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.
A close analysis of the views on man in the Nag Hammadi texts reflects that the tripartite pattern distinguishing three elements in the human being (intellect or spirit, soul and body), even if majoritarian, is not the only one at work in the corpus: there is also a group of texts reflecting rather a bipartite scheme discriminating between soul and body only. Irrelevant though it may seem, this difference is seminal, since it not only implies a different psychology, or theory of the soul, but also a different cosmology, which in its turn also involves a dissimilar soteriology or theory concerning man’s salvation. The present study, the first in a series of five, provides a first and general approach that intends to establish the existence of these two differentiated anthropological patterns in the Nag Hammadi corpus. Following studies will offer a more detailed and separate analysis of the textual evidence, assessing the anthropological frameworks behind the different textual groups allegedly found in the corpus, namely the Valentinian, Sethian, Hermetic and Thomasine texts.
Contrary to general belief, ethical progress as a means to attain the divine and thereby achieve salvation occupies a central place in the Nag Hammadi writings. Plato’s conception of the homoiosis theo or “likeness to god” fits very well this dynamic view of man, since it optimistically claims the possibility of human development and progress. Plato’s dialogues are far from offering a univocal exposition of how this progress was fulfilled, but later Platonists show a rather systematizing tendency. The present paper provides an overview of the homoiosis theo in the Platonic dialogues and evaluates its appropriation by both Middle Platonism and the world of Gnosis. It also offers an exposition and analysis of those Nag Hammadi writings that may allow a proper understanding of the meaning and goal of the homoiosis theo in this collection of texts.
The heresiological interpretation of Valentinian anthropology continues to be held as the Gnostic position regarding human origins, condition, and destiny. Church Fathers not only managed to distil and fabricate a coherent whole they could easily attack, but were also persuasive enough to perpetuate their interpretation for centuries to come. Given the lack of consensus in the analysis of Early Christian sources, this article intends to advance the discussion by placing Valentinian anthropology in the wider religious and philosophical context to which it belongs. In order to do so, I will compare Valentinian views with Plutarch’s conception of the human being as presented in his eschatological myths. Especially, the analysis of his De facie will show that Plutarch provides the best precedent for Valentinian anthropology, and that in both cases myths intend to convey a philosophical, holistic view of human life in which cosmology, theology, anthropology, and ethics are intrinsically connected.