The development of gnostic theology with special reference to the Apocryphon of John Irenaeus adversus haereses I 29 and 30 and related texts
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This thesis is a literary-critical and theological analysis of the Apocryphon of John and the closely related material found in Irenaeus adversus haereses I 29 and 30. It attempts to determine (1) which of the four Coptic versions in two recensions is nearest to the original, and what the precise relationship of the Apocryphon is to Irenaeus' two chapters; (2) whether the Apocryphon represents a process of Christianization or de-Christianization, and (3) what the precise relationship of the Apocryphon is to Valentinianism. The first two chapters, on Gnostic theogony and cosmogony, argue that one can best explain the relation between the Apocryphon and Irenaeus I 29 by assuming that Irenaeus' account represents an earlier, less-developed form of the main traditions found in the Apocryphon which the latter modified to suit its own different theological tendency. The short recension, and particularly the version in Nag Hammadi Codex III, is closest to the original and to Irenaeus' account, the long representing a harmonising and spiritualising interpretation, but also containing more original traditions omitted by the short. Chapters three, four and five deal in more general terms with the relationship between the Apocryphon and Irenaeus I 30 and cover Gnostic anthropology, soteriology and eschatology. They attempt to show how the Apocryphon' understanding of the central paradox of Gnostic experience of being elect yet trapped in matter and governed by fate, has determined its selection and interpretation of anthropological, soteriological and eschatological motifs. Its reinterpretation of Genesis 1-7 forms the core of its anthropology and soteriology which agree that, although man possesses a divine spark, he requires redemption and a Revealer/Redeemer. This paradox is expressed in terms of primal, continuous and decisive revelation, represented by various divine figures. The varieties of eschatology in the Apocryphon, too, reflect not only varied traditions but also the paradox of Gnostic salvation, the "Now" and the "Not Yet". On the question of Christianization, the thesis argues that although the central exposition (unlike the frame story) is apparently uninfluenced by Christianity, much of its material is best understood in the context of early Christian speculation about Christ based on the Old Testament and contemporary Hellenistic Judaism. While evidence of progressive Christianization or de-Christianization is scanty and mixed, there is, thirdly, some indication, not only that the Apocryphon influenced Valentinianism, but that, in its present form, it shows signs of acquaintance with Valentinianism.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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