This article explores the construction and function of the female body in four Gnostic texts: Pistis Sophia, On the Origin of the World, Hypostasis of the Archons, and Apocryphon of John. In these texts’ accounts of the mythological origin of the cosmos, the exposed bodies of Sophia and her daughters are consistently depicted as objects of excessive, often gratuitous sexual violence. Yet in the midst of this violence appears another, equally consistent motif: the Gnostic writers protected their female characters through a variety of narratival techniques, such as transforming the female body into a tree or a strenuous insistence on the violence’s ultimate failure. This article accounts for this curious pairing of violence and protection by evaluating the female body as a symbolic artifact embedded with the values of the patriarchal culture which constructed it, a culture which valued the female body as a reliable, untainted conduit of progeny.
In the first part of the paper, I will provide an overview of Eric Voegelin’s early thesis about Gnosis which he formulated in The New Science of Politics (1952) and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism (1968). A special attention will be paid to the idea of the immanentization of the eschaton which remains in the center of his argument. In the second part of the paper, I will analyze two Hollywood films in the light of Voegelin’s thesis: Dark City (1998) and Pleasantville (1998). Firstly, I will argue that the main characters depicted in the films can be classified as Gnostics in Voegelin’s sense. Secondly, I will demonstrate that their revolutionary acts reflect the idea of the immanentization of the eschaton.
The widespread assumption that the Manichaean religion depended on some antecedent form of “Gnosticism” requires critical assessment. Manichaean myth shows no distinctive points of connection to theogonic, cosmogonic, or cosmological details in those narratives typically classed as belonging to “gnostic” sects. Striking narrative parallels between Manichaean and “gnostic” accounts of anthropogenesis, therefore, are anomalous, and may be best explained by independent dependence on a common source, rather than direct contact between Manichaeans and gnostic groups. A variety of evidence suggests this common source to be Jewish demiurgical traditions inspired by a desire to insulate God from responsibility for flaws in human nature. In light of this analysis, Manichaean continuity directly with Jewish narrative traditions, without “gnostic” mediation, appears to be more fundamental to the religion’s core myth than previously supposed.
The Coptic translation of a passage from Plato’s Republic (588b–589b) found in the sixth Codex of the Nag Hammadi collection has received very limited academic attention in comparison with other tractates from the same Codex. This paper argues that placing this passage within Clement of Alexandria’s polemic with Christian Platonists Carpocrates and his son Epiphanes, may provide a fresh and insightful comment on the use of Republic, with its anthropology and ethics among various second-century Christian teachers. This passage allegorizes various passions within the human soul and warns against injustice. According to Clement of Alexandria the subject of justice, or righteousness, was one of the subjects which attracted the attention of Epiphanes. I propose that the origin of the Coptic passage goes back to the second-century effort to assimilate Platonic ideas about the human soul into Christian ethics. Although various apologists accused Carpocrates and Epiphanes of sexual immorality, I focus on the possibility that Christians with Platonic tendencies were exploring the nature and power of human passions and considering how they could be controlled. The place of the excerpt in the Nag Hammadi collection is not coincidental but goes along other mythological and didactic treatises within.