The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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Leucius Charinus
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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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MrMacSon wrote: Sun May 01, 2022 2:37 am
andrewcriddle wrote: Sat Apr 30, 2022 4:05 am I posted on this a number of years ago starting with http://hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/07/ ... t-one.html
Coming back to the issue more recently, I now tentatively feel that there is a much stronger case for dating Zostrianos before 250 CE than is true for the other Platonizing Sethian texts such as Allogenes and Marsanes.

Andrew Criddle
Cheers. Yes, my understanding is Zostrianos is dated to the early 3rd century CE. (and it has to be dated before the conflict between the Sethians and Plotinus in the early to mid 260s CE.)
Some have argued that it doesn't have to be dated before the mid 3rd century as the Zostrianos we have may not be the same as that mentioned at Porphyry's "Life of Plotinus" (16). IMO this reference should be called the Testimonium Porphyrianum.

Birger A. Pearson makes it pretty clear that the heresiologists all seem to agree that the gnostics are somehow related to Platonists ...

GNOSTICISM AS PLATONISM
WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MARSANES (NHC 10,1)
*
Birger A. Pearson; University of California, Santa Barbara

From ancient times it has been averred that the Gnostics derived their basic ideas from the Greek philosophers, especially Pythagoras and Plato. For example,

Irenaeus (Adv. haer. 2.14) argued that the Valentinian Gnostics borrowed their doctrines of the pleroma and kenoma from Democritus and Plato.

Hippolytus (Ref. 1.11), more systematically, tried to show that the founders of the Gnostic heresies borrowed most of their ideas from Greek philosophy and religion.

The Valentinian brand of gnosis, Hippolytus (Ref. 6.21-29) argues, is derived from the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato. [1]

Tertullian (Praesc. 7) claimed that all of the heresies were based on Greek philosophy.

Valentinus is stated specifically to be "of the school of Plato."

Plotinus (Enn. 2.9.6), the reputed founder of Neoplatonism, claimed in a famous tract that his doctrinal opponents, whom he did not identify but who were obviously Gnostics, [2] based their doctrines on a misunderstanding of Plato.

Porphyry's Life of Plotinus 16 provides us with more information on the Gnostic opponents of Plotinus, and refers to them "sectarians from the ancient philosophy," i.e., Platonism.

In our own times scholars have referred to Gnosticism as a kind of Platonism.

Willy Theiler calls the Gnosticism of the Imperial period, both Christian and pagan (Chaldean Oracles, Hermetica), "Proletarier platonismus." [3]

Simone Petrement portrays Gnosticism as "un platonisme romantique"; [4]

A. D. Nock prefers the designation "Platonism run wild." [5]

John M. Dillon refers to the Gnostic and Hermetic writings and the Chaldean Oracles as "the 'underworld' of Platonism." [6]

It can hardly be doubted that the ingredients of the Gnostic religion in its origins and early history included a substantial dose of popular Platonism. [7]

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1509519

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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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Leucius Charinus wrote: Sun May 01, 2022 6:01 am Let me preface this with a statement of fact that nobody knows for sure when these so-called Sethian authors composed a modest range of tracts. The task is therefore to deduce an earliest possible date and a latest possible date between which these texts must have been composed.

<SNIP>
Coming back to the issue more recently, I now tentatively feel that there is a much stronger case for dating Zostrianos before 250 CE than is true for the other Platonizing Sethian texts such as Allogenes and Marsanes.

Andrew Criddle

What is the new evidence, or your new reinterpretation of earlier evidence?

The chronology of these Sethians needs to be expressed as a range of dates between the earliest possible date to the latest possible date. Your Part 6 article explores dating the Platonic Sethian texts after Plotinus.

What are your revised earliest possible and latest possible dates for the Sethian material?
I still regard the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides, which has strong doctrinal links to the Platonizing Sethian texts, as being by Porphyry. However it seems likely that this commentary is based on a lost earlier work. This work used the Chaldaean oracles and (probably) Numenius and was used by Porphyry and hence presumably dates from the early 3rd century CE. Zostrianos very plausibly used this lost work which would, if so, probably have been the common source used by Zostrianos and Marius Victorinus. See Plato's Parmenides and its Heritage Volume 1 pps 233-242 A Criticism of the Chaldaean Oracles and the Gnostics in...the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides by Luc Brisson.

I would say that possible dates for Zostrianos are between the early 3rd and mid 4th century CE, while Allogenes and Marsanes and (probably) the Three Steles of Seth would date between the late 3rd and mid 4th century CE. For both date ranges the earlier dates are more likely.

Andrew Criddle

Andrew
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Leucius Charinus
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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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andrewcriddle wrote: Mon May 02, 2022 5:35 am
I still regard the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides, which has strong doctrinal links to the Platonizing Sethian texts, as being by Porphyry. However it seems likely that this commentary is based on a lost earlier work. This work used the Chaldaean oracles and (probably) Numenius and was used by Porphyry and hence presumably dates from the early 3rd century CE. Zostrianos very plausibly used this lost work which would, if so, probably have been the common source used by Zostrianos and Marius Victorinus. See Plato's Parmenides and its Heritage Volume 1 pps 233-242 A Criticism of the Chaldaean Oracles and the Gnostics in...the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides by Luc Brisson.

I would say that possible dates for Zostrianos are between the early 3rd and mid 4th century CE, while Allogenes and Marsanes and (probably) the Three Steles of Seth would date between the late 3rd and mid 4th century CE. For both date ranges the earlier dates are more likely.
Thanks Andrew. I can agree with those date ranges.

The Nicene Council - supposedly a massively pivotal event in the history of the NT and the Christian church itself - is within these bounds. Also within these bounds is the beginning of the political history of the Christianisation of the Roman empire. At such a time there appears to me to be a far greater means, motive and opportunity for the composition of these Sethian "Platonising treatises".
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Re: The Sethians

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Sethians are ancient, pre-dating the Septuguint. See Lloyd D. Graham "Which Seth? Untangling some close homonyms from ancient Egypt and the Near East" 2021 paper.
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Re: The Sethians

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billd89 wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 11:29 am Sethians are ancient, pre-dating the Septuguint. See Lloyd D. Graham "Which Seth? Untangling some close homonyms from ancient Egypt and the Near East" 2021 paper.
An interesting read. The WIKI page on Sethianism mentions Plato or Platonism 17 times whereas this article does not mention Plato or Platonism at all. Why would this be?

WIKI: The Sethian cosmogonic myth gives a prologue to Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch, presenting a radical reinterpretation of the orthodox Jewish conception of creation, and the divine's relation to reality. /// Many of the Sethian concepts derived from a fusion of Platonic or Neoplatonic concepts with the Old Testament...

///

Yaldabaoth ... figure is commonly known as the demiurge, the "artisan" or "craftsman," after the figure in Plato's Timaeus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sethianism

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Re: Wiki Junk

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Leucius Charinus wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 6:42 pm
billd89 wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 11:29 am Sethians are ancient, pre-dating the Septuguint. See Lloyd D. Graham "Which Seth? Untangling some close homonyms from ancient Egypt and the Near East" 2021 paper.
An interesting read. The WIKI page on Sethianism mentions Plato or Platonism 17 times whereas this article does not mention Plato or Platonism at all. Why would this be?
Wiki? I will often quote Wiki out of laziness (guilty), but it's veritably 'Garbage In, Garbage Out.' The answer to your question is probably Wikipaedists (?) who drank the Porphyry Kool-Aid. Idiots.
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Leucius Charinus
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Re: Wiki Junk

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billd89 wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 6:54 pm
Leucius Charinus wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 6:42 pm
billd89 wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 11:29 am Sethians are ancient, pre-dating the Septuguint. See Lloyd D. Graham "Which Seth? Untangling some close homonyms from ancient Egypt and the Near East" 2021 paper.
An interesting read. The WIKI page on Sethianism mentions Plato or Platonism 17 times whereas this article does not mention Plato or Platonism at all. Why would this be?
Wiki? I will often quote Wiki out of laziness (guilty), but it's veritably 'Garbage In, Garbage Out.' The answer to your question is probably Wikipaedists (?) who drank the Porphyry Kool-Aid. Idiots.
Idiots like John D Turner, Frederik Wisse, Marvin Meyer, April Deconnick, Karen King, Birger A Pearson, and a host of all the other scholars writing about the Sethian material in the Nag Hammadi Library? Your source does not mention Plato or Platonism in the relevant section whereas practically all other scholars I am aware of discuss the obvious association between the Nag Hammadi Sethians and Plato and/or the Platonists.
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Re: The Sethians

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billd89 wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 11:29 am Sethians are ancient, pre-dating the Septuguint. See Lloyd D. Graham "Which Seth? Untangling some close homonyms from ancient Egypt and the Near East" 2021 paper.
Cheers, bild89


ABSTRACT

This paper aims to disambiguate the proper name “Seth” and its cognates or homonyms – perfect or imperfect – in texts from ancient Egypt, the Near East and the Mediterranean. It considers:
  1. the Suteans, West Semitic Amorite/Aramean nomads who feature negatively in Mesopotamian records;
  2. S(h)eth in the Hebrew bible, in which a disparaged southerly Sutean group (“sons of Sheth”) may have been recast as the virtuous lineage of the third son of Adam (“sons of Seth”);
  3. Seth, the Egyptian god of tumult and confusion, who has some elements in common with the Judeo‑Christian Satan;
  4. Seth of the Jewish pseudepigrapha, a positive embellishment of the biblical figure;
  5. the Gnostic Seth, a further embellishment of the biblical/pseudepigraphical figure; and
  6. Seth as an agent invoked in magical texts.
Accordingly, the paper provides an integrated review of six Sethian subject areas that are seldom considered together; they are examined here through an Egyptological lens. The survey reveals that the two principal Seths – the Egyptian god and the son of Adam – maintain almost entirely separate trajectories in the religious and magical literature of ancient Egypt and beyond.


Yep the name 'Seth' had many applications.

Though this thread is mainly about the Gnostic Seth (accounts of which had influences, as that helpful paper shows, from Egypt among other places)


GNOSTIC SETH

The Apocalypse of Adam – an early (First- to Second‑Century AD) Gnostic tractate written in Coptic, found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt – reprises the Jewish pseudepigraphic theme of Seth (Cy;) receiving instruction from Adam in divine knowledge shortly before his death (Apoc. Adam NHC V:64.1–7; MacRae – Parrott 1988:279); the substance of this privileged information forms the bulk of the text. At least some of the Sethian Gnostic texts are thought to have been composed in Egypt; for example, the tractate named The Three Steles of Seth – which claims to convey the antediluvian secrets inscribed on the tablets designed to survive flood and fire (Pearson 1990:74) – was probably written in Alexandria during the Third Century AD (Goehring – Robinson 1988:397). Success in promoting the Sethian lineage as the guardian of ancient knowledge (as witnessed here and in the previous section) probably explains why, in Sethian Gnosticism, the biblical/pseudepigraphical Seth completely supplanted Enoch as the primary representative of antediluvian wisdom (Orlov 2001; Annus 2012:36–37) [33: 1 Enoch, which has already been mentioned several times, was an influential proto‑Gnostic peudepigraphon (Second to First Century BC) in which Enoch is the wisdom‑figure].

In these Gnostic circles, Seth was in fact developed into a divine Saviour who was in some cases equated with Jesus in his role as Christ (Pearson 1990:53–54, 57, 74, 76–78; Cannuyer 2017:39). Both figures were considered to be the authentic image of God (Turner 2019: 152), and the “new start” afforded by the birth of the biblical Seth (Gen 4:25) was considered to parallel the new beginning offered by the birth of Jesus (Onasch 1980:107) ...

The Egyptian Seth has a longstanding association with homosexuality (te Velde 1967: 32–46); for example, in the New Kingdom Contendings of Horus and Seth, Seth is lampooned as a homosexual who first violates his nephew Horus and who later is tricked into receiving Horus’s semen, which makes him pregnant (P. Chester Beatty I:11.12; Wente 2003:99–100; te Velde 1967:43). In the Gnostic Gospel of the Egyptians (NHC III:60.9–29; Böhlig–Wisse 1988:215), we are told: “Then the great Seth came and brought his seed. And it was sown in the aeons which had been brought forth, their number being the amount of Sodom. Some say that Sodom is the place of pasture of the great Seth, which is Gomorrah. But others (say) that the great Seth took his plant out of Gomorrah and planted it in the second place, to which he gave the name Sodom” [36 Klijn (1977:34) notes that the references to “plant” in this passage involve a pun on the Hebrew phrase in Gen 4:25 that explains Seth’s birth (see: Biblical Seth)]. ...

Another attempt to give an Egyptian flavour to the Gnostic Seth interprets the first word of “Emmacha Seth” in The Three Steles of Seth as hm-mm33, a Ptolemaic Egyptian epithet of the god Seth (te Velde 1967:149–150, footnote 12; Wekel 1975:572–573; Pearson 1990:81). Its meaning seems to be “the convulsed one”, i.e. it refers to the facial expression of someone suffering from a stomach problem. Pearson (1990: 81) has dismissed the proposed borrowing on the basis that an Egyptian word starting with x would normally enter Greek with either σ or x as its initial consonant, and Cannuyer (2017:38, footnote 98) concurs. In image- rather than language‑ based speculation, the identification of Seth (son of Adam) with Jesus in some Christian Gnostic circles has prompted the suggestion that the association of his Egyptian namesake with the donkey (see: Egyptian Seth) might have inspired the mockery of Christians in general as donkey‑worshippers (Hofrichter 2003: 300). However, it is more likely that Jesus was derided as a donkey because all Christians regarded him as an emanation or representative of YHWH, for whom pejorative identifications with the donkey have already been noted (see: Egyptian Seth) (Cannuyer 2017:30) ...

Pearson (1981:81–82) observes that the pseudepigraphical/Gnostic Seth – an inscriber and revealer of divine secrets – has far more in common with Thoth – the Egyptian god of knowledge and writing – than with the Egyptian god Seth, pointing out that Manetho’s Ægyptiaca (History of Egypt) was supposedly based on ancient inscriptions written by Thoth. This is essentially true; Syncellus relates that Manetho – an Egyptian priest writing in the Ptolemaic Period – claimed as his source “the monuments lying in the Seriadic land in the sacred language and inscribed in hieroglyphic characters by Thoth the first Hermes and translated after the deluge from the sacred language into the Greek language” (Verbrugghe – Wickersham 1996: 174).


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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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SON OF ADAM OR SON OF NUT?

The foregoing survey and associated discussion has revealed that the two principal Seths – the Egyptian god and the son of Adam – maintain, for the most part, separate trajectories in the religious and magical literature of ancient Egypt, the Near East and the Mediterranean. This is remarkable. The Egyptian and Gnostic Seths are associated primarily with Egypt, so cross‑‑talk between two divine agents with similar names would be expected at least in documents or inscriptions from that country – yet this is hardly ever the case, and claims of overlap are invariably disputed.

Lloyd D. Graham "Which Seth?"
https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/h ... NT/content


I think if the "Egyptian and Gnostic Seths are associated primarily with Egypt" yet hardly if ever overlap, and there is another Seth, the son of Adam, then that would seem to be three Seths, not two. But that doesn't really detract from the contribution Graham makes to understanding the history or the Seths.
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Re: The Sethians

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MrMacSon wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 9:15 pmI think if the "Egyptian and Gnostic Seths are associated primarily with Egypt" yet hardly if ever overlap, and there is another Seth, the son of Adam, then that would seem to be three Seths, not two. But that doesn't really detract from the contribution Graham makes to understanding the history or the Seths.
Seth is a symbol (god), with varied meanings over 1,000 years. Why presume 2 or 3 Seths?? Josephus indicates the Sethians (like the Samaritans) are ancient; they share some Jewish myths but also possess their very own. Which he presents, at some length. He also situates the Sethian homeland in the Syriad/Sethrum, where so many Biblical sites (Pithom, Sukkot, etc.) are located: a place where (Proto)Jews settled for thousands of years.

The 'Jews' (Semites) of the Sethrum are Phoenicians, their primary connection is to Tyre, their traditions/gods come from Lebano-Syria, and also Egypt (where they had settled and traded for +1000 years). They are sea-farers and caravanners. I would assume their myths evolved over time, but they had a corpus of writings in 90 AD. Josephus says AND WE READ ALSO.

Do you really suppose these are "different" Sethians? A whole other set of 'mysterious' people who lived - oh-god-knows-where, just don't admit THE OBVIOUS, lol - because Jewish heretics cannot be admitted?
Last edited by billd89 on Fri May 13, 2022 10:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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