GOSPEL OF PHILIP, title apparently of two separate and independent Gnostic texts of the second or third century. The first is mentioned only by Epiphanius, who also provides the only known extract, a clearly Gnostic passage dealing with the ascent of the soul to heaven and how it must answer each of the archontic powers it meets on the way. This passage does not appear at all in the second text, contained in Codex II, Tractate 3 of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY and first made available in P. Labib's photographic edition in 1956. The first translation, in German, was published by H. M. Schenke in 1959, and independent English translations by C. J. de Catanzaro and R. McL. Wilson appeared in 1962. The absence from this text of the passage quoted by Epiphanius has led most scholars to think of two separate works, but Schenke has suggested that there was in fact only one (1987, pp. 149f.) The Nag Hammadi text is so unique in character that it is difficult to imagine another beside it with the same title. In addition, the theme of the quotation occurs frequently in the Nag Hammadi document. The quotation itself could well be an insertion, such as is not uncommon in Gnostic literature, singled out by Epiphanius as a particularly telling illustration of the content of the work. The issue is not so clearcut as might at first appear.
The Nag Hammadi text is extant in full in Coptic, apart from lacunae at the foot of nearly every page. The title is appended at the end but may be secondary. In all the other documents in this codex, the title is centered and well spaced off from the text, whereas here it is squeezed in as if it were an afterthought. Ascription to Philip could have been suggested by the fact that he is the only disciple mentioned (Gospel of Philip, sec. 91), but there is also the fact noted by H. C. Puech (1963, 1973, pp. 271f.) that in the Pistis Sophia (chap. 42) Philip, Thomas, and Matthew are the three disciples appointed to write down all that Jesus was to say or do. Puech (p. 277) thinks it may be assumed that this was the document mentioned as being in use among the Manichees (p. 272; cf. also Schenke, 1987, p. 149). In some sources it is associated with the Gospel of Thomas, which, in fact, immediately precedes in Nag Hammadi II.
Schenke in his original translation, possibly influenced by the example of the Gospel of Thomas, divided the text into 127 "sayings," but he subsequently (1965) modified this term to "paragraphs." (In further refinements [1987, p. 152] he reckons with no fewer than 175 units.) The original division is commonly retained for convenience of reference, but the work is not a collection of sayings. Nor is it a gospel in the ordinary sense of the term. Rather it is a rambling and disjointed treatise. Schenke (pp. 151f.) speaks of a florilegium, spiraling around a number of themes, to which it returns again and again. Some continuity of thought is maintained by means of association of ideas or through catchwords, but attempts to trace such continuity throughout break down. There is no clearly organized structure, which makes it impossible to summarize or outline the contents. All that can be done in brief compass is to indicate some of the leading themes (Schenke, p. 154).
One such theme is the consistent disparagement of the world and the flesh (cf. secs. 62, 112). The world came into being through a transgression (sec. 99) and is dominated by archons, who wish to deceive mankind (sec. 13). They think they do everything of their own will, but in fact the Holy Spirit is working through them (secs. 16, 34; cf. Sophia in Valentinianism [see VALENTINUS]). The very names used in this world are deceptive (sec. 11); its good is not good, and its evil is not evil (secs. 10, 63). The only true realities are those of the other world, the "kingdom of heaven" (sec. 24) or "the aeon" (sec. 11).
In this world the soul is captive to the "robbers" (sec. 9). Like a pearl dropped in the mud, however, it does not lose its value (sec. 48), even though it is imprisoned in "a despised body" (sec. 22). The condition of natural man is bestial (sec. 84, cf. sec. 119) or is described in terms of slavery. In contrast, he who has the knowledge of the truth is free (sec. 110). With the coming of the light, the slaves are set free and the captives delivered (sec. 125), but if a man does not receive the light in this world he will not receive it in the other (sec. 127).
A significant place is given to Christ, the perfect man (sec. 15), whom the Gnostic must put on (sec. 101). But the fundamental evil in the human situation is not sin but ignorance. Deliverance comes through knowledge (gnosis) (cf. sec. 110) not through the cross (although there are references, cf. secs. 72, 91). Christ comes not to give His life but to restore things to their proper places (sec. 70) and become the father of a redeemed progeny (secs. 74, 120). Death is not the wages of sin but the result of the separation of the sexes (secs. 71, 78, cf. sec. 61); hence Christ came to restore the primal unity.
A notable feature is the frequent reference to sacraments, apparently five in number (sec. 68: baptism, chrism, Eucharist, redemption, and bridal chamber; cf. Gaffron, 1969). The highest of these, the bridal chamber, must be interpreted in the light of Valentinian theory (Irenaeus, 1957, 1. 7. 1): at the consummation, Achamoth is to enter into the Pleroma as bride of the Savior, while the "spiritual" beings who derive from her become brides of the Savior's angels. This cosmic event is in some way symbolized or prefigured in the sacrament, although no details of its nature or character are given.
The document is clearly Valentinian, and a knowledge of the Valentinian system is sometimes essential for understanding certain allusions (Schenke, p. 153). It is not yet possible to identify it with any particular branch of the school, but the closest affinities appear to be with the Marcosians and the Excerpta ex Theodoto. Knowledge of the New Testament is clear but difficult to assess, since the evidence ranges from unmistakable quotations to possible echoes and allusions.
One final point is the glimpse that this text affords of what gnosis meant to a Gnostic: the sense of release and liberation, even a sense of exhilaration, which is particularly clear in the closing lines.
R. McL. WILSON
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