Androgyne or Undrogyne?: Queering the Gnostic Myth

in Numen
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

The androgyne, whether as a symbol, a concept, or a bodily reality, appears to be employed in different and sometimes apparently contradictory ways within gnostic discourse. On the one hand, the heavenly father himself is an androgyne (Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit 51–52); the divine Barbelo, herself, is a “mother-father” and a “thrice-named androgyne” (Apocryphon of John 12.1–8), and Adam can only long for his ungendered days, when s/he was higher than the creator god (Apocalypse of Adam 64.5–65.25). On the other hand, we also learn that Ialdabaoth himself, that same evil material creator, the most abject entity in gnostic myth, is also an androgyne (Hypostasis of the Archons 94.8–19). This apparent discrepancy serves as the focal point of this paper, which aims to explain the complex, albeit largely consistent, use of the concept of the queered gender in gnostic myth. By reading this myth according to its internal order of events, I attempt to show that gnostic androgyny, far from being a ratification of Greco-Roman discourse (as has been sometimes suggested), is actually a subversion of this very discourse, constructed so as to reify the gnostic disapproval of an important Greco-Roman cultural premise — one that has been aptly defined by David Halperin as “the ancients’ deeply felt and somewhat anxiously defended sense of congruence between a person’s gender, sexual practices, and social identity” (1990:23).

Androgyne or Undrogyne?: Queering the Gnostic Myth

in Numen

Sections

References

BarryCatherineFunkWolf P.PoirierPaul-HubertTurnerJohn D. Zostrien (nh viii 1) 2000 Quebec Presses de l’Université Laval

BethgeHans-GebhardLaytonBentley Societas Coptica Hierosolymitana LaytonBentley “On the Origin of the World” Nag Hammadi Codex ii 2–7 1989 Volume 2: On the Origin of the World Expository Treatise on the Soul Book of Thomas the Contender Leiden Brill 29 93

BornsteinKate Gender Outlaw: On Men Women and the Rest of Us 1994 NewYork Routledge

BoyarinDaniel TaylorMark C. “Gender” Critical Terms for Religious Studies 1998 Chicago University of Chicago Press 117 135

BoylanMichael “The Galenic and Hippocratic Challenges to Aristotle’s Conception Theory” Journal of the History of Biology 1984 17 83 112

BrissonLuc LloydJanet Sexual Ambivalence:‎ Androgyny and Hermaphroditism in Graeco-Roman Antiquity 2002 Berkeley University of California Press

ButlerJudith Gender Trouble:‎ Feminism and the Subversion of Identity 1990 New York Routledge

CahanaJonathan “Gnostically Queer: Gender Trouble in Gnosticism” Biblical Theology Bulletin 2011 41 24 35

ChaseCheryl “Hermaphrodites with Attitude: Mapping the Emergence of Intersex Political Activism” 1998 4 GLQ Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 189 211

CrumWalter E. A Coptic Dictionary 1939 Oxford Clarendon Press

D’AngeloMary R. CoviGiovannaLocatelliCarla “Transcribing Sexual Politics: Images of the Androgyne in Discourses of Antique Religion” Descrizioni e iscrizioni: politiche del discorso 1998 Trento Dipartimento di scienze filologiche e storiche 115 146

DelcourtMarie Hermaphrodite: Myths and Rites of the Bisexual Figure in Classical Antiquity 1961 London Studio Books

DunningBenjamin Aliens and Sojourners: Self as Other in Early Christianity 2009a Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press

DunningBenjamin “What Sort of Thing Is This Luminous Woman? Thinking Sexual Difference in On the Origin of the World Journal of Early Christian Studies 2009b 17 55 84

DworkinAndrea Woman Hating 1974 New York Penguin Books

DworkinAndrea Intercourse 1987 New York Free Press

GilhusIngvild Sælid MoxnesHalvor “Family Structures in Gnostic Religion” Constructing Early Christian Families:‎ Family as Social Reality and Metaphor 1997 London Routledge 235 249

HalperinDavid One Hundred Years of Homosexuality 1990 New York Routledge

HarnackAdolf von BuchananNeil History of Dogma 1961 New York Dover Publications

JonasHans The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity 1963 Boston Beacon Press

KingKaren L. What Is Gnosticism? 2003 Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press

KingKaren L. MarjanenAntti “The Origin of Gnosticism and the Identity of Christianity” Was There a Gnostic Religion? 2005 Göttingen Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 103 120

KingKaren L. The Secret Revelation of John 2006 Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press

KingKaren L. IricinschiEduardZellentinHolger M. “Social and Theological Effects of Heresiological Discourse” Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity 2008 Tübingen Mohr Siebeck 28 49

LaqueurThomas Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud 1990 Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press

LaytonBentley “The Hypostasis of the Archons: Conclusion” Harvard Theological Review 1976 69 31 101

LaytonBentley The Gnostic Scriptures 1987 New York Doubleday

LaytonBentley WhiteL. MichaelYarbroughO. Larry “Prolegomena to the Study of Ancient Gnosticism” The Social World of the First Christians: Essays in Honor of Wayne A. Meeks 1995 Minneapolis Fortress 334 350

MacraeGeorge W. ParrotDouglas M. “The Apocalypse of Adam” Nag Hammadi Codices v 2–5 and vi with Papyrus Berolinensis 8502 1 and 4 1979 Leiden Brill 151 195

MartinDale B. FinucciValeriaBrownleeKevin “Contradictions of Masculinity: Ascetic Inseminators and Menstruating Men in Greco-Roman Culture” Generation and Degeneration: Literature and Tropes of Reproduction from Antiquity through Early Modern Europe 2001 Durham Duke University Press 81 108

MartinDale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation 2006 Louisville Westminster John Knox Press

McGuireAnne KraemerRoss S.D’AngeloMary R. “Women, Gender, and Gnosis in Gnostic Texts and Traditions” Women & Christian Origins 1999 Oxford Oxford University Press 257 299

MeeksWayne A. “The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest Christianity” History of Religions 1974 13 165 208

Sesame Street “Sesame Street — A Family (complete)” 2009 accessed 10 June 2012 Video clip. url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNmKu4VJ3XM (English version);

Sesame Street “.(רחוב סומסום — שיר המשפחה (מלא ובאיכות משופרת” 2011 accessed 10 June 2012 Video clip. url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t68V6md_8E (Hebrew version;)

SiegertFolker Nag Hammadi Register 1982 Tübingen Mohr Siebeck

SmithRichard KingKaren L. “Sex Education in Gnostic Schools” Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism 1988 Philadelphia Fortress Press 345 360

TurnerJohn D. TurnerJohn D.MajercikRuth “Ritual in Gnosticism” Gnosticism and Later Platonism:‎ Themes Figures and Texts 2000 Atlanta Society of Biblical Literature 83 139

TurnerJohn D. Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition 2001 Louvain Peeters

TurnerJohn D. MeyerMarvin “Three Forms of First Thought” The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition 2007 New York HarperCollins 715 736

WaldsteinMichaelWisseFrederik The Apocryphon of John: Synopsis of Nag Hammadi Codices ii 1; iii 1; and iv 1 with bg 85022 1995 Leiden Brill

WarnerMichael “Introduction: Fear of a Queer Planet” glq: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1991 29 3 17

WilliamsMichael A. Rethinking Gnosticism: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category 1996 Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press

WilliamsMichael A. MarjanenAntti “Was There a Gnostic Religion? Strategies for a Clearer Analysis” Was There a Gnostic Religion? 2005 Göttingen Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 55 79

1

See especially King 2003. The differences between King’s objection to the politics involved in the very act of defining (and thus [re]creating) “Gnosticism” and Michael Williams’s denial of the usefulness of the scholarly typological construct of “Gnosticism” (Williams 1996) should be emphasized especially considering how often both objections are lumped together in scholarship to the benefit of neither. The difference is nowhere clearer than in Williams 2005 as opposed to King 2005.

4

See also Jonas 1963:96: “[P]rovocation and scandal . . . [were] an intended effect of the [gnostic] novel message”; and 1963:241 where Jonas refers to Gnosticism and the “Greek mind” as “attacker” and “attacked” respectively.

8

See for instance D’Angelo 1998:130. I would like to thank Sharon Weisser for facilitating my access to this publication.

16

HippolytusRefutation of all Heresies 5.7.14–19; the Greek term is ἀρσενόθηλυς.

25

See also Martin 2006:84.

28

The translation is in Macrae 1979:155–157here with emendations.

Information

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 57 57 23
Full Text Views 85 85 65
PDF Downloads 3 3 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0