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The Apocalypse of Paul (nhc v,2): Cosmology, Anthropology, and Ethics

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
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The cosmology behind the Apocalypse of Paul is interesting in many respects. To begin with it shows a peculiar ten-heaven structure instead of eight heavens as one might normally expect in a Gnostic text; it structures the cosmos into three clear, separate regions; and it omits any reference to the first two heavens. At the same time, Apocalypse of Paul’s cosmology is especially fascinating, on the one hand for the close connection with the text’s anthropology, which conceives of man in the light of the cosmological framework, and, on the other, for its description of Paul’s ascension as an ethical progress. Most interesting for the present context, however, is that this description includes rather transgressive elements, such as the presentation of the Biblical god as the Demiurge and a polemical view of the apostles. The latter are not only said to be stationed in the archontic region together with the Demiurge, but also to be surpassed by Paul, who is the only individual entitled to enter the divine region. After providing a thorough analysis of Apocalypse of Paul’s cosmology, the present paper provides an overview of the anthropological, theological, and ethical implications of its worldview.

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