An Exposition is the second tractate of Codex XI from the Nag Hammadi Library.
The Greek original is lost and the Coptic version is in poor condition.
The author presents his own version of the gnostic creation myth, beginning with the Father and concluding with the restoration of the spiritual seed to the Pleroma (Fullness).
“The Father, who is the root of the All and the Ineffable One, exists as Oneness, being alone in silence – ‘silence’ means tranquillity – since he was in fact One, and nothing existed before him.”
The author says the root of the All – the Father – first spreads himself out into Two and then into Four. From Four he also extends himself as far as Three Hundred Sixty, representing the ultimate edge of the Pleroma (360 being the number of levels between the material plane and the Pleroma – this concurs with the Secret Book of John).
The tractate goes onto relate Sophia’s error, split and separation from the Pleroma, but much of the text is missing making it difficult to follow the narrative. From other gnostic texts we can piece the message together.
Sophia repents and prays; the Pleroma sends the Son (Jesus) who heals her sufferings. Jesus and Sophia then create the world as a likeness of the Pleroma from her passions and her “seeds”.
The Saviour and Sophia cannot enter into direct contact with the material world, so the demiurge acts as an intermediary. The demiurge is unaware Sophia has inserted the spiritual seed (divine spark) into the first human.
The narrative happily concludes with the restoration to the Pleroma:
“So when Sophia receives her partner, and Jesus receives Christ, and the seeds are united with the angels, then the Fullness will receive Sophia in joy, and the All will be joined together and restored.”
An Exposition then continues with five short texts relating to ritual practices: anointing, baptism (two readings) and the eucharist (two readings).
The first reading is a prayer addressed to the Father that he send the Son to be present as the active divine power in the anointing rite. This would take place during the first phase of the initiation ritual, before the immersion of the candidate in water.
Three aspects of baptism are highlighted: baptism provides the remission of sins, it transports the initiate from one region (our world) to another (aeon), and it facilitates the formation of fully formed beings from seeds.
The first baptism brings the initiate into the aeon and incorruptibility. The second baptism occurs after death, when the ascending spirit is integrated into the Pleroma.
The last two readings are heavily damaged but the reference to food and drink suggest these prayers were uttered in thanksgiving or at a Eucharistic celebration.
Scholars do not know who the author is but estimate it was written sometime between 160 and 350.
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