Peter Kirby wrote:What is your opinion regarding the Apocryphon of John?
WIKI = There are four separate surviving manuscripts of "The Secret Book of John". Three of these were found in the Nag Hammadi codices in 1945, while the fourth was found independently 50 years earlier from another site in Egypt. All four versions date to the 4th century
Do you regard it as non-Christian or plausibly so?
The extract I quoted above entitled "The Inexpressible One" seems to be more or less straight out of the Platonic philosophy of Plotinus' Enneads. So the question is then why do we find it with a Christian context?
Do you think its author had knowledge of the New Testament?
Yes of course I do. But is he a Christian or a Platonist, or a Christian Platonist or a Platonist Christian?
Where do you place it in the sweep of history?
Here's where I differ from the mainstream, and place the author after Nicaea. After the NT Bible codex was raised to political prominence.
As reflected in the fragments of the history of Philip of Side the controversy that commenced at the Council of Nicaea and ensued for centuries was not any form of an internal conflict between Christians (although that is how Eusebius, and the 5th century continuators of Eusebius, present the picture). These fragments (which I have listed below with a link to Roger's site) clearly indicate that the conflict was between two separate parties. On the one hand there were "Our Bishops" (the Nicene Christian orthodoxy) and on the other hand there were "many philosophers" (the hirelings of Arius).
In the sweep of history we are all well aware that, with the assistance of Constantine, the philosophers lost and the bishops won the day. During the rest of the 4th century, in the words of Ammianus, "the highways were covered with galloping bishops". What happened to the philosophers? We know what happened to one of the leading, if not the leading Platonic philosopher Sopater. Constantine publically executed him c.336 CE.
This is precisely where these gnostic (Greek philosophical) treatises IMHO fit in to the sweep of history. The philosophers attempted to adapt to Nicene Christianity, especially when they realised that they could not openly dare to challenge the doctrines of Constantine. The philosophers went underground. They attempted to adapt their philosophical doctrines to the dogma of the NT Bible, and all sorts of hybrid treatises were authored as a result, including the Apocryphon of John.
But Constantine wanted only One True Holy Writ with which to bind the empire together under a centralised monotheistic state religion. As a result, he and his regime persecuted, and were intolerant of any "additional texts". The philosophers treatises (blending the NT Bible with Plotinic philosophy) were prohibited and burnt in Alexandria. Someone gathered up the surviving Greek manuscripts and took them 400 miles down the Nile to Nag Hammadi, where they were translated to Coptic and preserved in codices.
http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/phili ... nts.htm#Fr
- Fr. 5.6 = [Supporters of Arius at the Council of Nicaea]
Anonymous Ecclesiastical History 2.12.8-10 [p. 47, lines 5-19 Hansen]
(8) When these things were expressed by them—or rather, through them, by the Holy Spirit—those who endorsed Arius' impiety were wearing themselves out with murmuring (these were the circles of Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea, whom I have already pointed out earlier), and yet they were looking with favor on the "hirelings" of Arius, certain philosophers who were indeed very good with words; Arius had hired them as supporters of his own wickedness, and arrived with them at that holy and ecumenical council.
(9) For there were present very many philosophers; and having put their hopes in them, as I have said just now, the enemies of the truth were reasonably caught, along with the one who actually taught them their blasphemy. The Holy Scripture was fulfilled in him and in them, which says, "Cursed is everyone who has his hope in a mortal man, and whose heart has departed from the Lord."
(10) For truly, the blasphemous heart of the fighter against God, Arius, and of those who shared in his impiety, departed from the Lord—they dared to say that the Son of God, the creator of the universe and the craftsman of both visible and invisible created natures, is something created and something made.
Fr. 5.7 = [The Arian Philosopher and the Simple Old Man]
Anonymous Ecclesiastical History 2.13 [p. 47, line 20 - p. 50, line 5 Hansen]
(1) A certain one of the hirelings of Arius, a philosopher, who was marvelled at much more than all the others, contended much, indeed very much, on Arius' behalf with our bishops for very many days, with the result that there was a great lecture every day arising from their verbal encounters: the crowd of those who were gathering would rush together, and the philosopher would put forward the impious blasphemies of Arius against what was said by the holy council, saying about the Son that "there was a time when he was not," and that "he is a created being, made from nothing, and from a different substance and existence [than the Father]." (2) On behalf of these abominable doctrines of Arius, he had a great struggle, and [sent forth] his "showers" of arguments, as he raved against the Son of God and attacked the chorus of those holy priests--the enemy of human salvation was speaking in him and through him. (3) But the defenders of the truth, our bishops, calmly brought to bear against him the necessary and appropriate counter-arguments, on behalf of the Apostolic doctrines, imitating the great prophet and king, David, who said, "I was made ready, and I was not disturbed." For they burned through the philosopher's convoluted propositions by means of the divine word, as though with fire through hempen fibers. (4) But even so, the philosopher continued to be confident in his diabolical facility with arguments, and began to shoot his arrows against the truth proclaimed by the bishops, applying good and glib responses to all the considerations advanced against him—so he thought—and, slippery as an eel, he struggled to solve the issues raised. For in the midst of what he thought he was contriving for his own benefit, slipping out of the logical arguments that were being brought quite powerfully against him, he was caught, on the basis of is own words, and collapsed along with them. (5) But even so, in an arrogant frenzy, he moved against the most peaceful council, hoping to defeat the invincible power of the unconquerable Spirit of Christ that was in them. (6) But God, "who catches the wise in their cunning," in order to demonstrate that his kingdom does not stand "on talk but on power," not only powerfully silenced the wicked demon that was speaking in the philosopher, but even cast it out, through one of his servants who was there. (7) For a certain man, one of the holy confessors who was present at the council, with as simple a nature as any other of the saints [has had], and one who knew nothing "except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" in the flesh according to the Scriptures, was with the bishops and saw the philosopher swooping down to attack our holy bishops, and arrogantly engaged in his malicious disputation; he asked the bishops, the priests of God, to give him an opportunity for discussion with the philosopher. (8) Then, the holy bishops on our side, perceiving the man's simplicity and his lack of experience with letters, tried to persuade him not to put himself into the fray, for fear that it would provoke laughter among the malicious enemies of the truth. (9) But he, not content with this, approached the philosopher and said to him, "In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word of God who is always with the Father, listen to the doctrines of truth, O philosopher." And the other said to him, "Go ahead and speak." And the saint said to him, "There is one God, who created the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all things that are in them, who also formed man from the earth and subjected everything to his Logos and to the Holy Spirit. (10) This Logos, O philosopher, we know and worship as the Son of God, believing that for the sake of our redemption he was made fleshand was born and became a man, and that through the suffering of his flesh on the cross and his death he freed us from eternal condemnation, and that through his resurrection he procured eternal life for us; and we have hope that as he went up into the heavens he will come back and will judge us concerning all that we have accomplished. Do you believe in these things, O philosopher?" (11) And the philosopher, as though he had never had experience of words spoken in opposition to him, was dumbfounded and fell silent just like that, as though he were mute and speechless, after saying to him, in a most pitiable voice, only the following: "I too think this is so, and I think no differently that as you have just said." (12) And the old man said to him, "If you believe that this is so, O philosopher, stand up and follow me, and let us hurry to the church, in which you will receive the sign of this faith." (13) And the philosopher, transforming his whole self toward the true reverence for the God of the universe, stood up and followed the old man and, turning around, said to his disciples and to all those who had gathered to hear [the discussion], "Listen, men. As long as I was enthusiastic for arguments, I would place words in opposition to words and would overturn the matters presented to me by my skill in speaking; (14) but now that instead of words, some divine power has come forth from the mouth of my interlocutor, my words no longer had the strength to resist this power. For neither is a human being able to stand in opposition to God. Therefore, if any of you is able to understand, as I have now come to think, he shall believe in Christ—and let him follow this old man, in whom God spoke.
(15) In this way, the philosopher recovered and, being illuminated and becoming a Christian, rejoiced to have been beaten by the old man.
And when this philosopher had been baptized and was joined to the Church of God and found relief and exulted, the council rejoiced over the mighty acts of God.