Paul and the Others

Rereading the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul (NHC V, 2)

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
Jacques van der Vliet Radboud University The Netherlands Nijmegen
Leiden University The Netherlands Leiden

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This article proposes a reassessment of the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul by focusing on genre, intertextuality, and structure as well as recurrent motifs. It argues that the Apocalypse situates the mission of Paul negatively in relation to a prison-like cosmos and positively in relation to the twelve apostles and that its form and objectives are best compatible with a fourth-century date.

1 One Text, Many Readings

The Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Paul is the second text in papyrus codex Coptic Museum 10548, where it occupies ff. 17–24. It is available in a photographic reproduction of its single Sahidic Coptic manuscript and in three editions.1 The editio princeps was published by Alexander Böhlig and Pahor Labib in 1963; other editions followed, by William R. Murdock and George W. MacRae in 1979, and by Jean-Marc Rosenstiehl in 2005.2 The latter provides a full critical apparatus, summarizing previous textual criticism.3 All three editions are semi-diplomatic, which is a pis aller, in this case perhaps justified by the imperfect condition of the manuscript.4

Rosenstiehl’s edition of 2005 is accompanied in the same volume by two commentaries; one by Rosenstiehl himself, in French, and the other by Michael Kaler, in English.5 Both extremely erudite commentaries do not only differ in language, but also in their views on the text’s nature and background. According to Rosenstiehl, the Apocalypse is an originally Judeo-Christian text with Gnostic interpolations, dating from about 150 C.E. or even earlier. Kaler considers it to be a Valentinian or crypto-Valentinian text, composed in the late second or early third century in order to refute orthodox interpretations of Paul’s vision of the third heaven and paradise reported in 2 Corinthians 12:2–4.6 In 2016, in the first issue of this journal, Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta devoted an important new study to nearly all major aspects of the text, in which he defends a countercultural reading. The text would have targeted “conventional Christians” who follow the other apostles, the “lackeys of the demiurge,” and hence remain trapped in the heimarmene.7 Finally, one year later, in the journal’s second volume, Michael Domeracki proposed a Valentinian baptismal interpretation, reading the Apocalypse as an initiatory text.8

The foregoing remarks cannot claim to amount to a Forschungsgeschichte of the Apocalypse of Paul.9 Yet, they suffice to reveal an astonishing lack of scholarly consensus, which is all the more remarkable as the text is brief and clearly structured.10 The present article aims at a reassessment of the Coptic text. In an unpolemical way, it takes up the debate by focusing on genre, intertextuality and structural cohesion, which each provide valuable cues to the meaning of the text. The article is heavily indebted to the erudition of my predecessors and does not pretend to offer an exhaustive commentary of the Apocalypse.11

2 Dramatis Personae and Landscapes12

  • The apostle Paul, who is on his way to Jerusalem via Jericho and simultaneously to the tenth heaven via the fourth to seventh heavens

  • The other apostles, who are both destination and companions of Paul’s journey

  • The Holy Spirit, who in the guise of a child guides Paul on his journey

  • Toll collectors (“publicans”), angels and human souls, inhabiting the fourth to sixth heavens

  • The Old Man in the seventh heaven, who governs the lower world

  • The principalities and authorities that assist him

  • The spirits in the highest heavens

3 Genre Considerations

Its ancient title, ⲧⲁⲡⲟⲕⲁⲗⲩⲯⲓⲥ ⲙ̄ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲟⲥ, “the Revelation of Paul,” classes the text as an apocalypse, a revelation.13 It hence bears the same title as another late-antique Apocalypse of Paul, known in nearly all the languages of medieval Christianity.14 The latter text, which is now generally considered to originate from monastic circles in late fourth-century Egypt, is a far more grandiose composition than the modest text from Nag Hammadi. Merely to avoid confusion between the two like-named works, it will here be designated as the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul. In both apocalypses, Paul is simultaneously the recipient of the revelation and the protagonist of the text.

Within the class of literary revelations, the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul belongs to the genre of ascent apocalypses.15 These describe how, in a vision, a saint or a biblical figure (here Paul), gets a tour of the heavenly world or part of it, usually under the guidance of an angelus interpres, an angel who accompanies the saint and provides explanations or words of encouragement. In addition, the visionary may be given a similar tour of hell, as for instance in the central part of the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul. The rather diffuse genre of tours of heaven and hell enjoyed wide popularity in Jewish, Christian and even Islamic literature, from pre-Christian 1 Enoch up to and including Jewish mystical literature and Dante’s Divina Commedia.

The visionary content of ascent apocalypses may vary considerably, yet core themes that occur nearly always are: the structure and topography of the heavens, the judgment and post-mortem fate of the souls, and the glory of the celestial world. These themes can be combined with various others, such as the explanation of natural and meteorological phenomena. Also, the narrative frames in which the visions are embedded may differ greatly, providing different cues to their interpretation.

Compared to other representatives of the ascent genre, the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is sketchy and poor in descriptions. Nevertheless, the traditional themes of celestial topography, the fate of the souls after death, and the splendor of heavens are all present. Their treatment is unequal, however. The ascent narrative skips the first three heavens, barely mentioning the third, and deals with the highest heavens, represented by the eighth to tenth, but in a few words. Major episodes are situated exclusively in the intermediate zone of heavens four to seven. They make up the core of the ascent narrative and are very clearly dependent on the literary forms of the ascent genre. These episodes are the judgment scenes in the fourth and fifth heavens and the confrontation with the Old Man, enthroned in the seventh heaven in a great light that is already visible from the sixth. This state of affairs allows the conclusion that the text’s ascent narrative is not aimed at a systematic description of the celestial world, but is focused on part of the track only, to wit heavens four to seven.

In the descriptions of the fourth to seventh heavens, the emphasis is less on the splendor of these regions, however, than on their menacing, obstructive aspects: the judgment of the deceased, with personified sins giving testimony against the soul, cruel angels that are flogging the souls (heavens four and five), and the gates and toll-collectors that seek to block Paul’s ascent at every stage. Also, the Old Man in the seventh heaven tries to stop Paul. The dialogue between him and Paul finally raises captivity to the central theme of this entire part of the text. While drawing upon the literary motifs of the ascent genre, it pictures the mechanisms of captivity. Above the seventh heaven, these have no more impact and Paul’s smooth passage from the eight to the tenth level is not anymore described in detail.16

In conformity with the conventions of the genre, the ascent narrative is embedded in a frame story that explains by whom and on which pretext the vision was granted. The story shows Paul on his way to Jerusalem to join his fellow-apostles. On the road, more precisely, in the wilderness of Jericho, he meets the Holy Spirit in the guise of a young boy. Paul asks him for the right direction and from that moment onwards the Spirit acts as his guide. The motif of the encounter with a child or youth that reveals itself as a divine messenger (usually Christ himself), is known from a wide variety of early-Christian sources, Gnostic and non-Gnostic.17 Unlike most, however, the present text is both explicit and consistent in identifying the boy encountered by Paul as the Holy Spirit.18

The Holy Spirit assumes the traditional role of the accompanying angel, the angelus interpres. He explains Paul’s present position on earth, takes him up and steers him past the obstacles encountered during his heavenly ascent. The intervention of the Spirit transposes Paul’s journey from Jericho to Jerusalem to a cosmological level. He urges Paul to recognize the invisible in the forms of the visible.19 Once he has made this mental switch, Paul’s journey follows a double track, summarized below (Table 1).

Table 1

Paul’s parallel ascent






Earth-seventh heaven

Eighth-tenth heavens


Thus, onto the frame story, a second, parallel story is grafted. While Paul continues his way to Jerusalem in the created world, the Holy Spirit takes him on a celestial journey that brings him to the spiritual world of the tenth heaven. In the end, the text does not formally return to the frame story, as Paul has reached his destination in both parallel worlds.

To sum up, the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is an ascent apocalypse that takes Paul up to the tenth heaven. It generally adheres to the conventions of the late-antique genre, including its interest in the post-mortem judgment of the souls and many of its formal features. An explanatory frame story situates Paul’s ascent on a journey to Jerusalem and the place of the habitual angelus interpres who acts as the visionary’s guide and mentor is taken by the Holy Spirit. Yet the revelation remains strangely incomplete. The description of the celestial world is exclusively focused on the fourth to seventh heavens, where Paul witnesses scenes of judgment and torture and successfully overcomes several obstacles. Apparently, no systematic cosmography is intended.20

4 Intertextuality: The Pauline Letters

Intertextuality is not just about the sources of a text, but about the dialogue with other texts and ideas that contribute to its interpretation. The Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is intertextually connected with a variety of other early-Christian texts. Some of these are echoed almost literally in the Apocalypse. They either belong to the Pauline corpus within the New Testament or to the genre of heavenly ascents.

The literature about the Apocalypse of Paul unanimously claims that the major intertext of the Apocalypse is the famous passage in 2 Corinthians 12:2–4, where Paul refers to what was presumably his own rapture to the third heaven and paradise. The Apocalypse is said to “present itself as a continuation” of the 2 Corinthians 12 passage, which is considered to be “of pivotal importance in the construction of the work.”21 These claims are largely acceptable, yet at the same time demand qualification. The description of the takeoff of Paul’s heavenly journey undoubtedly echoes 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 4: “Then the Holy Spirit who had been speaking with him seized him (ⲁϥⲧⲱⲣⲡ︥ ⲙ̄ⲙⲟϥ) up on high to the third heaven.”22 The verb ⲧⲱⲣⲡ, which occurs only here in the text, is the exact equivalent of Greek ἁρπάζω, used in 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 4 (in the Sahidic version, ⲉⲁⲩⲧⲱⲣⲡ̄ ⲙ̄ⲡⲁⲓ̈ and ⲁⲩⲧⲟⲣⲡϥ̄, respectively).23 Yet, this is the only and very brief mention of the third heaven in the text. In the remainder of the Apocalypse, neither the third heaven nor paradise or the ἄρρητα ῥήματα, the “unspeakable words,” of 2 Corinthians 12:4 play any role, positive or negative.

An entirely different situation pertains in the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul. There, 2 Corinthians 12 is not only cited in the title of the medieval Greek recension and the prefatory material of the long Latin versions, but several times echoed in the body of the text as well.24 Above all, the third heaven and paradise are important landmarks in Paul’s long celestial voyage and hence in the structure of the entire Catholic Apocalypse.25 None of this is to be found in the Gnostic Apocalypse, where the passage plays a different role. The text skips everything below the fourth heaven and makes Paul’s earlier vision the springboard for a different vision, which takes him stepwise beyond the third heaven up to the tenth.

In order to understand this move, Michael Kaler convincingly invokes the anti-Valentinian polemics of Irenaeus, not because Irenaeus may have targeted the present Gnostic Apocalypse, which is unlikely, but because he sketches a plausible background for the text’s use of 2 Corinthians 12. Irenaeus’s argument seeks to demonstrate that an ascent to the third heaven only, as described in 2 Corinthians 12 or the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul, poses a problem for the construction of a Gnostic Paul, who beyond the seventh heaven must have had access to the realm of the spiritual. Only understood in this sense, as a model that at once necessitates and facilitates the unfolding of the story of a surpassing vision, focused on the figure of Paul, the passage from 2 Corinthians 12 can be called the text’s primary intertext.26

As a majority of commentators agree, the most conspicuous intertext of the Gnostic Apocalypse after 2 Corinthians 12:2–4 is Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Twice, Paul is addressed with a slightly altered, but nonetheless clearly recognizable quote of Galatians 1:15, where Paul describes his vocation by God “who had set me apart (ⲉⲛⲧⲁϥⲡⲟⲣϫⲧ̄ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ) when I was still in the womb of my mother and called me by his grace” (Sahidic). First the Spirit identifies Paul as “he who was blessed from his mother’s womb.”27 Then the Old Man in the seventh heaven greets him similarly as “he who was blessed and set apart (ⲡⲉⲛⲧⲁ[ⲩ]ⲡⲟⲣϫϥ̄ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ) from his mother’s womb.”28 Significantly, both the latter passage and the Sahidic of Galatians 1:15 use the same verb ⲡⲱⲣϫ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ, “to set apart.”

Much more importantly, Paul’s accounts of his visits to Jerusalem to meet the other apostles, reported in Galatians 1–2, determine the structure of the frame narrative of the Apocalypse. The frame story, as we saw, relates his ascent to Jerusalem via “the wilderness (ⲡⲧⲟⲟⲩ) of Jericho.”29 Jericho, of course, does not figure in Galatians.30 The meaning of this insertion is nonetheless obvious.31 By ascending to Jerusalem via the wilderness of Jericho, Paul follows in an inverse direction the route of the man from the parable of the good Samaritan who falls victim to robbers. In accordance with widespread Gnostic and patristic exegesis of the parable, Jericho stands for the lower, demonic world.32 A double understanding of Jerusalem, as Paul’s destination on earth and in heaven, is not only implied in the structure of the narrative (see above, Table 1), but spelt out explicitly in Galatians 4:25–26, which opposes the present Jerusalem, characterized by slavery (δουλεύει), to Jerusalem on high that enjoys freedom (ἐλευθέρα ἐστίν).33

In the Gnostic Apocalypse, this allegoric interpretation is textually enforced by the explanatory words of the Spirit that urge Paul to “recognize the invisible in the visible.”34 Paul’s journey in the Gnostic Apocalypse is not, therefore, one of the two actual journeys described in Galatians 1–2, but a more generic one, the spiritual significance of which is more important than the historical details. This significance is nonetheless precisely defined by the parameters of Galatians 1–2. In these chapters, Paul, in the strong awareness of his personal vocation and divine mission, reflects on his sometime troubled relationship with the other apostles, in particular Peter, and his past journeys undertaken to meet the apostles (or at least some of them) in Jerusalem.

Accepting Galatians 1–2, in conjunction with 2 Corinthians 12:2–4, as the primary intertext of the Apocalypse has far-reaching consequences for its interpretation. It shifts the focus of the text from the revelation of celestial mysteries to two other themes, to wit the relationship between Paul and the twelve and, intimately connected, the mission and authority of Paul himself. Different than the mysteries of the celestial world, about which the text provides only scant information, these two themes, which represent the main concerns of Paul in Galatians 1–2, occupy a central place in the Apocalypse too. Always as a group, the twelve are first mentioned in 18.19, soon after the beginning of the preserved text, and, without playing an active role, remain visible throughout the text up to and including their joint arrival in the tenth heaven, which marks the end of Paul’s voyage.35

The text’s view of the mission of Paul, its protagonist, is neatly expressed in Paul’s own words during his conversation with the Old Man in the seventh heaven. Here again an overt quote from the Pauline corpus is used: “I am on my way down to the world of the dead in order to lead captive the captivity (ⲉⲓ̈ⲛⲁⲣ̄ ⲁⲓⲭⲙⲁⲗⲱⲧⲓⲍⲉ ⲛ̄ϯⲁⲓⲭⲙⲁⲗⲱⲥⲓⲁ) that was led captive in the captivity of Babylon.”36 Paul paraphrases and amplifies Ephesians 4:8, “he ascended to the height and led captivity captive” (Sahidic), which itself is a modified quote of Psalm 67:19 (LXX).

The already emphatic cognate object construction of Ephesians 4:8 and its model (ⲁϥⲁⲓⲭⲙⲁⲗⲱⲧⲉⲩⲉ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲁⲓⲭⲙⲁⲗⲱⲥⲓⲁ) is duplicated for maximum rhetorical effect. In a similar manner, the double situation of captivity, viz. in “the world of the dead” (ⲡⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲥ ⲛ̄ⲧⲉ ⲛⲉⲧⲙⲟⲟⲩⲧ) and in Babylon, hammers home the text’s negative perception of the cosmos. Whereas in Ephesians, the Psalm quote is applied to Christ, it here becomes Paul’s own mission statement. It situates his mission, on a par with that of Christ himself, in an axis of descent – ascent geared towards the redemption of the human soul from captivity, in accordance with Ephesians 4:7–10.

5 Intertextuality: Tours of Heaven

In addition to the Pauline corpus, the text of the Apocalypse shows manifold links with other ascent apocalypses. This is not only apparent in its cosmology with its layered heavens, which will be discussed later in this section, but most clearly in the scenes that describe what Paul saw and heard on his way up, in passing through the fourth to seventh heavens.

In the fourth and fifth heavens, Paul witnesses two scenes that depict the fate of the souls of sinners after death, the first quite extensive, the second more rudimentary. The first relates the judgment of a soul by “the toll-collector who dwells in the fourth heaven.”37 The soul protests its innocence and demands witnesses and a book to be brought in. Three so-called witnesses appear, who in reality act as plaintiffs. They are personified sins accusing the soul and their evidence is damning. By way of punishment, the soul is thrown down and enters “a body that was prepared for it,” that is, it returns to a material existence on earth, in “the world of the dead.”38

As earlier commentators have duly noted, this characteristic judgment scene with its witnesses and the arrogant soul that is rebuked by the judge has striking parallels in two well-known Egyptian representatives of the heavenly ascent genre.39 In addition to our text, the scene occurs in the short recension of the Greek Testament of Abraham 10–11, in the Bohairic Coptic version of the same Testament of Abraham and in the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul 17–18. The following chart aims at making the interrelationships visible (Table 2).40

Table 2

Comparative table of the structure of the judgment scene in the fourth heaven









Soul brought in by angels

Soul brought in

Soul brought in by angel

Soul brought in by angels


“like a robber”

Toured around / ill-treated

Judge: toll-collector

Judge: God

Judge: Abel

Judge: God

At the gate of 4th heaven

At the gate of heaven

Near paradise

At the gate of heaven



Denial of guilt

Denial of guilt

Denial of guilt

Denial of guilt




Witnesses/book requested

Enoch with book/reads book

Cherubim with book/Enoch with pen

Angel with written record

God’s forgiveness

3 witnesses appear

Sins called in as 3 witnesses

Enoch with 3 crowns = witnesses

2 souls called in

Reads book

Accusation of anger/jealousy

Accusation of murder/adultery

Accusation of murder/ adultery/“other sins”



Recognition/confession of murder

Accusation of murder

Accusation of evil desires

Accusation of sins by night

Accusation of crimes by night



Confession of adultery/robbery

Explanation on souls of victims

Thrown down in a body

Thrown down in depth hell


Tortured in hell

The easily detectible structural and verbal similarities show that we are dealing with four versions of the same story. In each of them, the context is that of a guided “tour of heaven.” In both the Catholic and the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul, the story represents a well-defined unit, apparently inserted en bloc in Paul’s tour of heaven. In particular in the sketchy Gnostic text, the integration in the context is feeble, but also for its Catholic counterpart it can be argued that the scene disrupts the nice symmetry observed in the preceding chapters 14 (death and judgment of a righteous soul) and 15–16 (death and judgment of a sinner) and is strictly spoken redundant. This makes the popular and widely transmitted Testament of Abraham a likely source for both Apocalypses.

The version of the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is somewhat abridged and edited, but fairly close to the Bohairic version of the Testament of Abraham, which is probably the translation of a Sahidic version that goes back to about the fourth century.41 This state of affairs favors the assumption that the judgment scene in the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul derives from a pre-fifth century form of the Testament of Abraham current in Egypt, rather than from the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul or a common source unknown to us.

Quite apart from these historical considerations, the table shows a text in movement that could easily be adapted in various ways, but is nonetheless firmly rooted in the late-antique tour of heaven, with its strong interest in the post-mortem fate of the dead.42 The same holds for the second scene, which is situated in the fifth heaven.43 There, Paul sees a great angel “holding an iron rod,” accompanied by three other angels, who “with whips in their hands were rivaling with each other in goading the souls on to the judgment.” This picture bears a more general character than the previous one, yet no less clearly reflects the narrative universe of the tours of heaven and hell.44 Close parallels are again found in the Testament of Abraham, in particular chapter 12, 1, of the long Greek recension, where Abraham sees “two angels of fiery appearance, pitiless disposition and fiery glance; and they were spurring on myriads of souls, flogging them merciless with fiery lashes.”45

A similar scene, now situated in hell, is found in the Bohairic Life of Pachomius, where the visionary is shown “a multitude of souls of all ages and countless number, who were rushed forward in a panic by the torturing angels that know no mercy. And when he again asked the angel who accompanied him about those (souls), the angel told him: ‘These are the sinful souls who died today in the entire world.’ And they were divided over each of the punishments according to what they deserved.”46 The Testament of Abraham is the most likely model for both Pachomius’s vision and Paul’s.47

The function of these two closely related scenes of judgment and punishment in the development of the narrative of the Apocalypse is not directly obvious. Two complementary reasons for their presence here can be envisaged, one metatextual, the other inner-textual.48 On a metatextual level, these iconic scenes serve to anchor the Apocalypse more firmly in the late-antique genre of the tours of heaven and hell, attributed to renowned visionaries, ranging from Enoch and Abraham via Paul to Pachomius. The familiar qualities of the scenes classify the text under a well-known genre and make the less familiar aspects of its message easier to digest. The inner-textual function of the two scenes is primarily cosmological. In familiar, yet striking images, they show the mechanisms of captivity that are operative in the cosmos: punishment by cruel angels; judgment and condemnation to a material body in “the world of the dead.”

Also in other respects, Paul’s celestial journey remains within the framework of the ascent genre. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he soars upward from the earth through a layered landscape of ten heavens. The best-known examples of such a well-structured upward journey are probably the Ascension of Isaiah 7–10, which describes seven heavens, and 2 Enoch, which counts ten heavens, just like the Apocalypse.49 In the only part of Paul’s journey that is related in some detail, heavens four to seven, he passes through gates watched by the toll-collectors (“publicans”) who dwell in each of the heavens and wish to obstruct Paul’s ascent. Hostile toll-collectors at the gates of heavens can be found in a wide variety of early-Christian sources, Gnostic and non-Gnostic.50 In the (first) Apocalypse of James that immediately follows the Apocalypse of Paul in the Coptic codex, they “do not only demand toll, but also snatch the souls by confiscation.”51 In the Ascension of Isaiah 10, 23–31, even Christ, descending in disguise through the lower heavens, needs a “sign” to pass the watchers at the gates, just like Paul needs one to escape from the seventh heaven.52

In the seventh heaven, Paul finds not a toll-collector anymore, but the Old Man, who thrones in a great light and is clearly modeled after the biblical God (cp. Dan 7 about the Ancient of Days).53 The description of his splendid garments and his throne “seven times brighter than the sun” is again entirely conventional. Also, Enoch, in 2 Enoch 9, when approaching the seventh heaven, sees first “a great light”, then to be shown “the Lord sitting on his throne”.54 The Catholic Apocalypse of Paul uses the hyperbolic formula “seven times whiter / brighter than …” throughout its text to describe the surpassing glory of the celestial world. Thus, the city of Christ is “shining seven times brighter than the sun” and the faces of the prophets in paradise “beam seven times more than the sun and the hair of their head is like white wool.”55 The Old Man in the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is depicted likewise, in surpassing terms of luminosity, yet he has a grim side as well.

The Old Man interrogates Paul, first with a “Where are you going?” and then: “Where do you come from?”56 These are again standard questions in the literature of heavenly ascent.57 In the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul, chapter 16, 3, “the powers of darkness” likewise ask the soul of the sinner: “Where are you going?”, blocking its way up to heaven. Very similar questions are asked by the toll-collectors in the (first) Apocalypse of James, already quoted above. There, Jesus warns James: “When you fall into their hands, one of them will say to you: ‘Who are you and where are you from?’.”58 Even Paul’s answer to the first question: “I am on my way to the place from where I have come,” has a literal counterpart somewhat later in the same first Apocalypse of James.59

The Old Man, in spite of his splendid apparel, is no better than James’s toll-collectors, which is confirmed by his reaction on hearing Paul’s mission statement (“taking captive the captivity of Babylon”): “How will you be able to escape me? Look and see the principalities and the authorities.”60 These are of no avail to him, for Paul, encouraged by the Spirit, shows him his “sign” and he is right away forced to let Paul pass, turning his face downwards “to his creation and the authorities that are his.”61

The world above the domain of the Old Man is again layered and comprises three heavens, from eight to ten. This higher world is only very summarily sketched as the common destination of Paul and his fellow-apostles, where they meet and greet each other. The deviant characterization of the eighth heaven as Ogdoad, that is [ϯ]ϩⲟⲅⲇⲟⲁⲥ, instead of ϯⲙⲉϩϣⲙⲟⲩⲛⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉ, is a noteworthy feature, however. The marked terminology may indeed be plausibly explained in terms of originally Valentinian conceptions of the Ogdoad as the threshold to the pleroma, merging with celestial Jerusalem, in line with the structure of Paul’s parallel ascent proposed above (cf. Table 1).62 Otherwise, these three superior heavens are not even briefly described, which confirms the conclusion, drawn already earlier, that the revelation of celestial mysteries is, in spite of semblances, not the central concern of the Apocalypse.

6 Structural Cohesion and Recurrent Motifs

The Apocalypse may be brief and rather sketchy, yet it is clearly conceived and well-constructed. Terminological and structural cues, including refrain-like formulae and thematic assonances, wield the text into a clear unity. In addition to their unifying effect, such recurrent motifs serve to emphasize what the author finds important to convey to the readers or listeners of his text. Here only three will be briefly discussed: the refrain-like sentences that characterize the relation between Paul, the other apostles and the Holy Spirit during their parallel ascent to Jerusalem and the superior heavens; the greeting motif and the references to the lower world.

No less than six times the relationship between Paul and the other apostles is the subject of very similarly formulated statements, or rather vignettes, highlighting their relationship as a major theme of the text.63 The chart below quotes each of these instances, indicating in the first column the context of the episode in question and numbering it (Table 3).

Table 3

Overview of episodes that represent Paul and the apostles together




Begin of address Spirit (18. 17–22)

“Because I saw that you are on your way up to Jerusalem, to your fellow-apostles, therefore I was sent to you. I am the Spirit who accompanies you.”


End of address Spirit (19. 15–20)

“To the twelve apostles you shall go, for they are elect spirits, and they will greet you.” He (sc. Paul) raised his eyes and he saw them greeting him.


Paul looks down to the earth from the 4th heaven (20.1–5)

He (sc. Paul) gazed down and saw the twelve apostles at his (sc. Paul’s) right and at his left in the created world. And the Spirit walked at their head.


Paul has reached the 5th heaven (21.29–22.1)

“And I saw my fellow-apostles walking together with me, while the Spirit accompanied us.”


Paul ascends to the 6th heaven (22.13–16)

“Then we (sc. Paul and the Spirit) went up to the sixth heaven and I saw my fellow-apostles walking together with me. And the Holy Spirit guided them.”


Paul and the Spirit reach the Ogdoad, the ninth and the tenth heaven (23.30–24.8)

“We (sc. Paul and the Spirit) went up to the Ogdoad. I saw the apostles. They greeted me and we went up to the ninth heaven. I greeted all those who were in the ninth heaven and we went up to the tenth heaven and I greeted my fellow-spirits.”

From this juxtaposition, a fairly clear picture emerges. During their double ascent to Jerusalem and the higher heavens, the apostles and Paul are on their way as a group, with Paul as the central figure in their midst, and all are guided by the Holy Spirit. What happens beyond the Ogdoad, the eighth heaven, is open to debate. The entire group reaches the Ogdoad together, but whether the apostles ascend to the ninth level is not clear. The text’s second “we” in quote no. 6 may or may not include the apostles.64 In any case, the text does not explicitly state that the apostles were left behind in the Ogdoad and even less that they were left “in the confines of the Hebdomad” (that is, the seventh heaven).65 On the contrary, on the basis of the text it can be easily maintained that the entire group in the end shared in the spiritual bliss of the tenth heaven.

A strong argument for the latter view is provided by the assonance between the final words of the Holy Spirit before Paul’s ascent, in quote no. 2, and the last scene of the entire text, quote no. 6 above. Both episodes evoke scenes of greeting, using the verb ⲣ̄ ⲁⲥⲡⲁⲍⲉ (ἀσπάζομαι), exchanged between Paul and a group of “spirits” (in quote no 2, the apostles). The greeting motif is a characteristic feature of celestial encounters between saints or other inhabitants of heavens.66 Thus it appears throughout the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul, most notably in the long series of Paul’s encounters with the saints in paradise, but also at the moment of his final reunion with the other apostles on the Mount of Olives.67

In the Gnostic Apocalypse, the apostles welcome Paul in the eighth heaven and, given their formal designation as “elect spirits” in quote 2, it seems likely that they are still part of the company that are with Paul in the tenth heaven, designated as his “fellow-spirits” in quote 6.68 In any case, the close verbal correspondence between the two episodes favors the assumption that the text’s final scenes are the fulfillment of the prediction by the Holy Spirit earlier in the text. The repeated scenes of celestial aspasmos close the circle that had been opened by Paul, setting out for the apostles in Jerusalem in the beginning of the text (as witnessed by quote no. 1).

A last instance of verbal correspondence concerns the characterization of the lower world, the domain of the Old Man who confronts Paul in the seventh heaven.69 The “principalities and the authorities” under his sway obviously derive from Eph. 6:12 and similar Pauline passages. Their repeated mention in the passage about the Old Man refers back to the beginning of the text, to the first address of the Holy Spirit, in the transition from f. 18 to f. 19.70 Even though a few lines are lacking, it is nonetheless clear that in this earlier passage the Holy Spirit explains to Paul the nature of the lower world and the regime that dominates it. This regime is held in place by “the principalities and the authorities as well as archangels and powers and the whole race of the demons that belong to him who molds (ϭⲱⲗⲡ) bodies for a soul seed.”71

The thematic links between the two passages, at ff. 19 and 23, show the Old Man to be a demiurgic figure, who rules over the lower world, up to the seventh heaven, “his creation,” by means of a host of angels and demons. At the lower end of his domain, the text situates the present world, which is characterized as “the land of the dead” or the “the world of the dead,” in accordance with a common Gnostic tendency to depict the material world in the terminology of the underworld.72 Into this underworld, Paul will re-descend to set free “the captivity of Babylon.”73

7 Paul and the Others

The thematic and structural cues discussed in the last section situate the mission of Paul negatively in relation to a prison-like cosmos and positively in relation to his fellow-apostles. Nowhere do they present, as has been claimed, the other apostles in a negative light. They are his colleagues, his travel companions and “elect spirits.” Paul’s position vis-à-vis the twelve is one of both superiority and parity, entirely in line with the dilemma described by Paul himself in Galatians 1–2. Arrived at the fourth heaven, Paul looks down upon the earth and sees himself walking with the twelve apostles at his right and his left and the Spirit marching at their head.74 This description iconically captures their relationship.

The focus on Paul turns the text from a revelation of unseen worlds into a text in honor of Paul, the head of the apostles, charged by the Holy Spirit with a mission of liberation from captivity. A similar focus is apparent in the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul, in particular in the much-understudied later chapters of the work, 45–64, that follow the famous descriptions of hell in 31–44. Different than the earlier chapters, which picture reward and punishment for all humanity, the later parts of the text are about Paul. First Paul is transported to paradise, then to the third heaven. After a brief description of paradise, he is greeted by a long procession of saints, beginning with the Virgin Mary, who is followed by the righteous of the Old Testament, ending with Adam (chapters 46–54). All of the saints in turn greet Paul, tell something about their own history, to end with words of praise for Paul and his future followers.

The words in which they bless Paul echo Jesus’s words to Paul on the road to Damascus, as reported in Acts 26:15–18. Through Paul’s efforts, the saints repeat, many will come to believe and be saved. This parade of saints is a long tribute to Paul. It is crowned by a visit to the third heaven, where Paul is shown his future destination (chapters 55–62). Here again he encounters several groups of saints who greet him and sing his praise, whereupon he is allowed to see his throne in heaven, glorified by the angels, even though it is still unoccupied. Then, in a second instance, also the thrones and the crowns that await his fellow-apostles are shown to him. In the very end, Paul joins the other apostles on the Mount of Olives where he greets them (chapter 63, 2).

In their general tendency, glorifying Paul and his mission, yet without disparaging the twelve, his fellow-apostles, the Gnostic and the Catholic Apocalypses of Paul appear to be far closer than usually assumed. The Catholic Apocalypse has certainly other ambitions as well, as it describes a fully-fledged tour of the entire cosmos, but its final apotheosis of Paul, who in the end joins the other apostles, offers a striking structural parallel to the far more sketchy ascension to the tenth heaven depicted in the Gnostic Apocalypse. Besides, both guided tours of heaven depend on the same apocalyptic ascent genre and draw on common sources, most notably the Testament of Abraham.

8 Constructing Paul in the Fourth Century

Although ostensibly a revelation about celestial worlds, the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul from Nag Hammadi is not simply a prolongation of the famous passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:2–4). Its structure and tenor are much more profoundly shaped by Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in particular Galatians 1–2. Paul sets out on a journey to Jerusalem to meet the other apostles in order to assert his authority vis-à-vis theirs. In the Apocalypse, Paul’s journey assumes cosmological dimensions and is paralleled in the invisible world by an ascent to the tenth heaven, in the company of his fellow apostles. In line with the letter to the Galatians, the entire Apocalypse is focused on Paul’s mission in the world and his relation to the other apostles. His parallel journey, from Jericho to Jerusalem and from the earth to the tenth heaven, provides the cosmological setting that situates both issues in the right, Gnostic and anti-cosmic, perspective.

As a revelation, the Apocalypse faithfully adheres to the conventions of the late-antique genre of tours of heaven. In particular, it shares with the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul not only its protagonist and the apocalyptic framework, but also the focus on Paul’s missionary vocation, expressed in structurally parallel narratives. Both, moreover, borrow their apocalyptic motifs from a reservoir of common sources, among which the Testament of Abraham can be identified with considerable certainty. Although these observations situate both Pauline Apocalypses in far greater proximity to each other than is usually assumed, claims for mutual dependence are difficult to substantiate. They do suggest, however, a common background in the fourth-century surge of interest in the apostle Paul and his heritage that came to full fruition in the work of John Chrysostom and Augustine.75 The Nag Hammadi Apocalypse is best seen as a Gnostic response to this movement.

What do these conclusions add to the current critical paradigm, briefly sketched in the introduction? First of all, the text’s heavy dependence on the late-antique ascent genre is at odds with an early date. In particular, the focus on individual eschatology, as witnessed by the judgment scenes of the Gnostic Apocalypse, appears to be a third to fourth century phenomenon, culminating in the late fourth century with the famous Catholic Apocalypse of Paul.76 The second-century polemics of Irenaeus, invoked by Kaler, merely highlight the tension between the passage from 2 Corinthians 12 and the Valentinian claim of Paul’s spiritually superior status, a tension that potentially clings to any Gnostic valuation of Paul. Irenaeus’s general argument cannot be used for dating this particular text. A date much earlier than its fourth to fifth century manuscript demands precise and compelling evidence. This methodological proviso applies to each of the Coptic texts from Nag Hammadi and the present Apocalypse in particular.

Secondly, features claimed as Jewish or Judeo-Christian by scholars in the past are best explained by the text’s formal reliance on the wide-spread apocalyptic genre of heavenly ascent. Texts such as 2 Enoch or the Testament of Abraham, which may have been Jewish originally, had been massively appropriated by Christians by the fourth century, as the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul attests on nearly each page, and are mostly transmitted in Christian contexts only, if not thoroughly Christianized themselves. Typically Jewish apocalyptic themes, such as celestial priesthood, are foreign to the text.77

Thirdly, the text can plausibly be called countercultural in the sense that it presents the cosmos and its creator from a distinctively Gnostic perspective. Yet its negative appraisal of the demiurgic world nowhere implicates the apostles. On the contrary, the main purpose of the text is to define the relationship between Paul and the twelve in a positive manner, in terms of both superiority and parity. Rather than defying “conventional Christians,” the author appears desirous to stay in tune with mainstream Christianity, where the cult of the twelve as a body rose to great prominence from the time of the Emperor Constantine, buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles that he himself had built in his new capital.78

Fourthly, the previous point is forcefully underscored by a liturgical interpretation of the Gnostic text, which plausibly assumes a context of communal performance in a baptismal setting. In this view, Paul in his ascent guides the neophytes through the heavenly realm.79 Since, on the textual level, the primary followers of Paul in his ascent are the apostles, this would assume a community that identifies strongly not only with Paul, but also with the twelve.

Finally, the approach taken here shows that the study of this text as well as others from the Nag Hammadi find may profit from situating them in a broader continuum of late-antique Christian discourses where boundaries are more permeable than modern classifications, such as “Gnostic” or “Catholic,” tend to suggest. Within this context, the significance of the Apocalypse for the history of the ascent genre and the late-antique reception of Paul is far greater than its brevity might indicate.

In memoriam Theo Korteweg (1949–2019)


Photos: Facsimile Edition, 17–24.


Böhlig and Labib 1963, 15–26; Murdock and MacRae 1979; Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 97–113.


Note that, for the reconstruction of the rather damaged text, the readings of the edition by Murdock and MacRae, 1979, often remain preferable.


With the evident drawback that none of the editions distinguishes chapters and verses, which makes citation (by folio and line numbers of the manuscript) a nuisance.


Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 1–96, modestly styled “introduction,” and 115–280, respectively. As this volume represents a helpful and learned synthesis of forty years of research on the text, it is my primary reference here; earlier literature is cited only occasionally.


A view later elaborated in a full monograph, Kaler 2008.


Roig Lanzillotta 2016a.


Domeracki 2017.


For a history of earlier research, see Kaler in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 117–128.


Minor obscurities of phrasing can be easily explained as copyist’s errors. A more serious defect is the lack of the opening lines, which fall in a lacuna.


A first version of this article was discussed at the Dutch Gnosticism Seminar in Autumn 2019; see also van der Vliet 2020. I thank the members of the Gnosticism Seminar for their critical observations.


No new translation of the text is given here. The aforementioned editions and Kaler’s monograph (2008, 1–7) all contain translations. The translations in the present article are mine.


The title is partly preserved at the head of the text (17.19) and completely at its end (24.10). Cf. Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 12–13 (Rosenstiehl) and 172–173 (Kaler). For a more detailed discussion of the text’s genre, see Rosenstiehl, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 14–20.


For this text, see now Roig Lanzillotta and van der Vliet, forthcoming, which presents a re-edition of the superior but acephalous Sahidic Coptic version. Its title is lost in Coptic, but the medieval Greek version preserves it as Ἀποκάλυψις τοῦ ἁγίου ἀποστόλου Παύλου, “Revelation of the holy Apostle Paul” (von Tischendorf 1866, 34); the often used title Visio Pauli is adapted from the Latin tradition. All references below are to the chapters and paragraphs of the newly edited Sahidic Coptic text.


The classic account of the genre remains Himmelfarb 1993; for a review of Christian apocalyptic eschatology from Egypt, see Frankfurter 2021.


An observation made already by Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 142.


See Peterson 1959; Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 177–181; Roig Lanzillotta 2013, all with further literature.


Pace Roig Lanzillotta 2016a, 114. Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 177–179, unconvincingly tries to forge a link with the story of the Logos appearing to Valentinus in the form of a baby, reported by Hipp., Ref. 6.42.2.


Apoc. Paul (NHC v,2) 19.13–14, quoted below at n. 36.


Similarly, Roig Lanzillotta 2016a, 116.


Quotes from Roig Lanzillotta 2016a, 111, and Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 165, respectively.


Apoc. Paul (NHC v,2) 19.20–24.


Cf. Rosenstiehl 2005, 34–35. For the Sahidic text of the Pauline epistles, Thompson 1932 is followed.


Thus, for instance, in Coptic chapter 55, 1: ⲁⲩⲧⲟⲣⲡⲧ̄ ϩⲛ̄ ⲟⲩⲕⲗⲟⲟⲗⲉ ⲁⲩϫⲓⲧ ϣⲁ ⲧⲙⲉϩϣⲟⲙⲧⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉ, “I was seized in a cloud and taken to the third heaven.” The verb ⲧⲱⲣⲡ is used earlier in 45, 1, where Paul is seized and taken from hell to paradise.


See Roig Lanzillotta 2007, 193–196.


The passage is Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 2.30.7. See Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 128–143 (cf. Rosenstiehl, in the same volume, 3–5). Much less convincing is Kaler’s attempt at forcing the Apocalypse in the procrustean bed of Valentinianism, in which he is followed by Twigg (2015) and Domeracki (2017), though not by Burns (2017); also Dubois (2018) does not include the Apocalypse in his review of the Valentinian reception of Paul. Presumable echoes of Valentinian ideas, primarily the Ogdoad as a structural equivalent of celestial Jerusalem, situated at the threshold of the pleroma (see below), are best interpreted as vestiges of “residual Valentinianism,” current in latter-day Gnosticism.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 18.16–17.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 23.2–4.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 19.11–13. A translation “the mountain of Jericho” is inappropriate. Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico 4.8.3 [474], calls the region of Jericho in the direction of Jerusalem ἔρημον καὶ πετρῶδες, “desolate and rocky,” which in the present text is accurately captured by the Coptic ⲧⲟⲟⲩ; cf. Deut. 34:3 with Twigg 2015, 425, n. 7, whose linguistic objections are invalid, however.


In Pauline scripture, it is mentioned only in Hebr. 11:30, traditionally attributed to Paul, which refers to the events of Josh. 2. According to the Bodmer Coptic Acts of Paul (fourth cent.), Paul was attacked by a lion on his way to Jericho, at “the valley of the field of bones”; see Kasser and Luisier 2004, in part. 318–321.


See the extensive discussion in Twigg 2015.


See Roukema 2004; Twigg 2015, 430–433; for the robbers, cf. Bartelink 1967; Bos 2003. According to the Greek Narrative of Joseph of Arimathaea I, 1, the two robbers who were crucified next to Jesus came precisely from Jericho (von Tischendorf 1876, 459).


Cf. Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 186–188; Domeracki 2017, 227–231.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 19.13–14: ϫⲉ ⲉⲕⲉⲥⲟⲩⲱⲛ ⲛⲉⲧϩⲏⲡ ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ̈ ϩⲛ︥ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲟⲛϩ̄ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ.


See below, the review of the passages that deal with them (with Table 3).


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 23.13–17.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 20.5–21.22.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 21.18–21.


See Rosenstiehl, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 81–88; cf. MacRae 1976.


The Greek Testament of Abraham is cited after the chapters of Schmidt 1986; the Bohairic, after Guidi 1900, 171–173.


Unpublished; see Schmidt 1986, 40–42, and, in particular, Schenke and Schenke Robinson 2009, 1–10. The Testament is known in various recensions, of which the long Greek one, usually considered secondary, has a much different judgment scene (chapters 12–14). Wherever the Bohairic version agrees with the short Greek recension, as is the case in the present episode, it is likely that we are dealing with an early form of the text. In fact, the Bohairic text of this episode seems in better condition than the rather muddled Greek. As the Testament is not the focus of the present article, the discussion here is naturally limited to the Greek and Coptic evidence.


Cf. Frankfurter 2021, 544–548.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 21.26–22.10.


Rather than representing “a messianic symbol” (Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 239), the principal angel’s iron rod evokes vernacular depictions of powers governing the underworld, for instance in Coptic magical texts, such as Crum 1934, 51, l. 1 (erotic spell) or Lange 1932, 163, l. 45 (invocation of Petbe, a chthonic deity).


Compare the short recension, 9, 5; Bohairic, Guidi 1900, 169.


Lefort 1953, 100, ll. 5–13.


Thus, already Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 240, for Paul’s.


The same double explanation is given by Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 221–222.


For the Ascension, see Roig Lanzillotta 2016b. The ten heavens of 2 Enoch are found in chapter 9, Vaillant 1952, 94–95, ad 24–25; cf. Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 275–276; 2 Enoch can now be confidently assigned to late-antique Egypt, see Hagen 2012. For the seven-plus-three pattern in the present text, see Roig Lanzillotta 2016a, 122–125.


The motif is generally considered to originate from late-antique Egypt; see Dirkse 2014; Bartelink 1984 and, for more literature, Krausmüller 2019.


1 Apoc. James (NHC V,3) 33.7–11.


This sign (here, σημεῖον) is another commonplace of ascent literature; for further parallels, see Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 266–268. Domeracki 2017, 219–220, cites the Exc. Theo. 42 in support of a baptismal interpretation.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 22.23–23.28.


Vaillant 1952, 22–23.


Chapters 23, 2; 56, 1; cf. Rev. 1:14. For further analogies, see Rosenstiehl, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 55–62.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 23.2 and 11.


See Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 65–70 (Rosenstiehl) and 255–258 (Kaler).


1 Apoc. James (NHC v,3) 33.11–16.


1 Apoc. James (NHC v,3) 34.17–18.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 23.19–22.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 23.26–28.


The Ogdoad: Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 41–43 (Rosenstiehl) and 270–271 (Kaler); Jerusalem: Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 186–188; Domeracki 2017, 227–231.


These scenes were identified as structurally important elements already by Rosenstiehl, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 22–24.


Note that the first-person plural in quote no. 4 (“the Spirit accompanied us”) refers to Paul and the apostles; pace Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 273.


Ogdoad: this is generally Kaler’s position, e.g. in Kaler 2008, 11; but note his more nuanced discussion in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 271–274. Hebdomad: Roig Lanzillotta 2016a, 117; at 120, he even squarely puts them in the seventh heaven, which must be an error.


The greeting scenes in the present text are discussed in Dias Chaves 2018, who underlines their popularity in fourth-fifth century journeys of saints to heaven, including the Catholic Apocalypse of Paul. Cf. Rosenstiehl, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 20, who cites yet other parallels.


Chapters 46–54 and 63, 2, respectively.


Yet one cannot fail to notice the possibly deliberate vagueness concerning what happens in these higher spheres, with Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 272 and 274.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 22.23–23.28, in part. 23.10–28.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 19.1–7, following a lacuna at the bottom of f. 18.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 19.3–7. From the photo, I read in l. 5: ⲙⲛ̄ ⲡⲅ̣ⲉ̣ⲛ̣[ⲟ]ⲥ̣ ⲧⲏⲣϥ̄, “the entire race” (more or less with Murdock and MacRae, against Rosenstiehl), and in l. 6: [ⲉ]ⲧ̣[ⲏ]ⲡ̣ ⲉⲡⲏ ⲉⲧ-, (the demons) “that belong to him who …”; cf. 23.28: ⲛⲉⲧⲉ ⲛⲱϥ ⲛ̄ⲛⲉⲝⲟⲩⲥ[ⲓⲁ], “the authorities that are his / belong to him” (with Wolf-Peter Funk, cited by Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 190–191). For ϭⲱⲗⲡ (in the same line), see Kaler, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 191 (taking up a suggestion by Anne Pasquier); it renders Greek πλάσσω, “to mold, create”, see Crum 1939, 812b, who cites Bohairic Gen. 2:8 (man created by God) and 2:19 (God molding animals from earth). The phrase of ll. 6–7, on the “soul seed”, should be read in conjunction with 21.18–21 (the sinner’s soul cast down into a body that had been prepared for it).


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 20.9–10; 20.19–20; 23.13–14. For the underworld terminology, see Poirier 1983; Rosenstiehl, in Rosenstiehl and Kaler 2005, 92–93, cites in addition several non-Gnostic examples, among them the Bohairic Life of Pachomius.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 23.13–17.


Ap. Paul (NHC v,2) 20.1–5, quoted in Table 3.


See Bremmer 2017, 301.


See Frankfurter 2021, 550.


For the important theme of priestly investiture in ascent apocalypses, see Himmelfarb 1993, 29–46.


Famously described by Eusebius in his Life of Constantine 4, 58.


Domeracki 2017, 220.


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