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The Apocryphon of James (1st - mid-2nd century) Questions.

Discussion in 'Gnosticism DIR' started by Rakovsky, Jan 28, 2019.

  1. Rakovsky

    Rakovsky Active Member

    Jun 11, 2015
    Eastern Orthodox
    Recently, I read all the books that scholars think might have been written in the first century on Christianity, including several gnostic Christian works. In the course of reading the gnostic texts some questions came up and I would like to ask them in the gnostic section of the forum.

    The Apocryphon (or "Secret Book") of James is estimated by some scholars to have been written in c. 100-150 AD. It was found at Nag Hammadi. The text supports James & Peter but dissents from Jesus' other disciples. I think that it was likely written by Cerinthus, a gnostic of Jewish background from Alexandria, Egypt. Cerinthus required Torah observance and, according to the early Church writers, he was in conflict with the disciple John, who lived into old age (eg. up to 90-100 AD). The conflict is worth noting because Paul had written that Peter, James, and John were three main pillars of the early church. By just mentioning James and Peter while not mentioning John, the Apocryphon brings to mind the conflict that Cerinthus was said to have had with the apostle John.
    Here is Francis Williams' translation: The Apocryphon of James (Williams Translation) -- The Nag Hammadi Library
    Here is Marvin Meyer's translation: The Secret Book of James (Meyer Translation) - The Nag Hammadi Library

    (Question 1) What did the illegible part of the manuscript where the addressee is named look like? Maybe there are some photos? Wikipedia notes:
    Maybe the name was made to be illegible, because Cerinthus was considered a heretic? If Cerinthus flourished in c. 100, he could be born in 40-70 AD, making him perhaps old enough to know James and Peter, but only as a young man (eg. He could know James when he (Cerinthus) was 23 years old if he was born in 40 AD and visited Jerusalem, since James was killed there in c.63 AD).

    Richard Bauckham writes in "The Jewish World Around the New Testament" (p.138):
    I agree with Bauckham that since the ending is -thos, the recipent's (and author's) name is probably Cerinthos.

    (Question 2) In the beginning of the Apocryphon of James from Nag Hammadi, when it talks about another secret book that James sent, could that other book be the two Apocalypses of James also found at Nag Hammadi?
    In the Introduction of the Apocryphon, it says:
    Here are the two Apocalypses of James from Nag Hammadi:
    The (First) Apocalypse of James -- The Nag Hammadi Library
    The (Second) Apocalypse of James -- The Nag Hammadi Library

    (Question 3) Is this quote below from the Apocryphon a reference to gnosticism (gnosis)?:
    (Question 4) How do you understand the statement in bold below?
    Let me try to analyze this passage piece by piece. When it talks about leaving the dwelling place or city, I think that it's referring to the body, because of the rest of the paragraph. It's true that in the NT Jesus says "The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak". But here it seems to go further when it says without the soul the body does not sin. A Platonic-based opposition to the body was a feature often found in Gnosticism, which could help explain the passages phrase "none of those who have worn the flesh will be saved". Since after all even Cerinthus and the gnostics had worn flesh, it sounds far too extreme unless there is some way to address the passage's meaning and give it another shade. For example, maybe it really means they wouldn't be saved by default, and this is why they need some intervening salvific action (like the Savior's intervention into the Cosmos). Such an idea where a person wearing flesh wouldn't be saved by default would relate to the idea of the flesh being in sin. Wouldn't that be like the Augustinian idea of everyone who is born on earth automatically bearing the guilt for Original Sin due to their biological descent from Adam? The Eastern Orthodox Church doesn't accept Augustine's theory of the guilt of Original Sin being passed down biologically.
    The "fourth one in heaven" sounds like it refers to someone being after or below the Trinity.

    (Question 5) What other writings from that period have claimed that Jesus spent over a year on earth between his Resurrection and Ascension comparable to how the Apocryphon of James claims that the resurrected Jesus spent about 18 months on earth before the Ascension (The text gives "550 days". 549 days is 30.5 days/month x 18 months.)?
    The Apocryphon might be emphasizing the number of 18 twice when it says:
    The second century Church father Irenaeus in "Against Heresies"(I.3) says that students of the gnostic leader Valentinus find cryptic references to the number of 18 Aeons in their version of Jesus' story. Irenaeus writes:
    Iota and Eta have the numbering of 10 and 8 in the Greek system of letters and numbers.

    (Question 6) Why in the passage below from the Apocryphon do Jesus' disciples get angry when hearing about future followers? In it, James and Peter are in a meditative ("ascended") state and the other disciples ask what they saw and James and Peter reply that they have future followers, and the disciples for some unknown reason get angry at the future followers.
    The disciples' anger makes little sense to me when the story is taken at face value, because followers are a needed part of a religious movement. It sounds like the writer is creating a justification for being part of a sect separate from the other disciples. It also sounds like James is sending them on their journeys to avoid scandal, rather than in order to evangelize the world.