The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

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Peter Kirby
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The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

Post by Peter Kirby »

I am using the Wolf-Peter Funk translation in The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.

Naked

The first reference to being naked in this text is this:

I am the one who received revelation from the fullness of imperishability,
who was summoned by the one who is great,
who obeyed the [master].
It is he who passed through the [worlds without being recognized],
who [came down after] stripping off his clothing,
and walked about naked,
who was found in perishability
though destined to be brought up to imperishability.

Compare this to how Paul describes the afterlife or resurrection as being clothed (and not found naked) in 2 Corinthians 5:

1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is dismantled, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 So while we are in this tent, we groan under our burdens, because we do not wish to be unclothed but clothed, so that our mortality may be swallowed up by life.

Without the references to clothing and nakedness, but along the same theme, Paul wrote about putting on "the imperishable" and immortality in 1 Corinthians 15:

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Thus, in this first reference, the text of the Second Apocalypse of James equates being "found in perishability" and having "walked about naked," referring to the "clothing" of imperishability. It tells of how the son of the Father "passed through the [worlds]," "stripping off his clothing" of imperishability. His destiny is to once again "be brought up to imperishability," which is to be clothed.

The second reference to being naked is this one:

“Therefore I say to you, you who judge have been judged. You did not spare,
but you have been spared. Be sober and [recognize him. For the one] you
[judged is actually not the one you] thought......
[58] you did not know.
He was [the one]
whom he who created heaven and earth and dwelled in it
[could] not [see].
He was the one [who] is life.
He was the light.
He was the one who will be
and will provide an ending for [what] has begun
and a beginning for what will come to an end.
He was the holy Spirit
and the invisible one
who did not come down on the earth.
He was the virgin,
and what he wishes happens to him.
I saw he was naked,
and there was no garment clothing him.
What he wills happens to him.......

This one also mentions some themes involving this one coming down to earth (through the statement "He was the holy spirit and the invisible one who did not come down to earth"), presented as a reference to a form where he had not come down to earth. The reference to "the virgin" may then be a reference to the virgin birth story, presented as a denial that he was born of a virgin, by saying that he actually was the virgin. When he had come down, it was possible to see that "he was naked, and there was no garment clothing him" because he is found in perishability, as discussed with reference to the previous passage.

Clothed

The first reference to clothing is the same one just mentioned:

I am the one who received revelation from the fullness of imperishability,
who was summoned by the one who is great,
who obeyed the [master].
It is he who passed through the [worlds without being recognized],
who [came down after] stripping off his clothing,
and walked about naked,
who was found in perishability
though destined to be brought up to imperishability.

Where it reads as a reference to the clothing of imperishability.

The next reference to clothes is this one:

[Those who live] in forgetfulness [56]
are instructed in these things with [you].
Because of you
[they] will be taught about [these things]
and come to rest.
Because of you
they will come to reign
and become kings.
Because of [you]
pity will be taken
on those to be pitied.
As you are the first
who clothed yourself,
so also are you the first
who will strip off your clothes.
And you will become as you were
before you took off your clothes.’

The references regarding "come to rest" and "come to reign and become kings" are references to the enjoyment of salvation.

The reference to "become as you were before you took off your clothes" recalls the earlier statements about the son of the Father, who stripped off his clothing, was found naked in perishability, and then was brought up into the clothing of imperishability again.

Just before this, there is a reference to how we also existed before this world, being forced into it, thus being trapped in this place:

I know that everyone who [was] forced down to this place will come [to me like] little children.

The reference to being "the first who will strip off your clothes" is plausibly a reference to the efficacy of baptism, where one strips off their clothes to be baptized and thus to be saved. This allows him to "become as you were before you took off your clothes," i.e. to become as you were before entering the world and being trapped in that place.

The next reference to clothing has already been mentioned:

He was the Holy Spirit and the Invisible One, who did not descend upon the earth. He was the virgin, and that which he wishes, happens to him. I saw that he was naked, and there was no garment clothing him. That which he wills, happens to him [...].

Which has already been discussed, as a reference to the son of the Father being found in perishability and thus naked.

Ambiguity

It should be mentioned that ambiguity is a seemingly intentional feature of this language. It enhances the revelatory character of the dialogue to provide the statements indirectly, which can be a kind of genre feature. So it is necessary to provide interpretation if there is any chance of recovering what the author is trying to say.

The only thing we can do is to attempt to pay careful attention to context and hope to see indications of what readings are a best fit.

I hope that this discussion has helped to clarify one aspect of the Second Apocalypse of James.
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Re: The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

Post by AdamKvanta »

I will continue my argument from this thread viewtopic.php?p=168989#p168989 here.

I have no reason to doubt that the talk about nakedness can be purely gnostic. What I'm suggesting is that the Second Apocalypse of James is not purely a gnostic text but it is a mix between a non-gnostic (but also non-canonical) gospel and a gnostic text.

My hypothesis is that there was first this non-canonical gospel describing a sexual interaction between Jesus and the beloved. And perhaps it was too explicit. It might have started with both Jesus and the beloved stripping but because it was too explicit it was replaced by a later gnostic editor with this ambiguous talk about gnostic clothing and stripping. But then the text continued as without redaction: "And he kissed my mouth. He took hold of me..."

Also, the talk about the heavens and archons might have been a later gnostic replacement for some explicit sexual talk. I think it's reasonable to assume that if the original text was too explicitly sexual it would be either destroyed as heretical, or not copied at all, or, what I think is our case, edited to soften the explicit parts.
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Ken Olson
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Re: The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

Post by Ken Olson »

Here is the Second Apocalypse of James in Charles W. Hedrick's translation:


https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ ... james.html

If we take out James' account of the revelation he received from the Lord, and James final prayer, we are left with a framing narrative that looks like this:
This is the discourse that James the Just spoke in Jerusalem, which Mareim, one of the priests, wrote. He had told it to Theuda, the father of the Just One, since he was a relative of his. He said, "Hasten! Come with Mary, your wife, and your relatives [...] therefore [...] of this [...] to him, he will understand. For behold, a multitude are disturbed over his [...], and they are greatly angry at him. [...] and they pray [...]. For he would often say these words and others also."

"He used to speak these words while the multitude of people were seated. But (on this occasion) he entered and did <not> sit down in the place, as was his custom. Rather he sat above the fifth flight of steps, which is (highly) esteemed, while all our people [...] the words [...]."

[The Revelation to James]

On that day all the people and the crowd were disturbed, and they showed that they had not been persuaded. And he arose and went forth speaking in this manner. And he entered (again) on that same day and spoke a few hours. And I was with the priests and revealed nothing of the relationship, since all of them were saying with one voice, 'Come, let us stone the Just One.' And they arose, saying, 'Yes, let us kill this man, that he may be taken from our midst. For he will be of no use to us.'

And they were there and found him standing beside the columns of the temple beside the mighty corner stone. And they decided to throw him down from the height, and they cast him down. And they [...] they [...]. They seized him and struck him as they dragged him upon the ground. They stretched him out and placed a stone on his abdomen. They all placed their feet on him, saying 'You have erred!'

Again they raised him up, since he was alive, and made him dig a hole. They made him stand in it. After having covered him up to his abdomen, they stoned him in this manner.

And he stretched out his hands and said this prayer - not that (one) which it is his custom to say:

[James Final Prayer]

"After he spoke, he fell silent [...] word [...] afterward [...] the discourse [...]."

This is the same basic sequence of events as in other accounts of James the Just's martyrdom that Peter Kirby has reviewed in this thread, with a little more information about where the account we are reading came from (Mareim recorded it and gave it to Theuda):

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11668

It looks like the author has inserted his own account of The Revelation to James and James' Final Prayer into the same relative location they occur in other accounts. The account from Hegesippus (preserved in Eusebius) has James say from the pinnacle of the temple:

Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven."

This provokes the Jews into killing him and he gives a final prayer:

I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do

https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ ... ippus.html

The author of The Second Apocalypse of James has used a traditional story as a frame for his own distinct message which is to be found in his own versions the The Revelation to James and James' Final Prayer.

The references to nakedness and kissing are found in the same layer (the Revelation to James) as the gnostic material the Lord (who is not named as Jesus) has revealed to James.

We could hypothesize that there was some earlier layer with nakedness and kissing which was later subsumed into the revelatory of gnostic discourse, but that would seem to be the assertion of a bare possibility. That is, it's a possibility, but there isn't a strong positive case to recommend it as the most likely possibility.

Best,

Ken
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Re: The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

Post by AdamKvanta »

Ken Olson wrote: Mon Mar 25, 2024 9:11 am We could hypothesize that there was some earlier layer with nakedness and kissing which was later subsumed into the revelatory of gnostic discourse, but that would seem to be the assertion of a bare possibility. That is, it's a possibility, but there isn't a strong positive case to recommend it as the most likely possibility.
Of course, my hypothesis is surely just a possibility. I agree, the text is ambiguous and it's complicated by many factors (translation issues, fragmentary nature of the text, gnostic philosophy). On the other hand, what would be the first impression when one reads the following text?
And he kissed my mouth. He took hold of me, saying, "My beloved! ... now, stretch out your hand. Now, take hold of me."
I consider the sexual interpretation of this section as the most likely possibility. But I respect other opinions and I'm curious what are the other non-sexual interpretations.
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Re: The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

Post by andrewcriddle »

The Fragmentary condition of the Second Apocalypse of James and the reasonably clear evidence of layers within it makes interpretation difficult. However I'm going to make some suggestions.

a/ The Redeemer figure (who I think has to be the risen Jesus although not explicitly identified) is the brother of James in a special way.
"Once when I was sitting deliberating, he opened the door. That one whom you hated and persecuted came in to me. He said to me, "Hail, my brother; my brother, hail." As I raised my face to stare at him, (my) mother said to me, "Do not be frightened, my son, because he said 'My brother' to you (sg.). For you (pl.) were nourished with this same milk. Because of this he calls me "My mother". For he is not a stranger to us. He is your step-brother [...]."
I'm not sure if this means that Jesus and James were both physically born of Mary but it does IMO strongly suggest that the physical affection between James and Jesus is fraternal rather than erotic.

b/ The passage
"And he kissed my mouth. He took hold of me, saying, "My beloved! Behold, I shall reveal to you those things that (neither) the heavens nor their archons have known. Behold, I shall reveal to you those things that he did not know, he who boasted, "[...] there is no other except me. Am I not alive? Because I am a father, do I not have power for everything?" Behold, I shall reveal to you everything, my beloved. Understand and know them, that you may come forth just as I am. Behold, I shall reveal to you him who is hidden. But now, stretch out your hand. Now, take hold of me."

"And then I stretched out my hands and I did not find him as I thought (he would be). But afterward I heard him saying, "Understand and take hold of me." Then I understood, and I was afraid. And I was exceedingly joyful.
Seems parallel to a passage in Clement of Alexandria according to Cassiodorus on the 1st epistle of John
That which was from the beginning; which we have seen with our eyes; which we have heard.

Following the Gospel according to John, and in accordance with it, this Epistle also contains the spiritual principle.

What therefore he says, from the beginning, the Presbyter explained to this effect, that the beginning of generation is not separated from the beginning of the Creator. For when he says, That which was from the beginning, he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-existent with the Father. There was; then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreate. That He was always the Word, is signified by saying, In the beginning was the Word. But by the expression, we have seen with our eyes, he signifies the Lord's presence in the flesh, and our hands have handled, he says, of the Word of life. He means not only His flesh, but the virtues of the Son, like the sunbeam which penetrates to the lowest places — this sunbeam coming in the flesh became palpable to the disciples. It is accordingly related in traditions, that John, touching the outward body itself, sent his hand deep down into it, and that the solidity of the flesh offered no obstacle, but gave way to the hand of the disciple.

And our hands have handled of the Word of life; that is, He who came in the flesh became capable of being touched.
and to one in the Acts of John
93 Another glory also will I tell you, brethren: Sometimes when I would lay hold on him, I met with a material and solid body, and at other times, again, when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and as if it existed not at all. And if at any time he were bidden by some one of the Pharisees and went to the bidding, we went with him, and there was set before each one of us a loaf by them that had bidden us, and with us he also received one; and his own he would bless and part it among us: and of that little every one was filled, and our own loaves were saved whole, so that they which bade him were amazed. And oftentimes when I walked with him, I desired to see the print of his foot, whether it appeared on the earth; for I saw him as it were lifting himself up from the earth: and I never saw it. And these things I speak unto you, brethren, for the encouragement of your faith toward him; for we must at the present keep silence concerning his mighty and wonderful works, inasmuch as they are unspeakable and, it may be, cannot at all be either uttered or heard.
I.E. This has to do with docetic (?) concerns about the palpability of Christ's (risen ?) body.

Andrew Criddle
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Re: The Theme of Nakedness and Clothes in the Second Apocalypse of James

Post by AdamKvanta »

andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Mar 28, 2024 2:38 am ... parallel to a passage in Clement of Alexandria according to Cassiodorus on the 1st epistle of John ... and to one in the Acts of John.
Excellent post. I knew vaguely about the parallel passage in the Acts of John but only now I realized how important could it be.
andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Mar 28, 2024 2:38 am ... the reasonably clear evidence of layers within [the Second Apocalypse of James] ...
I totally agree with this and as I said before, I see a layer of simple non-gnostic narratives and a layer consisting of gnostic/apocalyptic elements (perfect examples are the gnostic poem-like structures in the opening post by Peter Kirby).
"Once when I was sitting deliberating, he opened the door. ... He is your step-brother."
I see this section as a simple narrative without gnostic elements. I agree that in this passage, the brother of James is Jesus, but I don't see any hints that this Jesus is risen. For me, the natural reading is that James is recalling the moment when he first time met Jesus. James didn't know him so he was surprised that Jesus called him a brother. But James' mother explained to him that Jesus is no stranger and that in fact, he is a relative ("step-brother"). This looks like it happened in his childhood because, in the canonical gospels, the adult Jesus is known to have brothers.
"And he kissed my mouth. ... And I was exceedingly joyful.
This passage is much more complicated. I agree that it parallels the passage in the Acts of John. But that creates a problem. In the Acts of John, it is John, who is beloved, but here, in the Second Apocalypse of James, we expect that the beloved is James. So are both disciples beloved and both tested Jesus' body integrity by touching it? That seems suspicious.

My hypothesis is there is only one beloved and it is John. That would mean that somebody wanted to give this important title "beloved" to James. It reminds me of the passage in the Gospel of Thomas where James is described as a prominent figure: "James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being". There might have been some faction of the early Christians revering predominantly James the Just.
andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Mar 28, 2024 2:38 am ... it does IMO strongly suggest that the physical affection between James and Jesus is fraternal rather than erotic ...
If the beloved is James then yes, it could be fraternal affection but as I said above, I think the passage with kissing is actually interpolated from the John literature. I'll try to compare the most homoerotic part (the touching of Jesus' body which changes its state) in the Acts of John with the Second Apocalypse of James. I added my interpretation of some words in square brackets [].
... when I sat at table he would take me upon his breast and I held him; and sometimes his breast [probably "breast" here is a replacement for something else that can be tender and then hard] felt to me to be smooth and tender, and sometimes hard, like stone, so that I was perplexed in myself and said, "What does this mean?" And when I was thinking of these things [gap] ...
- Acts of John (Elliott)

Sometimes when I meant to touch him, I met a material and solid body [hard, like a stone]; and at other times again when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and bodiless and as if it were not existing at all [smooth and tender turned into immaterial and bodiless].
- Acts of John (Elliott)

... But now, stretch out your hand. Now, take hold of me." "And then I stretched out my hands and I did not find him [smooth and tender] as I thought (he would be) [because he found him hard, like a stone]. But afterward I heard him saying, "Understand and take hold of me." Then I understood, and I was afraid. And I was exceedingly joyful.
- Second Apocalypse of James (Hedrick)
I'll just add one small comparison that I found interesting (maybe a coincidence).
I saw that he was naked, and there was no garment clothing him.
- Second Apocalypse of James (Hedrick)

I saw that he was not dressed in garments, but was seen by us as naked...
- Acts of John (Elliott)
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