For nearly 2,000 years, Christian tradition has preserved and revered orthodox writings that denounce the gnostics, while suppressing (and albeit destroying) the gnostic writings themselves. Now for the first time, certain texts discovered at Nag Hammadi reveal the other side of the coin: how gnostics denounced the orthodox. Speaking for those he calls the ‘sons of light’ the author of the Second Treatise of the Great Seth (Codex VII, second tractate) rants against orthodox Christianity:-
“..we were hated and persecuted, not only by those who are ignorant (pagans), but also those who think they are advancing the name of Christ, since they were unknowingly empty, not knowing who they are, like dumb animals.”
Great Seth is a leading character in other Gnostic texts, such as the Holy Book of the Invisible Spirit, where the heavenly figure of Seth is believed to have incarnated in the person of Christ.
The text is a rousing homily to encourage faithful Gnostic Christians facing increasing opposition from the emerging orthodox church.
The narrator of the Second Treatise of the Great Seth is Jesus. The basic message is that the Saviour has come down from the divine Majesty above into the cosmos of Yaldabaoth (see Secret Book of John) and his archons, and here in this world he has requisitioned a human body by ejecting its previous tenant. That is how the Saviour has become Christ the anointed.
As a stranger here below, Jesus proclaims a message of gnosis and unity among all those who are kin to him, and after being crucified, which was ‘a joke’, the Saviour returns to heaven to enjoy a wedding celebration with a “wedding of truth” and a “feast of love”.
The good news for the readers this text was intended for is that they too can experience the same joy, truth and love when they realise their oneness with the Saviour and the One Who Is, the Father of the All.
Jesus explains that when he came down from the Majesty of the Spirit, the rulers of the world were confused and upset at the divine stranger in their midst, although one of the powers, Adonaios, did not join the other archons in their opposition to Jesus. Adonaios comes from Adonai, Hebrew for “my Lord”. So Adonaios represents the Lord of the Jewish people and is a fairly good archon.
The rest of the archons try to kill Jesus, but in their ignorance they are unable to do so. Jesus says:
“The death they think I suffered they suffered in their error and blindness. They nailed their man to their death. Their thoughts did not perceive me, since they were deaf and blind. By doing these things they pronounce judgement against themselves. As for me, they saw me and punished me, but someone else, their father, drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They were striking me with a scourge, but someone else, Simon bore the cross on his shoulder. Someone else wore the crown of thorns. And I was on high, poking fun at all the excesses of the rulers and the fruit of their error and conceit. I was laughing at their ignorance.”
What makes the crucifixion laughable is the ignorance of the archons/powers who think they can execute the real, living Jesus. The reference to Simon concurs with the New Testament where it is said Simon of Cyrene carries the cross for Jesus. Jesus says,
“Though they punished me, I did not die in actuality but only in appearance.”
Jesus goes onto criticise the leaders of the orthodox church, saying they focus on the crucifixion, which they do not understand, and base their theology on it. Like Paul, they claim that baptism is dying with Christ, but in this text Christ says that true baptism means people come to be in Christ and Christ in them:
“The scripture regarding the ineffable water in use among us is this word: I am in you and you are in me, just as the Father is in me and in you, with no guile at all”.
The orthodox church leaders preach “the doctrine of a dead man”, behaving in a legalistic fashion, so they are in bondage, although they use the name of Christ and claim to be his followers. In reality they serve two masters, Christ and Yaldabaoth, the world ruler, along with his archons. These Christians, along with the ignorant, oppose the members of the perfect assembly (Gnostics).
So, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth divides people into the ignorant (people of flesh), ordinary Christians (people of soul) and members of the perfect assembly – Gnostics (people of spirit).
Christ teaches he has come to his own and has united with them. He says,
“Our thought was one with their thought, so they understood what I was saying”. Jesus concludes:
“They have come to know fully and completely that the One Who Is is one, and all are one. They have been taught about the One and the assembly and the members of the assembly. For the Father of the All is immeasurable and immutable, mind, word, division, jealousy, fire, yet he is simply one, all in all in a single principle, because all are from a single spirit.”
This text is a document with poetry and power. Religious scholars do not know who wrote it, but believe it was written in the 2nd century in Alexandria.
#egypt #gnostic #jude #marymagdalene #naghammadi #seth