Pseudonymity, Gnosis, and the Self in Gnostic Literature

in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
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Why did Sethian gnostic authors write pseudonymously? In addition to making a claim to authority, gnostic pseudepigraphy, exemplified by The Three Tablets of Seth, was multiple and performative, implying that the self is multiple—a manifestation of selfhood at different levels of a single reality—and that performing one’s self as multiple provides a path to higher knowledge of one’s self and thus of God. That is, gnostic pseudonymity stems from a distinctive understanding of the self and functions as a mystical practice that performs that understanding. The eschewal of pseudonymity in Valentinian literature reflects different conceptions of the self and of the path to gnosis.

References

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1

Ehrman 2012; cf. Brakke 2016. I presented earlier versions of this paper at meetings of the the Center for the Study of Religion at The Ohio State University; the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity Section of the Society of Biblical Literature; and, originally, the North American Patristics Society in honor of James E. Goehring upon his retirement from Mary Washington University. I am grateful to Professor Goehring and to the other participants in those sessions for their questions and suggestions.

2

Ehrman 2012, 548.

4

E.g., Aland 1961, Russell 1964, Speyer 1971.

5

Stang 2012, 204.

6

Foucault 1998.

15

Goehring 1996, 387.

16

Layton 1987, 149.

17

Goehring 1996, 386; cf. Origen, Cels. 1.57; 6.11; Comm. Jo. 13.29; Ps.-Clem. Rec. 2.11.

18

Schenke 1974, 172.

19

Claude 1983, 3, 60.

20

Wekel 1975, 572. His translation leaves numerous spaces between sense units or paragraphs, but provides no structural analysis beyond differentiating the three tablets and the introductory and concluding elements.

21

Claude 1983, 9–12.

22

Goehring 1996, 374–5.

23

Layton 1987, 152–8.

24

Turner 2007, 526–36.

25

Goehring 1996, 381.

28

Layton 1987, 153n (119c).

29

Goehring 1996, 377.

32

Layton 1987, 156–157.

36

Mazur 2010, 229.

38

Mazur 2010, 277.

40

Stang 2012.

41

Stang 2016.

45

Turner 2001, 757.

46

Thomassen 1995, 256–7.

48

Stang 2016, 113–19.

50

Clement of Alexandria, Exc. 79.

52

Ptolemy, Flor. 33.7.9 (Layton 1987, 314).

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