous lower being, which contributed the "soul" part of us. The divine spirit came from a higher being.

The suppressed gospel story of Jesus exorcising the seven demons from Mary has generated a few fanciful explanations (such as the seven deadly sins, etc.). But so many of them are anachronistic (see again, the seven deadly sins). But as Birger Pearson shows, Gnosticism is most likely to have originated in Judaism, under hellenistic influence, that interpreted the Jewish scriptures by allegorizing and reading between the lines. The text of the Apocryphon itself is likely to be a pre-Christian text with a thin narrative Christianizing frame in its present form. So these ideas would have been available to the author of the first gospel.

And these ideas would also be understood by those who opposed the gnostic Christians. So that would be a motive for removing the stories that most clearly showed the gnostic doctrines in the Gospel. Accordingly, the fact that the story of the exorcism of the seven demons from Mary Magdalene has been suppressed in the canonical Gospels makes it probable that the story had interpretations that were offensive to those who drew up the canon. This in turn makes it indeed likely that the enumeration of the seven demons here corresponds to the seven "souls" (feminine) received from the powers, which Jesus came to abolish so that we could become a luminous, resurrected "spirit" (neither male nor female) body.

1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” (ψυχὴν, "soul") the last Adam a life-giving spirit (πνεῦμα).
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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mbuckley3 wrote: Sat Apr 24, 2021 6:13 pm How refreshing to see the Letter to Theodore treated as an ancient document !
I like this point of view. It is refreshing to literally laugh out loud.
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Peter, not sure the Apocryphon is pre-Christian. But excellent work!
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Peter, not sure the Apocryphon is pre-Christian. But excellent work! Remember Celsus and his reference to Mithras (= 365) and the seven gates with different metals which were supposedly stolen by the Christian mysteries.
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 2:10 amAnd these ideas would also be understood by those who opposed the gnostic Christians. So that would be a motive for removing the stories that most clearly showed the gnostic doctrines in the Gospel. Accordingly, the fact that the story of the exorcism of the seven demons from Mary Magdalene has been suppressed in the canonical Gospels makes it probable that the story had interpretations that were offensive to those who drew up the canon. This in turn makes it indeed likely that the enumeration of the seven demons here corresponds to the seven "souls" (feminine) received from the powers, which Jesus came to abolish so that we could become a luminous, resurrected "spirit" (neither male nor female) body.

1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” (ψυχὴν, "soul") the last Adam a life-giving spirit (πνεῦμα).
The following seems possibly relevant:

Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 5.7.7-9: 7 In order, therefore, that finally the Great Man from above may be overpowered, from whom, as they say, the whole family named on earth and in the heavens has been formed, to him was given also a soul, that through the soul he might suffer; and that the enslaved image may be punished of the Great and most Glorious and Perfect Man, for even so they call him. 8 Again, then, they ask what is the soul, and whence, and what kind in its nature, that, coming to the man and moving him, it should enslave and punish the image of the Perfect Man. They do not, however, (on this point) institute an inquiry from the Scriptures, but ask this (question) also from the mystic (rites). And they affirm that the soul is very difficult to discover, and hard to understand; for it does not remain in the same figure or the same form invariably, or in one passive condition, that either one could express it by a sign, or comprehend it substantially. 9 But they have these varied changes (of the soul) set down in the gospel inscribed according to the Egyptians. They are, then, in doubt, as all the rest of men among the Gentiles, whether (the soul) is at all from something preexistent, or whether from the self produced (one), or from a widespread Chaos. And first they fly for refuge to the mysteries of the Assyrians, perceiving the threefold division of the man; for the Assyrians first advanced the opinion that the soul has three parts, and yet (is essentially) one. 7 Ἵν' οὖν τελέως ᾖ κεκρατημένος ὁ μέγας ἄνθρωπος ἄνωθεν – «ἀφ' οὗ,» καθὼς λέγουσι, «πᾶσα πατριὰ ὀνομαζομένη ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς» συνέστηκεν – ἐδόθη αὐτῷ καὶ ψυχή, ἵνα διὰ τῆς ψυχῆς πάσχῃ καὶ κολάζηται καταδουλούμενον τὸ πλάσμα τοῦ μεγάλου καὶ καλλίστου καὶ τελείου ἀνθρώπου, καὶ γὰρ οὕτως αὐτὸν καλοῦσι. 8 ζητοῦσιν οὖν αὖ πάλιν τίς ἐστιν ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ πόθεν καὶ ποταπὴ τὴν φύσιν, ἵν' ἐλθοῦσα εἰς τὸν ἄνθρωπον καὶ κινήσασα καταδουλώσῃ καὶ κολάσῃ τὸ πλάσμα τοῦ τ(ε)λ(είου) ἀνθρώπου· ζητοῦσι δὲ οὐκ ἀπὸ τῶν γραφῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦτο ἀπὸ τῶν μυστικῶν. εἶναι δέ φασι τὴν ψυχὴν δυσεύρετον πάνυ καὶ δυσκατανόητον· οὐ γὰρ μένει ἐπὶ σχήματος οὐδὲ μορφῆς τῆς αὐτῆς πάντοτε, οὐδὲ πάθους ἑνός, ἵνα τις αὐτὴν ἢ τύπῳ εἴπῃ ἢ οὐσίᾳ καταλήψεται. 9 τὰς δὲ ἐξαλλαγὰς ταύτας τὰς ποικίλας ἐν τῷ ἐπιγραφομένῳ κατ' Αἰγυπτίους εὐαγγελίῳ κειμένας ἔχουσιν. ἀποροῦσιν οὖν – καθάπερ <καὶ> οἱ ἄλλοι πάντες τῶν ἐθνῶν ἄνθρωποι – πότερόν ποτε ἐκ τοῦ προόντος ἐστὶν <ἢ> ἐκ τοῦ αὐτογενοῦς ἢ ἐκ τοῦ ἐκκεχυμένου χάους. καὶ πρῶτον ἐπὶ τὰς Ἀσσυρίων καταφεύγουσι τελετάς, τὴν τριχῇ διαίρεσιν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατανοοῦντες· πρῶτοι γὰρ Ἀσσύριοι τὴν ψυχὴν τριμερῆ νομίζουσιν εἶναι καὶ μίαν.

Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 5.8.41: 41 But revered, he (= the Naassene) says, is the birth that is spiritual, heavenly, from above, and potent is he that is so born. For the mystery is called Eleusin and Anactorium. Eleusin, because, he says, we who are spiritual come flowing down from Adam above; for the word eleusesthai is, he says, of the same import with the expression to come. But Anactorium is of the same import with the expression to ascend upwards. / 41 Πότνια δέ ἐστι, φησίν, ἡ γένεσις ἡ πνευματική, ἡ ἐπουράνιος, ἡ ἄνω· ἰσχυρὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ οὕτω γεννώμενος. ἔστι δὲ λεγόμενον τὸ μυστήριον Ἐλευσὶν καὶ ἀνακτόρειον· Ἐλευσὶν <μέν>, ὅτι ἤλθομεν, φησίν, οἱ πνευματικοὶ ἄνωθεν, ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἀδάμαντος ῥυέντες κάτω – ἐλεύσεσθαι γάρ, φησίν, ἐστὶν ἐλθεῖν – ἀνακτόρειον δὲ <διὰ> τὸ <ἀνάγεσθαι ἡμᾶς καὶ> ἀνελθεῖν ἄνω.

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Secret Alias
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Re: The Gospel of the Egyptians

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Good find!
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