Poetics of the Gnostic Universe

Narrative and Cosmology in the Apocryphon of John


This volume is both an essay in Gnostic poetics and a study in the history of early Christian appropriation of ancient philosophy. The object of study is the cosmological model of the Apocryphon of John, a first-hand and fully narrated version of the Gnostic myth.
The author examines his target text against a complex background of religious and philosophical systems, literary theories, and rhetorical techniques of the period, and argues that the world model of the Apocryphon of John is inseparable from the epistemological, theological, and aesthetic debates within contemporary Platonism.
Poetics of the Gnostic Universe also discusses the composition and narrative logic of the Apocryphon of John, explores its revisionist attitude towards various literary models (Plato’s Timaeus, Wisdom literature, Genesis), and analyzes its peculiar discursive strategy of conjoining seemingly disconnected symbolic ‘codes’ while describing the derivation of a multi-layered universe from a single transcendent source.

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Zlatko Pleše, Ph.D. (1996) in Classics, Yale University, is Associate Professor of Graeco-Roman Religion and Early Christianity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published on Plutarch, Middle Platonism, Gnosticism, Coptic literature, and early modern Latin historiography, and is currently working on a critical edition of the seventh volume of Shenoute’s Discourses.
"Pleše's book is an impressive contribution to scholarship on the Apocryphon of John and on Gnosticism in general."
Birger A. Pearson, University of California, Santa Barbara
Chapter One. Narrative and Composition
The Frame Narrative
Manuscript Witnesses
Authorship and Narrative Voices
Dramatis Personae
John’s Failed Inventio
John’s Vision: Form and Content
The Revelatory Monologue: Narrative Structure, Plot, Voices
Dispositio: What Is–What Has Come to Be–What Will Come to Pass
Plot: The Logic of the Savior’s Narrative
Dissonant Voices, Consonant Models: Plato, Sophia, Moses
Chapter Two. The Realm of Being
Agnostos Theos
Praising Oneness: A Literary Analysis
The God without Qualities
Formation of the Spiritual Realm
The Language of Procession in the Apocryphon of John
Chapter Three. The Realm of Becoming
Sophia “Our Sister” (Prov 7:4)
Sophia the Lowest Aeon
Sophia’s Miscarriage
Sophia’s Motivation: The Soul “in Travail of Birth”
Cosmogony, Part One: The ‘Gnostic’ Demiurge
Ialdabaoth in the Luminous Cloud
Ialdabaoth the Villain
Ialdabaoth the Demiurge
“Let Us Make a Man”
Ialdabaoth the Jealous God
Cosmogony, Part Two: Sophia’s Repentance
Narrative Function of the Episode
Other ‘Gnostic’ Interpretations of Genesis 1:2b
Sophia’s Movement and Wisdom Literature
Temporal Coordinates of Sophia’s Movement: Sophia, Ialdabaoth’s Assistant
Spatial Coordinates of Sophia’s Movement: Metanoia, Its Meaning and Function
“What Will Come to Pass”—Diakrisis, or Final Separation
Index locorum potiorum
Index nominum et rerum
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