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For the gnosis or special knowledge consisted not only in understanding the origin, nature, and destiny of the universe, but also in knowing specifically how to escape this world, including the proper replies to the questioning watchmen who guarded the path back to the eternal father.

A natural corollary of all this was the tendency to deny the physical resurrection. Interestingly, it was apparently unequivocally affirmed in only one text in the Nag Hammadi library, that of Melchizedek. Gnostic thinkers, believing that our souls had originally fallen from the divine world only to be captured in bodies during mortal life, thus had no reason to maintain that our divine spirits were to be reentombed within body-prisons through a bodily revivification.

Once again, consequently, the focus on Jesus did not rest on his redeeming resurrection and return to life, but rather on his role as a revealer, a teacher of the hidden truths which equipped the soul to escape this world. Concerning Jesus, there was more. Not only was he seen almost exclusively as a revealer, but he—as deity—was widely believed to have neither suffered nor died.

Two basic approaches were adopted by the ancient Christians who were embarrassed at the thought of a deity having both to participate in the crass, material world and to die like a mortal. Such views are termed docetism and adoptionism. The docetic view of Jesus had its roots in a basically Hellenistic interpretation of the New Testament. Jesus neither perspired nor slept nor grew tired; he only seemed to experience such. In fact, on this view, he was not born of Mary; it only seemed so.

During the conversation, Peter was shown in a vision what would shortly happen to Jesus. In the vision, Jesus was first taken to the place of crucifixion. Then, just as Jesus was to be secured to the cross, he escaped from his captors by becoming invisible while a substitute was nailed to the wood in his stead. Now standing above the cross and the hateful mob, the invisible Christ began to laugh.

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And using his divine powers, he had escaped before he could be nailed to the cross. Thus Jesus only seemed to die; in actuality he did not. Adoptionism, on the other hand, consisted in the doctrine that when the human Jesus was baptized the heavenly divine Savior descended upon this good man and adopted him as the Messiah. This divine power that came down from the Father—called Christ in this view—continued with the man Jesus for the duration of his ministry.

In sum, it is for reasons like the above that I personally proceed cautiously when dealing with the Nag Hammadi library. I do not mean to imply that the texts are not worth careful study. On the contrary, they are, for there is much in them that is uplifting and informative. Moreover, one must acknowledge that the works in the collection were written largely in the spirit of scriptural composition. And this element speaks well of the library.

What I suggest, therefore, is that any affirmation of their worth as something akin to scripture must be tempered and qualified. More recently, James M. Brill, , 3— See J. Brill, , 3—5. The Apocalypse of Adam, by contrast, is generally viewed as having a Jewish origin. See G. This was the stance adopted by other anti-heretical writers of the second and third centuries such as Serapion of Antioch and Hippolytus of Rome for a summary, see Johannes Quasten, Patrology , vol.

Incidentally, Eusebius was both a close personal friend of the Roman emperor Constantine and a major force at the council which formulated the Nicene Creed in A. The second issue concerned tradition, that is, the true teaching that had reportedly been handed down within the church since the era of the Apostles. On this point, Eusebius turned to Hegesippus, a writer from Samaria who wrote in the latter half of the second century. Mohr, ]; the first edition appeared in See Pagels, xxx—xxxi. See Pagels, 3—27, for a summary of such competing views on the resurrection.

Hence, we know that this segment of the First Apocalypse dates certainly as early as A. In another instance, it is widely held that the Apocalypse of Adam dates from the second century A. Two major themes of the original segment find parallels in LDS doctrine: apostasy of the early church and the premortal life of spirits. But coupled with these distinctively LDS concepts is a view of the biblical world which turns things upside down: the serpent is the hero of the scene in the Garden of Eden, and Jehovah is portrayed as a dunce NHL , —79 [see below for further discussion].

Additionally, we find several texts linked to nonbiblical personalities Sentences of Sextus, The Thought of Norea, etc. Boston: Beacon Press, , 34—37, 42—47; and Pagels, xix—xx. See further below. See, for instance, The Second Book of Jeu, Brill, , — See also Melchizedek, It has been pointed out that what the disciples were said to have learned concerned specifically salvific secrets; so M. Malinine et al.

Edgar Hennecke and Wilhelm Schneemelcher, vol. Compare 5. On the basis of the few passages cited here and in the succeeding notes, one might urge that the doctrine of the premortal existence of souls was not widespread among those who revered these texts. But we do not see such only in the Apocryphon of James and the Gospel of Thomas. It is also plainly visible in the so-called Sethian texts. For references, see notes 16, 60, 61, 62, and I follow here G.

See, the comments of Robert M.

The Baptismal Ceremony of the Gospel of the Egyptians, Sethian Literature

Grant and David Noel Freedman in The Secret Sayings of Jesus London: Collins, , —18, which miss the obvious point, suggesting instead that because of the unusual source of learning—from an infant—the meaning must be that the place of life can be known only by a revelation granted to one who has become as a little child. Origen, the third-century theologian from Alexandria, taught that all souls had a premortal life. This doctrine, along with others espoused by Origen, were condemned officially at the Second Council of Constantinople, held in A. See Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma , vol.

Percival reprint ed. Truman G. The earliest reference in Jewish writings to such a concept appeared in 2 Maccabees of the Old Testament Apocrypha. See the note on 2 Baruch in R. Charles, ed. Compare A. Charlesworth, ed. Monsignor H. Francis Davis et al. The notions of seven, three, and ten heavens in Jewish thought are cited with references by Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews , vol.

Nag Hammadi library

Such a concept, already observed in note 20, was widespread. While one might conclude from this observation that the presence of such merely demonstrates that this work enjoyed a period of oral transmission before being written down compare James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, ], 71— , it is just as likely that these mnemonic devices assisted those who were memorizing such a dialogue for ceremonial teaching. For a general overview, see G. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit , 2d ed.

London: SPCK, , — Earlier in the text The Dialogue of the Savior associates the bridal chamber with the reception of the heavenly garment Compare The term Patriarch , of course, refers to figures mentioned in the biblical text prior to and including Jacob, son of Isaac. Robinson, — The coming of Adam and Eve into the world caused them to forget their past and to emerge in this world in a state of ignorance Apocalypse of Adam, For general references to the doctrine of the preexistence of souls, see note 27 above.

With divine protection, the covenant people were to persist from beginning to end [ Concerning the miraculous preservation of the chosen race, see the Apocalypse of Adam, Among the covenants preserved by this people are marriage for eternity and the enthronement of the righteous Second Treatise of the Great Seth, In the following passage, in fact, Seth is portrayed as the prototype of Jesus Mention of the celestial rebellion also occurs in the treatise On the Origin of the World, Moreover, Seth was said to have learned the fate of his descendants while still in his premortal state Gospel of the Egyptians, III, NHL , , , , In a differing account, it was reported that the heavenly secrets were not to be written in a book.

According to the Apocalypse of Adam, even the name of the true revealer would be used deceptively This is not a picture of gradual decline from right toward wrong but of consciously orchestrated rebellion against the truth and its adherents. On the other, the deception would close off paths to the truth by altering even names, calling good evil and vice versa Gospel of Philip, Kent Brown and C. In fact, according to the Apocalypse of Peter, Moreover, the deception was to arise from human pride Extremely difficult conditions within the Church are reflected in 1 and 2 John, as well as in the letters to the seven churches Revelation 2—3.

The urge to usurp authority might have been the cause of the anonymous accusations attested in Pliny, Epistulae X. Another reason for the creation of pseudepigraphic literature is the desire to supplement [Page ] the scarce sources. This group. Christians have fastened their pious interest upon the figure of Jesus and upon the persons who in the canonical Gospels are mentioned in association with Him, and fantasy has taken possession of them.

Legends of every kind normally met with in folk-literature are transferred to Jesus and these other figures. Wilfred Griggs, ed. Forgeries of Mormon historical documents follow similar patterns with the same financial and revisionist motivations; see Richard E.

Turley, Jr. The most notable scholarly construct is Q. They posit an otherwise unattested source Q, which the authors of Matthew and Luke are conjectured to have used along with Mark in the composition of their gospels. For reasons why the Q hypothesis need not be followed, see Austin M. A different approach is taken by Ronald V. Unlike any of the other documents discussed in this essay—outside those mentioned in the last two notes—there is no mention of Q before the nineteenth century when Weiss fabricated it, nor has a single ancient manuscript of this mythical text ever been discovered, nor do we have a complete text to work with.

Acceptance of Q is a matter of belief—not scholarship. I have found no compelling reason to believe in the Q hypothesis. Acts Paul prophesying the coming corruption of the teachings; cf. Kent P. Though from the fourth century, Epiphanius, Panarion Since [Page ] the secret teachings were the least known, they were the most subject to corruption.

Some of the types of changes made in the texts are clearly enumerated by the very people responsible for preserving them. For example Rufinus says of the earlier Christian texts he is copying:. Wherever, therefore, we have found in his books anything contrary to that which was piously established by him about the Trinity in other places, either we have omitted it as corrupt and interpolated, or edited it according to that pattern that we often find asserted by himself.

If, however, speaking to the trained and learned, he writes obscurely because he desires to briefly pass over something, we, to make the passage plainer, have added those things that we have read on the same subject openly in his other books. All who shall copy or read this. Butterworth, trans. This, therefore, we follow even if we are not so eloquent, nevertheless as much as we can, by the same rules, watching to be sure not to reveal those passages in the books of Origen that disagree and contradict with himself.

Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, , , and n. An awareness of the problems of textual tampering appears very early in human history; see, for example, Ur-Nammu — B. Gurney, The Hittites 4th ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, , 1st ed. Housman, M. Manilii Astonomicon , 5 vols. On the modern rewriting of Polybius, see Robert K.

Johnson, ed. But other types of corruptions also affect the text. For an exhaustive analysis of the switch in interpretation in one passage of scripture, see Thomas W. For a historical discussion of allegory, see C. Robinson, review of Dan Vogel, ed. Another is the changing of the meanings of words, such as occurred during the second sophistic period. In general, this topic has not received the treatment it deserves. Between the time of writing the New Testament and the end of the second century, the meanings of several of the words changed.

Because the New Testament is usually read with meanings of the second sophistic period and later—meanings which have often changed—the understanding of the text can be drastically changed. Unfortunately, many books by New Testament scholars will not help the average reader remove this obfuscation because the scholars who write many of the books, have read little in Greek other than the New Testament or occasionally philosophical writings and thus, by training, reflect the viewpoint after the second sophistic period. Thus we have both fragments and entire works purporting to tell what Jesus said and did 1 in his infancy, See Appendix I.

See Appendix III. Many were well-known in ancient times, but in some cases, scarcely little more than the name survives. The following list of apocryphal gospels is culled from lists of canonical and noncanonical books. Some, but not all, of these works duplicate those in the previous lists. The source of the listing is included in parentheses after the name of the book:. Other lists are given in Quasten, Patrology , How reliable these works are can best be shown by contrasting them to the canonical gospels.

The authenticity of the canonical gospels can be seen from the writings of others telling about or quoting the gospels. See also the approach in Robert L. One large caveat needs to be noted here. Some sects considered some of the canonical gospels authentic but jettisoned others as spurious or interpolated. Thus Marcion considered Luke authoritative, although he used a different version, but he considered Matthew, Mark and John to be spurious—as he would have all the apocrypha here considered; see Irenaeus, Contra Haeresis I.

What we are examining here is the general consensus that the four canonical gospels were part of the Christian scripture. For an examination of the problems with the canon in the larger Christian world, see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christian? Peterson and Stephen D. Thus the Gospel according to Matthew is quoted by the Didache ca. I will not justify the dating here. These are those who took in hand; but the church of God prefers the four only. The anachronism of Basilides fl.

Polycarp d. Polycarp was also thought to be a disciple of John; see Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers , 2. Additionally, Papias ca. Irenaeus Contra Haereses V. Irenaeus ca. Tertullian ca.


  • Nag Hammadi Codices III, 2 and IV, 2. The Gospel of the Egyptians (Nag Hammadi Studies, Vol. 4).
  • The Kasīdah.
  • Instrumenta!
  • The Apocryphal Acts of Jesus.

Origen ca. This Hebrew version has recently been recovered through the diligent researches of Howard, Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text ; cf. Matthew shows. If 1 Clement is a quotation of Mark then one or the other has been tampered with. The date is from Quasten, Patrology , One of the reasons it is difficult to find quotations of Mark in patristic writers is that there is so little in Mark that can only be Mark and much that is just as likely to be from Matthew or Luke; this was recognized in ancient times; see Eusebius, Epistula ad Carpianum et Canones I-X in Eberhard Nestle, et al.

Justin Martyr Dialogus cum Tryphone Irenaeus, Contra Haereses I. Polycarp, Frend, Rise of Christianity , Fragments of manuscripts date from as early as the late second century. Papyrus Rylands also known as P52 derives from Egypt and dates to the late second century and contains fragments of John —33, 37—38 a photograph of said papyrus may be found in J.

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Reuben Clark, Jr. This means that all of our New Testament manuscripts date from after the period when the Christians accused each other of tampering with the text, while the only manuscript previous to that time contains a mere five verses imperfectly preserved; see also John Gee, review of Wilford A. Fischer and Norma J. Thus, though the support is not unanimous, the canonical gospels were seen as authoritative by most groups of Christians in the second century.

For the date of Hippolytus, see Quasten, Patrology , Brill, , —9. Unfortunately the situation is complicated by the existence of several different works all called the Gospel of Thomas. The story that Zacharias was a martyr may be a true story preserved in a very embellished form in this account; see Editor [John Taylor?

Epiphanius, Panarion Another forgery identified as such in ancient times was the Sophia Jesu Christi. Douglas M. That this instance of the dressing up of the philosophies of men as scripture was recognized in ancient times is presumably why the two tractates are placed back to back in Codex III from Nag Hammadi. The addition of forty-day window dressing can explain many documents, including the Apocryphon of John. Gillum, comp.

The early church fathers did use noncanonical sources, some of which were thought to be authoritative, Ignatius, Epistula ad Smyrnaeos In fact, since many of the documents, especially those from Nag Hammadi, are docetic and deny the resurrection of Christ, it is not surprising that the source has not shown up.

Authenticity can often be a very tricky question; it must be done on a case by case basis, and even in a false work there might still be an element of truth. This means that it requires some amount of discernment to separate the truth from the lies. This same discernment needs to be used in dealing with the apocryphal accounts of Jesus. This may not be sufficient in all cases; for example, for years the treatise On Virginity was listed among the works attributed to Basil of Caesarea and said to be spurious, for although it reflected his time period because it was really written by his contemporary Basil of Ancyra it did not match his style.

Quasten, Patrology , Stylistic analysis, however, is notoriously difficult and subjective. These tests are negative tests, meaning that they can determine that a document is a forgery but cannot determine that it is genuine. Peterson, review of Nyman and Tate, eds. Gerald Bradford and Larry E.

This procedure consists in isolating those elements which harmonize with the basic teachings of the restored gospel. But while this method of identifying parallels between LDS beliefs and those mirrored in ancient literatures has its attractions, one must still employ considerable caution when treating the issue of what may have genuinely come from Jesus and his followers and what may not.

Most apocryphal works fail this test. Many of the Apocryphal Acts of Jesus may be found in what are called Infancy Gospels because they tend to deal exclusively with the exploits of Jesus before the end of his thirteenth year. Irenaeus Contra Haereses II. The Infancy Gospels tend to expand and become more and more miraculous with time and gather more and more stories. If we assume a tendency toward textual accretions, then one can construct a stemma of the various versions: [Page ].

If revelation be counted a miracle, then see also Chadwick, Early Church , 52—53; the loss of prophecy was noted in the Apocryphon of James I. Ritner makes a good case for some later miracle stories being borrowed from pagan miracle stories. Quasten, Patrology , , The little infant Jesus himself walked in front of them so that nothing would hurt them. Do not even consider me your son, for I always was and am a perfect man.

Besides, it is necessary as all the beasts of the forests become tame before me. The mention of forests in Sinai and Egypt shows that the European who retold this story in Latin knew no more about the geography of the Holy Land than the author of the Christmas carol who saw three ships come sailing in to landlocked Bethlehem. Freiburg: Herber, —76 , —59; V. Bourghouts, Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts , vol.

Book of the Dead 37; P. Louvre , in Robert W. Daniel and Franco Maltomini, eds. I , vol. Although many modern scholars may equate Christ with Osiris, the ancients equated Christ with Horus. Jesus was playing with some other children on the second story of a house and one of the children was pushed by another, and plummeting to the ground he died. And when his playmates saw they fled, and Jesus alone was left standing upon the roof whence the child had been flung headlong. And when they found the child lying dead on the ground, with Jesus standing above, they supposed that the child had been pitched down by him and glaring they blamed him.

Stand and speak. Infancy Gospel of Thomas B —3.

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Nag Hammadi codices IX and X

Matthew —4; —44; Mark —32; Luke —4; — The Infancy Gospel of Thomas A —; ; ; —2; ; ; B —3; ; ; ; Latin version 1; —2. When this little child Jesus was five years old, he was playing at the ford of a rushing stream, and the flowing water gathered into pools, and with a single command he made them all clean. And after making some soft clay, he molded twelve sparrows. But it was the Sabbath when he did this, though there were many other children playing with him. Infancy Gospel of Thomas A —4. The Jesus of the canonical gospels is longsuffering, enduring torture and indignity in silence or with a dignified rebuke; Matthew —; Mark —; Luke —; John — The author seems to have had a queer concept of divinity, because he pictures the boy Jesus as using his power to take revenge.

Perhaps the most telling difference between the Jesus of the canonical gospels and the Wunderkind of the infancy gospels, is who gets the glory from the miracles: In the infancy gospels the glory usually goes to the child Jesus, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas A ; ; —2; Matthew —16; —8; —31; Mark —12; Luke —26; —13; —19; —43; John ; —55; —4; , 23—28; —32; —14; —8; —14; —10; —19; but note Luke — Compare Moses —2. This is not to suggest that everything in the infancy gospels is, of necessity, wrong.

There is one detail that occurs in several of the infancy narratives that is probably correct. The accounts inform us that Mary was engaged at the age of twelve and bore Jesus somewhere between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. This seems young to us, but was normal at the time.

Roger S. Bagnall and Bruce W. After the Infancy Gospels, we hear nothing about Jesus as a young man in the extra-canonical books until the time of his ministry, which is both a mixed bag and a small one. The main reason for the paucity is that those accounts that do cover the mortal ministry are fragmentary: some are preserved only in [Page ] fragments; For example, Papyrus Oxyrhynchus Alterations of the apocryphal ministry usually advocate specific points of view on theological or behavioral issues. The Apocalypse of Adam V. At other times, strange things appear, with an emphasis on the miraculous.

Narration of Joseph of Arimathea ; Epistula Apostolorum 5. Gospel of Phillip II. Greek pneuma is neuter , Latin spiritus is masculine and Coptic pneuma is masculine. Another story told of Jesus concerns his response to the Syrian king Abgar who wrote to him on account of his miracles. Jesus politely refused the invitation in the following written response:. Blessed art thou who believest in me, without having seen me. For it is written of me that those who have seen me have not believed in me, and those who have not seen me, they who should believe shall also live.

Concerning coming to thee about which thou hast written me, it must needs be that I fulfill those things for which I have been sent, and after fulfilling to thus ascend to him who sent me. And because I shall ascend, I shall send thee certain of my disciples, that thy affliction might be healed and that life be provided for thee and those with thee.

This intriguing set of documents is now thought to be a forgery, because 1 the king Abgar who lived at the time of Christ was known to have been a pagan as were his descendants, 2 the Syrian Christians had never heard of this story until the days of Constantine, and 3 the earliest Christians in Edessa were not followers of Thaddeus or Addai, as the Abgar legend requires, but followers of Marcion, Bardesanes and Mani.

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See NTA — Since, for Latter-day Saints, the most important act in history was the Atonement of Christ, perhaps it is significant that this act of Jesus does not usually have a central role in the apocryphal [Page ] acts, though this does not mean that it is absent. The picture presented is not consistent, for while in one apocryphal passion, Jesus gathers his disciples together and prays with them before his agony in Gethsemane, Strasbourg Papyrus Coptic 5, in NTA — One example of a fraudulent gospel is the Acts of Pilate.

Following the narrative patterns of later fictionalized martyrdoms, the leaders of the Jews bring Jesus before Pilate and accuse him:. See Mishnah Shabbat —4. Broken bones were not allowed to be set. As Pilate here deftly points out, magic is in the mind of the accuser. Acts of Pilate — The Narration of Joseph of Arimathea is also very anti-Semitic. The sobriety of the canonical accounts contrasts strikingly with the wild fantasies of the apocrypha. Significantly, in his discussion of the sources, Bernard Jackson does not even deign to dismiss the apocryphal versions in a footnote; Bernard S.

There is simply no historical veracity to the accounts. Some of the apocryphal accounts of the passion of Jesus maintain that Jesus did not really suffer and die on the cross but only seemed to. Millet, Acts to Revelation , vol. Classic formulations of doceticism may be found in Irenaeus, Contra Haereses I. Anastasi IV, 4. Gardiner, Late Egyptian Miscellanies , vol. The Apocalypse of Peter takes a more extreme view: A substitute suffered on the cross while Jesus laughed. Apocalypse of Peter VII.

As the most important event of history, the apocryphal acts do not pass this event by.

The picture presented is best seen in overview. After rising from the dead, Jesus appears to the women gathered at the tomb and sends them to tell his disciples of his resurrection, but they will not believe the testimony of a woman. Epistula Apostolorum 9— So Jesus himself visits them and demonstrates the resurrection to the unbelieving eleven, Epistula Apostolorum 2, 11— Therefore they scorned even death, but were found superior to death.

Epistula Apostolorum 19, 21; Apocryphon of James I. Gospel of Bartholomew —7; Apocalypse of Peter 1; 1 Jeu 1—4.