The Gospel Of Philip

The Gospel of Philip is the third tractate of Codex II from the Nag Hammadi Library. It is a collection of sayings, parables and meditations. Many of the sayings in the Gospel of Philip have something of the poetic enigma of Eastern philosophy about them:

‘The Master went into the dye works of Levi, took seventy-two* coloured cloths, and threw them into a vat. He drew them out and they were all white. He said,

“So the son of humanity has come as a dyer.” 

(*72 is a traditional number of nations in the world according to Jewish culture.)

The Gospel of Philip portrays this world as an illusion, where we ‘stray from the real to the unreal’.

The contrast between the material plane or illusion,  and that of the Pleroma (‘fullness’ or totality of divine powers) is described in a number of sayings, quite beautifully in this one:

Those who sow in winter reap in summer.  

Let us sow in the world to reap in summer.

Winter is the world, summer the other realm.

And also most eloquently in poetry:

A donkey turning a millstone walked a hundred miles.

When it was set loose, it found itself in the same place.

Some people travel long but go nowhere. 

At twilight they have seen no cities or villages.

One of the major themes of the Gospel of Philip is the reunification of soul and spirit in a heavenly union (or syzygy), reminiscent of the myth of Sophia and her eagerness to rejoin her spiritual companion, the Logos.

The author focuses on the symbolism of marriage in a mythical way. Marriage is a symbol of the Pleroma (Fullness), of the divine; representing knowledge and truth, as opposed to ignorance and falseness of the world – a symbol of freedom. Marriage is meant for free men, not for slaves:

 “Animals do not have a wedding chamber, nor do slaves or defiled women. The wedding chamber is for free men and virgins.”   

Free from the archons or rulers’ domination and the burden of sexual desires. Heavenly marriage is also a symbol of chastity, since it is spiritual and not carnal. 

This marriage is a mystery, and belongs to another dimension:-

“It is not fleshly but pure. It belongs not to desire but to will. It belongs not to darkness or night but to the day and the light.”

Through spiritual union male and female will become one, so there will no longer be male and female but a unique being.  This union repairs the damage of the separation of male and female, which occurred when the female element fell into matter, according to the myth of Sophia. This separation led to death. The Gospel of Philip amplifies this with the story of Adam and Eve – when they were joined to each other in paradise, they were in a condition of unity and knowledge. Once they separated into two beings, they fell into ignorance and death. It is Christ who eliminates the separation:- 

“Christ came to heal the separation that was from the beginning and reunite the two, in order to give life to those who died through separation and unite them. 

The Gnostic view of the resurrection differs markedly from the orthodox position. The Nicene Creed states that Jesus ‘suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again.’ This resurrection is bodily, which will one day be experienced by all.

The Gnostic view regards the Resurrection as something that is not physical at all, something which is ‘better than the flesh’. It is a necessary experience for the Gnostic believer to undergo, but it is a raising from the death of ordinary consciousness to the life of gnosis. 

The Gospel of Philip advises the spiritual seeker while we are in this world it is best to acquire resurrection for ourselves. The gospel makes it clear that the resurrection happens before death, not after it:

Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.

These ideas would have been shocking to the early orthodox Church, but the recurring theme of women, or one woman in particular, was a real problem. Mary of Magdala…  

“Three Marys walked with the Lord: 

His mother, her sister, and Mary of Magdala,

His companion…

The companion is Mary of Magdala. Jesus loved her

More than his students. He kissed her often

on her face, more than all his students,    

And they said, ‘Why do you love her more than us?’   

The saviour answered them, saying to them,    

‘Why do I not love you like her?’”

No wonder the gnostic gospels were condemned as heresy..

#divinefeminine #gnostic #marymagdalene #naghammadi #sophia

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