TYPOLOGIES OF THE SETHIAN GNOSTIC TREATISES
FROM NAG HAMMADI
by
John D. Turner
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This paper will suggest several ways of grouping the Nag Hammadi tractates associated with Sethian Gnosticism based on the interrelationships of the tractates in terms of their position within codices, their literary function, genre and thematic content, their exegetical concerns, and their literary interdependencies and possible chronological order of production. The paper presupposes, without argument, the existence of a clearly identifiable and delineable group of Nag Hammadi treatises legitimately called "Sethian," as well as the heuristic usefulness of presenting and treating them as the product of a distinct school of Gnostic thought, just as one might treat the treatises produced by Valentinus' followers as "Valentinian." While it is doubtful that the persons who wrote and read these treatises used the self-designation "Sethian," the set of basic characteristics to which the term refers comprises a well-defined symbology whose presence is unambiguously detectable in each proposed member of the Sethian text group. In addition, the strong evidence in most of these texts for the existence of an established baptismal ritual tends to promote the designation "Sethian" from the status of a merely heuristic typological category to a genuine traditio-historical one, designating the mythico-ritual traditions of a group who called themselves variously "the great generation," "strangers," "the immovable, incorruptible race," "the seed of Seth," "the living and unshakable race," "the children of Seth," "the holy seed of Seth," and "those who are worthy."
    H.-M. Schenke of the Berliner (DDR) Arbeitskreis für koptische-gnostische Schriften was the first to delineate these fourteen treatises from the Nag Hammadi Codices (NHC) and Berlin Gnostic Codex (BG 8502) as those that current scholarship considers to be representative of "Sethian" Gnosticism:[1]

    The Apocryphon of John (Ap. John four copies in two versions:
        short [BG 8502,2; NHC III,1]; long [NHC II,1; NHC IV,1);
    The Hypostasis of the Archons (Hyp. Arch.: NHC II,4);
    The Gospel of the Egyptians (Gos. Egypt.: NHC III,2; NHC IV,2);
    The Apocalypse of Adam (Apoc. Adam: NHC V,5);
    The Three Steles of Seth (Steles Seth: NHC VII,5);
    Zostrianos (Zost.: VIII,1);
    Marsanes (NHC X,1);
    Melchizedek (Melch.: NHC IX,1);
    The Thought of Norea (Norea: NHC IX,2);
    Allogenes (NHC XI,3); and
    The Trimorphic Protennoia (Trim. Prot. NHC XIII,1).

Schenke has defined the following features as basic to Sethian Gnosticism:

1. The self-understanding of the Gnostics that they are the pneumatic seed of Seth: the Apocalypse of Adam, Gospel of the Egyptians, Apocryphon of John, Three Steles of Seth, Melchizedek, Zostrianos.
2. Seth as the heavenly-earthly savior of his seed: the Gospel of the Egyptians, and perhaps under different names in Allogenes, Marsanes, Zostrianos, (and the Illuminator of the Apocalypse of Adam)
3. The four lights of the Autogenes (Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithai, and Eleleth), who constitute the heavenly dwelling places of Adam, Seth, and the seed of Seth: the Apocryphon of John, Hypostasis of the Archons, Gospel of the Egyptians, Zostrianos, Melchizedek, Trimorphic Protennoia
4. The heavenly trinity of the Father (Invisible Spirit), Mother (Barbelo), and Son (the Autogenes or Anthropos): the Apocryphon of John, Trimorphic Protennoia, Gospel of the Egyptians. Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos, the Thought of Norea, perhaps Marsanes
5. The evil demiurge Yaldabaoth who tried to destroy the seed of Seth: the Apocryphon of John, Trimorphic Protennoia, Hypostasis of the Archons
6. The division of history into three ages and the appearance of the savior in each age: the Apocryphon of John, Apocalypse of Adam, Gospel of the Egyptians; the Trimorphic Protennoia
7. A special prayer: the Three Steles of Seth VII,5: 125,24-126, 17, Allogenes XI, 3: 54:11-37 and Zostrianos VIII, 1: 51,24-52,8; 86,13-24; 88,9-25
8. A specific deployment of negative theology: Apocryphon of John and Allogenes
9. A division of the Barbelo Aeon into the triad of Kalyptos, Protophanes, Autogenes: the Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos, Allogenes, Marsanes
10. A specific philosophical terminology: the Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos, Marsanes, Allogenes
11. Obvious (secondary) Christianization : the Apocryphon of John, Hypostasis of the Archons, Melchizedek
12. The presupposition of a second tetrad (Gamaliel, Gabriel, Samblo, Abrasax or the like) alongside the four luminaries: Gospel of the Egyptians, Apocalypse of Adam, Zostrianos, Melchizedek, Marsanes, Trimorphic Protennoia, perhaps the Thought of Norea
13. The designation (in Coptic) "Pigeradamas" for Adamas: Apocryphon of John (CG II,1), the Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos, Melchizedek

To these one must add:

14. The baptismal rite of the Five Seals: longer version of the Apocryphon of John, Gospel of the Egyptians, Trimorphic Protennoia, and perhaps Melchizedek; as the background for the ascensional practices of Zostrianos, Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, and perhaps Marsanes

A recent proposal has been made by B. Layton to add another Nag Hammadi treatise to the Sethian corpus, namely The Thunder, Perfect Mind (NHC VI,2), which he hypothesizes to be an offshoot (along with certain materials in the Hypostasis of the Archons and On the Origin of the World, NHC II,5) of a certain Gospel of Eve cited by Epiphanius (Haer. 26.2.6).[2]
    Yet another Nag Hammadi treatise might also be added to the Sethian corpus, namely the short piece consisting presently of two fragmentary leaves, Hypsiphrone (NHC XI,4), which narrates the descent of Hypsiphrone ("haughty, lofty one") from the "place of her virginity" during which she conversed with a being named Phainops, who is associated with a "fount of blood." To judge from the name "Hypsiphrone," one may have to do here with the Sethian figure of Eleleth, one of the traditional Sethian Four Illuminators, called Phronesis in Hyp. Arch. 93,8-97,21, and whose name might be derived from Aramaic, 'el-`alîta' "God of the height," which might correspond to Greek hypsiphronê.[3] Even though it bears no trace of the names of the other traditional Sethian divine beings, Hypsiphrone may be closely related to the other Sethian texts.[4]
    Finally, although the untitled treatise from NHC II, On the Origin of the World (also in NHC XIII), contains few distinctive Sethian mythologumena, and therefore should be excluded from membership in this group, it is nonetheless closely related to the Hypostasis of the Archons; indeed both of these may stem from a common Sethian parent[5] Again, while devoid of distinctive Sethian mythologumena, the treatise Eugnostos the Blessed (III, 3 and V, 1) may be distantly related to the Sethian treatises, especially given its incorporation into the Sophia of Jesus Christ (NHC III, 4 and BG8502, 3), which does contain a few features prominent in the Sethian texts. L. Painchaud has also recently demonstrated a number of literary contacts between Eugnostos the Blessed and On the Origin of the World.[6]

Grouping by Manuscript Position

Judging from the position these Sethian treatises occupy within the codices that contain them, little more can be said than that the Apocryphon of John is the foundational work of the group, occurring as the first tractate in all three Nag Hammadi codices that contain it. Its secondary position in Codex Berolinensis is perhaps singular, especially given the consideration that it could have occupied first position in yet another Nag Hammadi codex, namely as the missing tractate that originally occupied the initial 34 pages (preceding the closely related Trimorphic Protennoia) in Codex XIII. In Codices II and IV, the distinctly Christianized Apocryphon of John is followed immediately by the likewise distinctly Christianized Gospel of the Egyptians, while in Codex Berolinensis it is followed by the non-Sethian Sophia of Jesus Christ, a clearly Christianized version of Eugnostos the Blessed (in Codex III the order is Ap. John, Gos. Egypt., Eugnostos, and Soph. Jes. Chr.). In Codex II, the Apocryphon of John is separated from its accompanying Sethian treatise, the Hypostasis of the Archons, by two intervening sayings-collections, the Gospels of Thomas and Phillip.[7] Given the likelihood that the Nag Hammadi Codices were produced by Christian scribes, perhaps it would not be out of place to construe the Codex II arrangement on the analogy of the reading of scripture in a Christian liturgy: creation account and Genesis protology (Ap. John), gospel (Gos. Thom., Gos. Phil.), and apostle (Hyp. Arch., attributed to Paul), but the following three treatises do not seem to continue such a sequence in any obvious way.
    In Codex IX, the highly Christian treatise Melchizedek, which concludes with Melchizedek's lengthy high-priestly prayer on the occasion of his baptism, is followed by the Thought of Norea, a distinctly non-Christian hymn invoking the supreme Sethian trinity in honor of Norea. Among the remaining (non-Christian) Sethian treatises, Marsanes occupies the whole of Codex X. The Three Steles of Seth concludes Codex VII, where, once again adopting a Christian liturgical sequence, it might be construed as concluding a scriptural sequence such as: creation account (Para. Shem), gospel or career of the savior (Treat. Seth), apostle (Apoc. Peter), paraenesis (Teach. Silv.), and the final ascension (Steles Seth). Finally, in the second part of Codex XI (whose first part contains Subachmimic Valentinian materials in another scribal hand), one finds Allogenes (penned in essentially the same scribal hand as Zostrianos in Codex VIII), a revelation dialogue, which is followed by Hypsiphrone, another--possibly Sethian--apocalypse.
It seems that no convincingly consistent grouping of the Sethian treatises emerges from their codicological positions, in spite of the possibility of invoking some hypothetical Christian liturgical pattern that might be made to fit portions of one or two codicological sequences. Perhaps one might suggest three rather topically-oriented sub-sequences that have some basis in the codicological order of presentation:

A) a developmental/ritual sequence: the Apocryphon of John as the fullest presentation of the Sethian sacred history, followed by the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Trimorphic Protennoia, Melchizedek, and the Apocalypse of Adam on the combined grounds of 1) actual (and conjectural) manuscript order and 2) the presentation of the baptismal rite as the appropriate means of obtaining the enlightenment promised in the Apocryphon of John.
B) a sequence treating the figure of Norea: the Hypostasis of the Archons as introducing the figure of Norea, followed by the hymn to her in the Thought of Norea.
C) a Platonizing group: Zostrianos, Allogenes, Marsanes, and the Three Steles of Seth (in that order) as forming a group on grounds to be discussed below.

Grouping by content, function, and Literary Genre

By Genre and Function

Some of the Nag Hammadi Sethian treatises apply a literary characterization to themselves. Thus, the Apocryphon of John designates itself as "the teaching of the savior and revelation of the mysteries and things hidden in silence ... taught to John his disciple." The Hypostasis of the Archons designates itself as a response to the question about the nature of the archontic rulers of this world. The Gospel of the Egyptians claims to be the holy book written by Seth and deposited on Mt. Charaxio[8] in order that it appear at the end of time and reveal the incorruptible holy race of Seth and its associates, as well as the supreme godhead of the Invisible Spirit, Barbelo and their only-begotten Son. The Three Steles of Seth presents itself as Dositheus' revelation of three steles primordially inscribed by Seth, father of the unshakable race. And Allogenes describes itself as "the seal of all the books of Allogenes," which he addressed to his son Messos and deposited for posterity on a mountain.
    Contemporary scholarship has classified these treatises by literary type in accordance with their presumed religious function:[9] apocalypse, testament, didactic treatise, revelation dialogue, self-predicatory aretalogy, and ritual doxology and etiology. The bulk of them are apocalypses, records of ancient revelatory visions of the structure of the heavenly realm and the course of the primordial and final moments of cosmic history. The Apocalypse of Adam is a deathbed testament of Adam to his son Seth in which he reveals the content of a dream vision in which he was instructed by three heavenly men concerning the fortunes of Eve and himself, his son Seth and Seth's offspring in the contest between the evil creator god Saklas and the beings of a higher world who will rescue the seed of Seth. Melchizedek likewise contains revelations imparted to the biblical high priest Melchizedek by the angel Gamaliel during a visionary experience concerning future events which include his own ultimate assimilation to the suffering, dying and rising savior Jesus Christ; like the Gospel of the Egyptians, it concludes with a lengthy (high-priestly) prayer spoken by Melchizedek as he receives baptism "in the holy, living names and waters."
    In contrast to these two revelations in which knowledge concerning the future course of history is communicated from the higher realm to the lower by an angelic intermediary, we also find three apocalypses which relate the singular experience of a gnostic visionary who himself achieves enlightenment through an ecstatic ascent through the divine world. Allogenes, Zostrianos, and Marsanes feature a visionary figure, respectively Allogenes or Zostrianos or Marsanes, each of whom probably figures as an earthly manifestation of the primordial Sethian gnostic savior Seth. Each figure undergoes a contemplative ascent involving visions of the divine world and its various levels of being followed by a subsequent descent and transmission of these visions in written form for those who in the future would achieve a similar ascent. So also, if admitted to the corpus of Sethian texts, the short piece Hypsiphrone is an apocalypse, presenting itself as "the book [of visions] which were seen [by Hypsi]phrone, and they [are revealed] in the place of [her] virginity."
One finds also two plainly didactic treatises, both having apparently undergone a secondary Christian redaction: The Hypostasis of the Archons contains an esoteric mythological interpretation of Genesis 1-6 in terms of the struggle between the spiritual rulers (archons) of this world and the exalted powers of the supreme deity over the fate of the divine image incarnated in Adam and his descendants; it concludes with a revelation dialogue between Eve's daughter Norea and the great angel Eleleth concerning the origin and end of these ruling Archons. The Apocryphon of John is cast as a dialogue between John son of Zebedee and the risen Jesus; he reveals the unknowable deity and the divine world which emanated from him, the creative activity of the divine wisdom resulting in the birth of the world creator who fabricates the earthly Adam, as well as the subsequent history of the attempts of the denizens of the divine world to awaken the divine spirit in Adam, Seth and the seed of Seth, which is assured of its ultimate salvation.
    While these two didactic treatises are primarily concerned with mythological theogony, cosmogony, anthropogony and a history of salvation governed by the intervention of divine saviors, two other treatises are devoted to Sethian ritual practice. The Gospel of the Egyptians explains the origin of Sethian baptism and the figures invoked and praised in the course of the ritual by means of a mythological theogony, cosmogony and history of salvation similar to the Apocryphon of John; the weight of the text seems to fall on a standard doxology punctuating each major episode of the theogony,[10] and a concluding mystical prayer celebrating the reception of the baptism of the Five Seals. Although the Gospel of the Egyptians has undergone Christian redaction, the Three Steles of Seth is a non-Christian treatise in which the emphasis is again on prayer, for here Seth is represented as originating and transmitting to his posterity a set of three doxological prayers to be used during a community ritual; each prayer applies to a separate stage of an ecstatic ascent through the three highest levels of the divine world as portrayed in Allogenes and Zostrianos.
Another treatise, the Trimorphic Protennoia takes the form of an aretalogy, or recitation of the deeds and attributes of Protennoia, the First Thought of the Sethian supreme deity. Speaking in the first person, she recites her attributes and saving initiatives in three separate compositions related respectively to her establishing heavenly dwellings for her fallen spirit trapped in mankind, her destruction of the power of the hostile spiritual rulers of the world, and her final saving descent as the Logos in the guise of Christ. If one includes the Thunder in the Sethian dossier of texts, then one must add another such aretalogy consisting of the paradoxical and diatribic self-predications of a female savior figure rather like Sophia or Protennoia, perhaps this time speaking in the guise of the "fleshly Eve after her separation from the masculine half of the Adam androgyne."[11]
    Finally, the short piece the Thought of Norea is an ode to Norea, wife-sister of Seth, conceived as a manifestation of Sophia, the "fallen" divine wisdom, who will be restored along with her spiritual progeny into the divine world by the very aeons from which she once departed.
    Of these treatises, the Apocryphon of John and the Gospel of the Egyptians both contain an extensive theogony and cosmogony. The Apocryphon of John and the Hypostasis of the Archons both contain an extensive anthropogony based on an interpretation of Genesis 1-6. The Apocalypse of Adam, shares with the preceding a great interest in the flood and in the connection between Adam, Eve and Seth, yet does not follow the text of Genesis as closely as the others. The Trimorphic Protennoia and the Three Steles of Seth share a clearly tripartite structure, yet the former presents the threefold descent of Protennoia/Barbelo, while the latter provides the reader with prayers to assist in an ascent through the upper three levels of the aeonic world. This pattern of ascent is also present in Zostrianos (articulated as a series of transcendental baptisms) and Allogenes (articulated in terms of an ontological stratification of the transcendent world). The figure of Norea, wife-sister of Seth, is featured in the Thought of Norea and the second part of the Hypostasis of the Archons. A first person singular aretalogical recitation of the triple descent of the divine First Thought is featured in the Trimorphic Protennoia and in the conclusion of the longer version of the Apocryphon of John. The alphabetic mysticism of Marsanes seems rather foreign to the rest of the Sethian treatises, yet its first part clearly presents the same vision of the components of the divine realm as appear in Zostrianos, Allogenes, and the Three Steles of Seth. The furthest removed from the core interests of the Sethian group is Melchizedek, a decidedly Christian treatise with only a thin Sethian veneer; its affinity to the rest seems to be limited to a baptismal invocation of the names of some of the major dramatis personae found in the other treatises.[12]
    In terms of application to the lifeways of their hypothetical Sethian Gnostic users, it appears that some treatises may have been aids to a form of worship, whether individual or communal (especially the baptismal rite), while others were directed primarily toward indoctrination. Among the former, one might include those in which prayer predominates: the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Three Steles of Seth, the Thought of Norea, and perhaps Melchizedek. Among the more didactic treatises, certain sections of the dialogue between John and Jesus in the Apocryphon of John and between Norea and Eleleth in the Hypostasis of the Archons might lend themselves to group catachetical (erotapokrisis or question/answer format) purposes. Although the content of the Apocalypse of Adam differs greatly from that of Zostrianos, Allogenes and Marsanes, all four are didactic reports of revelations received by figures of signal importance in Sethian tradition, namely Adam and Seth in his various guises. Even though these treatises contain instances of prayers and hymn-like passages, they seem to betray no obvious liturgical function. The Trimorphic Protennoia seems to have had a didactic (or possibly polemical) purpose, yet the hymnic quality of its first-person singular aretalogical sections and the sporadic presence of first person plural responses (36,33-37,3; 38,28-30; 42,19-25) may betray some liturgical usage at certain stages of its composition.
    Again, a sequential arrangement of these treatises based on literary form and implicit religious function does not clearly emerge. Perhaps a basic twofold division into didactic and liturgical would serve to highlight the religious and communal nature of these texts; within each division one could arrange them by comprehensiveness of coverage of the basic features of Sethian teaching:

Didactic: The Apocryphon of John, The Apocalypse of Adam, The Hypostasis of the Archons, Zostrianos, Allogenes, and Marsanes;
Liturgical: The Gospel of the Egyptians, The Trimorphic Protennoia, The Three Steles of Seth, The Thought of Norea, and Melchizedek.

By Content

Given the criterion of content without particular regard for form and function, a common-sense arrangement would be one in which successive tractates follow those upon whose content, themes, dramatis personae, and concepts they depend for general understanding. Again the list would be headed by the Apocryphon of John as presenting the most comprehensive overview of Sethianism (theogony, cosmogony, anthropogony, sacred history and soteriology). Next come the Trimorphic Protennoia (amplification of the concluding hymn of Ap. John plus Eleleth's complicity in the production of the Archon), the Gospel of the Egyptians (theogony, cosmogony, Eleleth's instigation of Sophia's production of the archons, the sacred history, soteriology and the baptismal rite), the Hypostasis of the Archons (cosmology and anthropogony plus the figures of Norea and Eleleth), the Thought of Norea (the figure of Norea), and the Apocalypse of Adam (anthropogony, sacred history, soteriology and baptismal polemic). Zostrianos, Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, and Marsanes then follow on the theme of soteriology and the interpretation of the baptismal rite as a visionary ascent. Last comes Melchizedek as the treatise most removed from the thematic center of gravity of the entire Sethian group, but still furnishing another application of the baptismal rite and perhaps another of the salvific guises of Seth.
    Of course, another obvious arrangement might be based on the presence or absence of specific Christian or Jewish features. Among Christian Sethian treatises one finds the Apocryphon of John, the Hypostasis of the Archons, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Trimorphic Protennoia, and Melchizedek. A Sethian treatise with no obvious Christian, but many Judaic features, would be the Apocalypse of Adam. The remaining treatises, with no obvious Christian or Jewish features, would include: Zostrianos, Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, Marsanes, and perhaps the Thought of Norea.

Grouping by phenomenology and exegetical concerns

The Sethian treatises can be bifurcated into two groups, one primarily concerned with the interpretation of Jewish traditions (Ap. John, Trim. Prot., Hyp. Arch., Gos. Egypt., Apoc. Adam, Norea, and perhaps Melchizedek), and another primarily concerned with the interpretation of Platonic traditions (Zost., Allogenes, Steles Seth, and Marsanes). Corresponding to this one finds two characteristic patterns for the means by which Gnostic enlightenment is achieved: in one group, it is enabled through the earthly descent of a heavenly revealer, and in the other, it is achieved by a self-actualized contemplative technique.

A Basically Judaic or Platonic Exegetical Agenda?

Nearly all scholars recognize the indebtedness of Gnostic myth to Platonic metaphysics and cosmology as well as to Jewish traditions of biblical exegesis, especially of certain problematic passages of the book of Genesis.
Ever since Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies, readers of Gnostic literature have found it full of Greek, especially Platonic, philosophical materials, and have characterized it as such in memorable phrases: Hans Jonas noted that Plato's presentation of philosophy as "apparent religion" enabled Gnosticism's later appearance as "apparent philosophy"; A. D. Nock transformed S. Pétrement's characterization of Gnosticism as "une platonisme romantique," into a "Platonism run wild;" W. Theiler called Gnosticism a Proletarianplatonismus.[13] At the 1967 Messina conference, R. Crahay and P. Boyancé pointed to Plato as the source for Gnosticism's philosophical terminology as well as a significant part of its metaphysical categories and structures; H.-J. Krämer located various Gnostic systems as vital links along the developmental trajectory of Platonic philosophy from Plato to Plotinus, and C. Elsas has sought to identify the Platonizing Gnostics behind Plotinus' criticisms of them.[14] Indeed, Krämer outlines the narrative flow of the Gnostic myth in terms of the vicissitudes of the divine thought itself: thought in potency (the supreme deity), thought in actuality (the aeons, especially the maternal First thought that emanates from the supreme deity), and thought in its fallenness (the lower Sophia and her demiurgical son); salvation is the reversion of this thought to its aboriginal potency in the form of the individual Gnostic's response to the revelation of his true situation.[15]
Likewise, the rather more recent recognition of the contribution of Judaism to the formation of Gnostic mythology has by now been well established by scholars like G. Quispel, G. W. MacRae, B. A. Pearson, A. F. Segal, J. E. Fossum and G. G. Stroumsa.[16] The last three emphasize the role of an inner-Jewish exegesis of problematic biblical passages, mainly those containing highly anthropomorphic depictions of God which might be taken to call into question God's ultimate goodness, transcendence and omnipotence. Such concerns led to the development of ideas concerning subordinate angelic powers active in the cosmos and even responsible for its creation. According to Stroumsa, the Gnostic concern was not so much to save the transcendence of God, but an obsession with the problem of evil and its source. Like various Jewish thinkers, they posited a hierarchical duality between God and a subordinate demiurgical figure, but the Gnostics radicalized this duality by demonizing the demiurgical figure and actually identifying it with Satan.
    Recently I. Culianu[17] has sought to combine the preceding insights by emphasizing the relation between the Judaic and Platonic conceptual frameworks in the creation of Gnostic myths. Borrowing H. Bloom's[18] characterization of Gnostic exegesis as a form of "misprision" (mis-taking), or "creative misunderstanding," he observes: "Indeed, Gnosticism is Platonic hermeneutics so suspicious of tradition that it is willing to break through the borders of tradition, any tradition, including its own. Conversely, regarded through the eyes of tradition, any tradition, it appears as `misprision'." Again: "Gnostic exegesis of Genesis admits a definition strikingly similar to Philonic exegesis: It is an interpretation of a Jewish text according to a set of rules derived from Platonism." Although it is odd to credit Platonists, normally quite confident of their own tradition stemming from Plato and Pythagoras, with such a "hermeneutics of suspicion," what occupies Culianu's interest is the delineation of a set of hermeneutical transformations produced by the application of Platonic philosophical principles to the interpretation of any established tradition. Whether Culianu believes the element of suspicion arose from a naturally Gnostic mind-set or from a philosophical preoccupation with exegetical aporiae is not immediately clear.
    Thus, whereas Philo of Alexandria identified the Biblical creator God with the supreme Monad presiding over the transcendent world of ideas, the Gnostics identified that God with the demiurge of Plato's Timaeus, who consults a divine paradigm beyond him as the model for his creation. If the God of Genesis is identified as the world-creator, the result of positing such a higher model is the supposition that there must be a superior God presiding over the higher paradigmatic realm consulted by the lower Creator. In addition, the biblical stress on the sole godhead of the creator, who continually asserts his sole supremacy (as in Isaiah 45 and 46), would cause Platonist exegetes to raise serious questions about a god who boasts in his supremacy, but is known not to be supreme. The implication is that this demiurge is a faulty being, vainly boastful and ignorant of the God beyond him. As the link between this supreme God and the demoted creator, the Gnostics posit an intermediate Sophia/Logos figure, who may exist in several manifestations ranging from the supreme Mother, the First Thought or consort of the supreme God, to the actual mother of the demiurge. While Platonists could well identify the creative aspect of the God of Genesis with the creative Logos, the Gnostics, noting the contradiction between a Sophia/Logos who is aware of being subordinated to a higher deity and a demiurge who brags about being unique, would conclude that the Sophia/Logos must be a third entity.
    These three beings, God, Sophia/Logos and Demiurge, would be connected in such a way as to maintain God's inculpability for the faults of this world and yet allow for the demiurge's ignorance of what is beyond him. Culpability must be assigned to the demiurge, yet the demiurge must also maintain an essential relation to the Platonic creative instrumentality of Sophia/Logos: thus the demiurge is produced from Sophia/Logos as an unintended offspring. In turn, Sophia/Logos becomes an ambiguous figure, both giving rise to the creator of a world that was not intended to be as it is, and, at the same time, being the source of the divine substance that takes up enforced residence in it. The unintentionally inferior creative act of Sophia/Logos is said to be due to misdirected eroticism, or curiosity, or inexperience, or a downward direction of attention. This ambiguity in the Sophia/Logos figure and the ignorance of the demiurge seems to be the fundamental point of the Gnostics' departure from the general Platonist view of the cosmos as the necessary expression of the fullness of the world of ideas implemented without jealousy by a demiurge who is cognizant of the transcendent realm beyond him. Yet this same Sophia/Logos in various guises is able to rectify much of its mistaken creative activity by acting also as the instrument that appears in the world in various guises for the salvation of the divine element that was taken ("stolen") from it and enclosed in the lower world by its demiurgical offspring.
It thus appears that Platonism, defined especially by the Timaeus, provides the basic framework for Gnostic solutions to the exegetical enigmas of the Genesis text. Culianu does not notice, however, that the Sethian texts do not actually call their world creator, Yaldabaoth, "demiurge." Indeed, whereas the demiurge of the Timaeus is confronted with unformed, chaotic matter and reduces it to order in accord with an eternal paradigm, the Sethian Archon is himself amorphous and chaotic. As the aborted son of Sophia, his character is essentially devoid of form and order. Even though he copies an image of the eternal aeonic paradigm, he sees only its reflection in the lower waters; he knows nothing of the world beyond him, and thus produces a chaotic copy with more similarity to his own being than to the image he copies.[19] And his ability to copy what he does is due, not to his ungrudging intelligence, but to the power he stole from his mother Sophia, by which an element of perfection has nevertheless come to dwell in his creation (an element that, once incorporated into Adam, will prove to be Yaldabaoth's own undoing). To be sure, the overall scheme resembles that of the Timaeus, yet it is more a parody of it than a direct implementation. This may constitute yet another Gnostic "creative misprision," in this case, of the very Platonic exegetical framework borrowed from the Timaeus and applied to the solution of the more enigmatic tensions and apparent contradictions of the biblical protology.
    Perhaps there is an analogy between the Gnostic use of these two important protological texts: just as the Jewish creator God is subordinated to an even higher supreme deity, so also the demiurge of the Timaeus is interpreted in terms of his lower subordinates, the "younger gods": to them the demiurge assigns the task of combining the rational soul substance created by him with the lower "spirited" and "appetitive" parts of the soul, and of incarnating this mixture into the mortal bodies of humans. In this way, the figure in each tradition responsible for the creation of humans is demoted from its place in the original narrative as a way of explaining the origin of a human condition perceived as defective.
    Once a supreme God beyond the creator is posited, it is once again Platonism that is called upon to characterize that deity and the means by which it gives rise to the Sophia/Logos figure, and perhaps also to the matter upon which the lower demiurgical creator operates in the formation of this world. According to the Apocryphon of John, Zostrianos, Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, and Marsanes, the higher Sophia/Logos figure emanates from the supreme deity by a process of self-reflection or self-extension or division or procession. While the imagery of self-reflection (mainly in the Apocryphon of John and the "Simonian" Megale Apophasis) seems to be a uniquely Gnostic theogonic adaptation of Aristotle's notion of a self-intelligizing Intelligence (e.g., Met. 1074b30-32),[20] the other images of the process of emanation drew on the mathematical speculations of the Neopythagorean contemporaries and successors[21] of Philo of Alexandria up through the time of Plotinus and Porphyry.
    Again, the further structuring of the transcendent world is based on a creative reading of the text of Genesis. In the Gnostic view, as in that of a Hellenistic Jew like Philo of Alexandria, the protology of Genesis occurs on two planes, the heavenly (the creation according to Gen 1:1-2:3) and earthly (the creation according to Gen 2:4 ff.). The first creation story tells of the creation of an intelligible world whose contents form the prototypes for the creation of its perceptible counterpart in the second account. For the Gnostics, there are two creative divinities, the supreme deity as ultimate source of the heavenly world, and his lowly counterpart, the Archon who creates the psychic and material world as a copy of the heavenly one. Likewise, there are two Sophia/Logos figures, the Mother on high, the First Thought and instrument of the supreme deity active in the world as the Logos (as in the Trimorphic Protennoia), and the lower mother, usually called Sophia, who mistakenly gives birth to the lower creator Yaldabaoth. Moving on to Gen 2:4 ff., one can postulate two son figures, the heavenly Adam of Genesis 1, called Adamas or Pigeradamas or Autogenes, and his earthly copy, the Adam of the garden, shaped by the Archon. One can further discern two more mother figures, a heavenly Eve, called Zoe or the Epinoia of light, and the earthly Eve produced from Adam's side by the Archon, as well as two more sons, a heavenly Seth ("the great Seth"), whose earthly image was born as the son of the earthly Adam and Eve once they had been enlightened by the Mother on high. In fact, Gen 1:26 ("let us create Adam in our image, according to our likeness") could be construed to mean that: 1) on the transcendent plane, the high deity must be the absolute Human ("Man"); his offspring, the heavenly Adamas, would be the Son of Man, and Adamas' son Seth would be "the son of the Son of Man" (as in Eugnostos the Blessed) or the like; and 2) on the earthly plane the plural "we" refers to the archontic fashioners of Adam's' body.
Finally, the Platonic tradition may come into play again as a likely source for the designation of the Sethian heavenly trinity of Father, Mother and Son, for in Timaeus 50D, Plato so names his three ultimate ontological principles, the forms, the receptacle or nurse of becoming, and the images of the forms constituting the phenomenal world.

The Ascent of Mind or the Descent of Wisdom?

While the foregoing Platonic reading of Genesis gives rise to the protological scheme (theogony, cosmogony, and anthropogony) of many Sethian Gnostic texts, there is a similar interaction of Judaic and Platonic solutions to the problem of the means by which the Gnostic becomes enlightened and thus saved from the cosmic darkness. The corpus of Sethian Gnostic treatises from Nag Hammadi can be bifurcated into two main groups precisely in view of their use of various schemes to represent the process by which enlightenment and salvation is achieved.[22]
    First, the earlier Sethian treatises such as the Apocryphon of John and the Trimorphic Protennoia portray the advent of salvation through a series of temporally successive descents into this world by the First Thought of the supreme Invisible Spirit appearing in various modalities or guises. In the course of the descent, the revealer is manifested at each cosmic level in a form and modality suited to the being and needs of each.
On the other hand, the group of treatises comprising Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos and Marsanes exhibit a more vertical, non-temporal, supra-historical scheme in which salvation is achieved, not through a higher being's descents into this world, but through a graded series of visionary ascents initiated by the Gnostic himself. Here an exemplary visionary employs a self-performable technique of successive stages of mental detachment from the world of change and multiplicity, and a corresponding assimilation of the self to the ever more-refined levels of being to which one contemplatively ascends. Ultimately, the visionary achieves a state of mental abstraction evacuated of all cognitive content, a state of absolute self-unification and utter solitariness characteristic of deification.
    One might call these two models of the redemptive process the "descent pattern" and the "ascent pattern" respectively. In the Sethian Gnostic texts, there is a tendency to portray the descent pattern as a series of three successive descents, in which each descent is performed by a separate mode of the revealer figure, or to portray the ascent pattern as a traversal of three or more levels of being, each of which is tripartitioned and corresponds to certain mental states, often three in number. While the descent pattern is typical of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic and wisdom traditions,[23] the salvific epistemology of the treatises employing the ascent pattern is solidly at home in the Platonic tradition from Plato through Plotinus.
    The descent pattern clearly predominates in the three-stanzaed Pronoia hymn that concludes the longer version of the Apocryphon of John (NHC II, 1: 30,11-31,25), where the same figure (Pronoia) makes three successive descents; the saving gnosis is manifested on the third descent of the First Thought where she communicates the celestial baptismal ascent ritual called the Five Seals. Similarly, in the Trimorphic Protennoia, the divine First Thought, Protennoia, makes three saving descents: first as Father, second as Mother, and third as Son, when she enters the "tents" of her members in the form of Jesus to lead them back into the light by means of the baptismal rite of celestial ascent called the Five Seals. Likewise, the main body of all four versions of the Apocryphon of John narrates three saving missions inaugurated by Barbelo, the merciful Mother-Father. First, she causes the demiurge to blow the spiritual power stolen from his mother Sophia into Adam's face, unwittingly making him luminous. Second, she descends as the Epinoia of Light in the form of Eve, enlightens Adam, bears Seth, and elevates him and his seed to heavenly dwellings. Thirdly and finally, she appears as the Christ who communicates the entire saving history to John as a saving revelation.[24]
    Recent scholarship locates the milieu of the descent pattern in the Jewish myth of the descending and demiurgic figure of the divine wisdom (Sophia) portrayed in Proverbs 8, 1 Enoch 42, Sirach 24, Wisdom of Solomon 6-10 and other Jewish sources.[25] In addition to Gnostic mythologies, this myth seems to have influenced Philo's doctrine of the Logos (especially the logos prophorikos) as well as the doctrine, found in the Johannine prologue and the Alexandrian Fathers, of Christ as the Logos.
    On the other hand, the ascent pattern is found in the treatises Allogenes, Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos and Marsanes, where salvation is not brought from above to below by divine visitations, but rather occurs through the Gnostic's contemplative ascent through ever higher levels of the divine realm. Allogenes and Three Steles of Seth depict this ascent in three stages: through the intelligible levels of the Aeon of Barbelo, through the supra-intelligible levels of the Triple-Powered One of the Invisible Spirit, and culminating in a "primary revelation" or "command" of the Unknowable One. A similar ascent is portrayed in Zostrianos, except that it has been supplemented by a series of initial stages within the sense-perceptible realm, and each successive stage of ascent after these is associated with a certain baptismal sealing. Marsanes merely comments on certain features of the ascent, which its author claims to have already undergone.
    Of the two patterns, it is the ascent pattern that can be shown to be most at home in the Platonic tradition. A firm prototype of this threefold ascent is certainly to be found in Plato's Symposium (210A-212A) in the speech where Socrates recounts the path to the vision of absolute beauty into which he had been initiated by the wise Diotima. The method consists of a three-stage qualitative and quantitative purification or purgation of the soul by a redirection of Eros, the moving force of the soul, away from the lower realm to the higher.[26] Successively higher stages are achieved by a purifying and unifying synthesis of the experience of the previous ones, until absolute beauty discloses itself as a sudden and immediate intuition. As in the Symposium, so also in the Republic (532A-B) the final moment of attainment is conceived as a revelation of the supreme form. After long preliminary effort, the contemplative intellect has transcended discursive science, even dialectic itself, for an unmediated vision, a direct and sudden contact with the object sought. No longer does one "know about" the object things that can be predicated of it, but one actually possesses and is possessed by the object of one's quest.
    In the first four centuries of our era to which the Sethian treatises belong, the Platonic tradition regarded metaphysics or theology as the highest of the three stages of enlightenment or spiritual progress.[27] It corresponded to the highest stage of initiation into the mysteries and was in fact called epopteia, the supreme vision of the highest reality, tantamount to assimilating oneself to God insofar as possible (Theaetetus 176B). This traditional Platonic quest is found not only in Plato, but also in later Platonists from Philo of Alexandria (who however shunned the notion of assimilation to God) to Plotinus.[28]
    In sum, typically Judaic and Platonic exegetical agendas and methods for seeking enlightenment stand side-by-side in nearly all the Sethian treatises. Yet there is a clear predominance of a Platonic approach and conceptuality in the treatises Allogenes, Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos and Marsanes, if only because of their use of the ascent pattern. To be sure, in those treatises featuring the descent pattern, the Apocryphon of John, the Trimorphic Protennoia, and the Gospel of the Egyptians, the result of the final descent of the Logos is the conferral of the baptismal rite of the Five Seals, which the Trimorphic Protennoia portrays as a stripping away of the corporeal and psychic element and an ascension into the light. In this sense, the goal of all the Sethian treatises is to enable the (re)ascent of the Gnostics' spiritual essence into the realm of light.
The distinction between Judaic and Platonic approaches to the acquisition of liberating enlightenment seems to lie in the treatment of the phenomenon of temporality, the experience and awareness of the passage of time. Central to the Judaic approach is the notion of a sacred history centered on interlocking generations of a special people, in this case the seed of Seth, with an origin and a goal or eschaton. Central to the Platonic approach is the epistemological distinction between degrees of truth or reality graspable by thought, which form an essentially vertical teleological scale as opposed to the essentially horizontal teleological scale of the Judaic model.[29]
    Both approaches seek to make sense out of individual and communal experience by some form of periodization or hierarchicizing. In the Gnostic appropriation, the descent pattern divides history diachronically into epochs by the intervention of divine beings at certain crucial points; in the ascent pattern, the experience of any moment of time whatsoever offers the possibility of a synchronic division of both actual and imagined reality into various levels or planes ranging from most ephemeral and least authentic to most permanent and authentic. The goal is the same, but the approach is conditioned by the set of familiar traditions which serve as the lenses through which one perceives reality. Both approaches seek to escape the burdens of temporal existence, one seeking the undoing of history by an imaginative return to its beginings (Endzeit ist Urzeit), the other seeking a contemplative stability and permanence presumed to undo or transcend the temporal flux of phenomenal experience. In actual experience, as in the religious experience projected by the Sethian treatises, these two approaches are rarely found in pure form, but are merely heuristic distinctions of emphasis. One can certainly find within both approaches temporal-historical schemes of a nostalgic return to a lost Golden Age as well as instances of the flight of the visionary soul to the beyond.
    Based on these observations, a logical arrangement of the treatises would be to set first those treatises which start at the beginning of the story of the spark of light or soul which must make the ascent toward reunification with its original essence, that is, the story of how that spark came to take up its enforced residence in the lower world, necessitating a means of its extrication, whether by a redemptive visitation from the higher world or a praxis of self-performable visionary ascent.

The Descent Pattern

Within this group, the treatises employing the descent pattern can be arranged in two series, one which consists of treatises that deal with the origin of the human condition and proclaim the future coming of a savior, and another that contains similar depictions of origins, but tends to portray the descent (usually threefold) of the savior as having already happened.
    The first series, employing mostly futuristic eschatology, might naturally begin with the Hypostasis of the Archons, since it concentrates on the origin of the world creator and the creation of humanity, and ends with the promise to Norea of the coming of the true man. The Thought of Norea forms a brief sequel on the figure of Norea and her future deliverance. The Apocalypse of Adam might form a sequel to the anthropogony of the Hypostasis of the Archons, taking the primeval history down through Seth, the flood, the separation of the seed of Seth from the offspring of Noah, the conflagration, and the promise of the coming of the Illuminator. Melchizedek likewise proclaims the coming of a high-priestly savior, the ancient Melchizedek of Genesis 14, in the person of Jesus Christ.
    The second series, containing mostly a realized eschatology, would begin with the Apocryphon of John, which gives a comprehensive treatment of the origin of the human condition stemming from Sophia's desire to produce a creation by herself, which results in the theft of her spiritual essence and its entrapment into human bodies, and concludes with the salvific triple descent of Pronoia. The Trimorphic Protennoia forms the natural sequel to the Apocryphon of John's concluding Pronoia aretalogy; its treatment of the baptism of the Five Seals and exculpation of Sophia in favor of Eleleth as the cause of the lower world lead rather naturally to the Gospel of the Egyptians, with which it shares these themes.

The Ascent Pattern

The treatises employing the ascent pattern might be laid out with Zostrianos coming first, since it has many features maintaining continuity with the treatises using the descent pattern (the story of Sophia, the figures of the four Lights, baptismal ascension, etc.). The Three Steles of Seth might then follow on the grounds that it also continues to employ terminology found in the first group, mainly the figures of Geradamas and Mirothea. These would be followed by Allogenes and finally Marsanes.

Grouping by Chronology and Literary Dependencies

In the case of the Sethian treatises Zostrianos and Allogenes, we possess materials that can be rather accurately coordinated with datable events and known historical figures, since it can be shown that these treatises were read and refuted by specific persons in specific places during a specific period. Given this anchor, it then becomes possible to work from such a fixed point backward to earlier Sethian sources and forward to later ones, thus establishing a chronological framework.

Literary Dependencies

Supplementing such historical synchronisms, it is also possible to detect evidence of redactional activity within certain treatises as well as instances of literary dependence among them. First, in the three treatises featuring a celestial ascent, Allogenes (NHC XI, 3: 54,11-37), the Three Steles of Seth (NHC VII,5: 125,24-126, 17) and Zostrianos (NHC VIII,1: 51,24-52,8; 86,13-24; 88,9-25), there occurs a special aretalogical ascription of praise delivered to or invoking certain beings that seem to belong to the Aeon of Barbelo and are associated with her subaeons Kalyptos, Protophanes and Autogenes.
    In addition, Allogenes (XI,3: 62,27-63,25) sustains a nearly word-for-word parallel with the Coptic text of the negative theology applied to the Invisible Spirit in the Apocryphon of John (BG 8502, 2: 24,9-25,7 and NHC II,1: 3,20-34). This may suggest a dependence of Allogenes upon some form of the Apocryphon of John (which is probably the older of the two texts), although it is clear that, aside from the Father-Mother-Son figures of Invisible Spirit, Barbelo and Autogenes, Allogenes represents an entirely different development of Sethian motifs.

Irenaeus and the Apocryphon of John

The Apocryphon of John contains a theogony and cosmogony extremely similar to the "Barbeloite" doctrine outlined by Irenaeus in his work Against the Heresies (Haer. I.29), written around 175-180 C.E. Therefore the Apocryphon of John or a treatise very much like it, possibly its literary source, must have been in circulation and available to Irenaeus by at least 150 C.E. Since Irenaeus' Barbeloite account describes neither the anthropogony and history of salvation based on Gen. 1-6, nor evinces any trace of the Christian dialogical frame-story of the Apocryphon of John, it is usually assumed that it is not based upon a copy of our extant versions of the Apocryphon of John. On the other hand, Irenaeus' succeeding chapter (Haer. I 30,1-10) outlines a gnostic myth which Theodoret (Haer. Fab. I.14) claims to be Sethian and Ophite; it indeed contains features found in Sethian texts, such as the name "First Man" for the high deity and a figure called the Son of Man, as well as a cosmogony similar to that of the Apocryphon of John, including accounts concerning the "fall" of Sophia, who creates Yaldabaoth and six angels whose names are the same as those in the Apocryphon of John), Yaldabaoth's boasting in his sole deity and the heavenly response, and the creation of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Seth and Norea. Distinctly Sethian features are missing, however, such as the elevation of the seed of Seth, the divine Adamas-Autogenes, and his four Lights, features which it seems that Irenaeus would surely have described had his source employed the anthropogony and history of salvation underlying the extant versions of the Apocryphon of John. It is conceivable that in Haer. 1.30.7-10 Irenaeus used a source or sources resembling the Apocryphon of John at a stage prior to its redaction as a Christian dialogue between John and Jesus. Since Irenaeus separates the theogony in Haer. I.29 from the cosmogony, anthropogony and soteriology in Haer. I.30, one is inclined to assume that he based these chapters on separate sources. Aside from the question of the relationship of the Apocryphon of John to the "Barbeloite" (and "Ophite) material summarized by Irenaeus, there is also the question of the relative priority of the accounts found in both the longer and shorter versions of the Apocryphon of John; at present this issue has not been decided.

The Apocryphon of John and The Trimorphic Protennoia

While much of the material found in the Apocryphon of John, which is arguably the earliest complete "Sethian" treatise, is echoed in the other Sethian treatises, one section of the Apocryphon of John in particular seems very much as though it could have served as the inspiration for the composition of an entire Sethian treatise, namely the Trimorphic Protennoia. Both longer versions of the Apocryphon of John conclude with a hymnic composition of three stanzas (NHC II,1: 30,13-31,25 = NHC IV,1: 46,26-48,13), each of which narrates a separate saving descent of Pronoia, probably to be identified with Ennoia/Pronoia/Barbelo the merciful Mother-Father of the main narrative. The absence of this passage in the shorter versions suggests that it was added to the Apocryphon of John after its redaction as a Christian revelation dialogue.
    In the main body of the Apocryphon of John, Pronoia/Barbelo initiates three significant redemptive visitations from the higher to the lower world: 1) the downward projection of the image of the First Man; 2) the sending of the spiritual Eve as Adam's enlightener and mother of the savior Seth, and 3) the final sending of her son in the guise of Christ into the world to enlighten the contemporary Sethians by revealing to John the sacred history of the Sethians told in the main body of the work. Similarly, in the hymnic ending of the Apocryphon of John, Pronoia descends twice into the lower world and shakes the foundations of chaos, but then in a third descent enters the "prison," said to be the body, awakens the soul from its corporeal forgetfulness, and raises it into the light by sealing it with the luminous water of the Five Seals. This is the only direct reference to the Sethian baptismal rite of the Five Seals in the longer version of the Apocryphon of John; this singularity and its absence from the shorter versions suggests that the conferral of this rite was not an original feature of the Apocryphon of John. Elsewhere, the Five Seals are mentioned only in the Gospel of the Egyptians and developed significantly in the Trimorphic Protennoia.
    I suggest that the key to the relationship between these two texts lies in the recognition that the Trimorphic Protennoia has undergone three stages of composition. At the time of its initial composition, it was a product of non-Christian Barbeloite wisdom speculation. The theme of the triple descent of Protennoia was derived from a source similar to or identical with the triple descent narrated in the self-predicatory aretalogy of Pronoia at a point prior to its inclusion in the longer ending of the Apocryphon of John. The Logos theology of its tripartite aretalogy of Protennoia drew upon a fund of oriental speculation on the divine Word and Wisdom as did the prologue of the Gospel of John in a similar but independent way. The creative act of the original author of the Trimorphic Protennoia was his application of a theory of the increasing articulateness of verbal communication as one moves from mere sound to explicit word, perhaps of Stoic provenance.[30] Subsequently, all three texts, the Johannine prologue, the Pronoia aretalogy, and the Trimorphic Protennoia underwent Christianization in a later stage of redaction, the prologue in Johannine Christian circles when it was adopted by the evangelist, the Pronoia hymn by virtue of its inclusion on the Apocryphon of John, and the Trimorphic Protennoia in Christianized Sethian circles. The Christianizing process was unlikely to have occurred simultaneously in the two communities, since the Christian version of the Trimorphic Protennoia probably did not materialize until after the generally accepted date for the production of the Fourth Gospel in the last decade of the first century. The similarity of the narrative cosmogony inserted into the aretalogy of the first subtractate of the Trimorphic Protennoia (NHC XIII,1: 36,27-40,29) to that of the Apocryphon of John suggests that the original Christianization of the Trimorphic Protennoia was contemporary with the earliest Christian version of the Apocryphon of John which many scholars assign to the first quarter of the second century, since its theogony and cosmogony is clearly expounded by Irenaeus Haer. I.29 around 175 to 180 C.E. Thus the second, Christian version of the Trimorphic Protennoia likely appeared in the first quarter of the second century, less than a generation after the Fourth Gospel. The Trimorphic Protennoia also seems evince another, final stage of Christianization by means of a deliberately polemical incorporation of Christian (specifically Johannine Christian: NHC XIII,1: 49, 7-20; 50,10-16) materials into the aretalogical portion of the third subtractate. One might assign this stage to the period of struggle over the interpretation of the Christology of the Fourth Gospel witnessed by the N.T. Letters of John, perhaps the second quarter of the second century.
    The Trimorphic Protennoia is a key text, sustaining obvious relationships to other Sethian literature. In its development of the Father-Mother-Son triad as applied to Protennoia-Barbelo, the Trimorphic Protennoia draws on the triple descent and cosmological materials found also in the Apocryphon of John. But unlike the Apocryphon of John, the Trimorphic Protennoia transfers Sophia's creative initiative to the fourth Light Eleleth, as in the Gospel of the Egyptians. Sophia is thus blameless, only a victim of circumstance. As the Epinoia of the Light Eleleth, she appeals to Eleleth to restore her former rank (NHC XIII,39,32-40,4) in much the same way as does Norea, who in the Hypostasis of the Archons functions as the undefiled, virginal "helper" of Mankind (which is the function of the figure called the Epinoia of light in the Apocryphon of John). The treatise the Thought of Norea likewise portrays Norea as a Sophia figure. Like the Epinoia in the Trimorphic Protennoia and the Apocryphon of John, she cries out (or repents) to be restored to her place in the light so as to make up her deficiency, perhaps by the agency of the four Lights or their ministers (Gamaliel, Gabriel, Abrasax and Samblo). The Thought of Norea, the Trimorphic Protennoia and the Gospel of the Egyptians seem to assume or stress the innocence of Epinoia-Sophia such that her restoration to the Light requires no repentance for a willful act performed without her consort. In fact, the Gospel of the Egyptians distinguishes between the hylic Sophia cloud and another figure called Repentance (Metanoia), who descended to the world as an image of the night, prays for the seed of Adam and Seth (and the seed of the Archon and authorities!), and will sow the seed of Seth into the aeons to make up the deficiency (NHC III,2: 59,9-60,2).
    In terms of its stress upon the baptismal ascent ritual, the Trimorphic Protennoia seems to sustain a close relationship especially to the Gospel of the Egyptians, Zostrianos, the Apocryphon of John, and, more distantly, to Melchizedek, perhaps Marsanes and even the Apocalypse of Adam. Owing to their fragmentary nature, it is difficult to see what role the Sethian baptismal ritual plays in Melchizedek and Marsanes. In Marsanes, "washing" is mentioned on page 55; pages 64-66 seem to narrate Marsanes' vision of certain angels, which include Gamaliel, who is over the spirit(s) and "takes" him somewhere in an action which involves a "spring," probably of "living" water, a "washing" and a "sealing" with the "seal of heaven."

The Apocalypse of Adam

On the basis of Epiphanius' (Haer. 39-40) reports on the Sethians and Archontics, C. W. Hedrick[31] places the Apocalypse of Adam at an early date (before 100 AD) before the Sethians bifurcated into Christianized Sethians and non-Christianized Archontics who condemned the Christian sacraments, especially baptism, and attached little significance to Jesus. More recent opinion has tended to reject such an early dating for the Apocalypse of Adam. G. Stroumsa and J.-M. Sevrin both see it as a work which betrays Christian influences, especially in the name of the imperishable illuminators Yesseus, Mazareus, Yessedekeus (85,30), the description of the third appearance of the Illuminator (76,8-18) and in the thirteenth kingdom's description of the Illuminator (82,11-19). In any case, it seems probable that the emphasis on an undefiled baptism in Living Water of celestial quality in these Sethian works may be explained by the likelihood that in the early second century the Sethians were reacting strongly, as did the Manichaeans and the Sethian-like Archontics described by Epiphanius (Haer. 40), against certain cults, perhaps especially Christians, who practiced water baptism. On the other hand, the Sethian emphasis on a baptism involving celestial vision and spiritual transformation could proceed in a rapprochement with Christianity, as in Melchizedek, the Trimorphic Protennoia and the Gospel of the Egyptians, as well as with a contemporary Platonism that advocated a mystical procedure of celestial ascent, as is shown by Zostrianos and Marsanes. My own inclination is to locate at least the Sethite history (Hedrick's source "A")[32] at an early date, in the first century.

Zostrianos and Marsanes

Zostrianos and, to a lesser extent, Marsanes, form a special case, since, although their transcendentalia are basically structured along lines most clearly articulated in Allogenes, they retain an additional fund of the figures traditionally associated with the Sethian protology and baptismal practices. In the case of Marsanes one finds Gamaliel, one of the servants of the four Lights, as commander of the spirits (NHC X,1: 64,19). In the case of Zostrianos, which seems to constitute a deliberate attempt to reinterpret the more traditional Sethian cosmology and baptismal ritual in terms of the metaphysics and transcendentalia found in Allogenes and the Three Steles of Seth there are many more such "holdovers." As in the theogonical triad (Father, Mother Son) of the Apocryphon of John, one finds the Invisible Spirit and the emergence of Barbelo as his self-knowledge. Barbelo still subsumes a triad, but with different names (Kalyptos, Protophanes and Autogenes instead of Prognosis, Aphtharsia and Aionia Zoe). The thrice-masculine aspect of Barbelo is hypostatized as the Triple-Male Child (an ideal Adamas figure identified by the Gospel of the Egyptians with the Great Christ) and Geradamas is called his eye. The Son member of the supreme trinity is Autogenes, who presides over his four Lights Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithe and Eleleth, which contain respectively Adamas, Seth, the seed of Seth, and their morally repentant associates. Although the generation of Sophia from Eleleth is apparently not narrated, Sophia's downward inclination resulting in her production of the Archon creator and her subsequent repentance and restoration is summarized, as is the Archon's creation of the celestial aeons copied as a reflection from Sophia's reflection of the aeons above.
    In regard to its application of baptismal motifs, it appears that Zostrianos was dependent on traditions most clearly evident in the Gospel of the Egyptians, from which it derived almost all of its baptismal dramatis personae as well as the figures of Youel (not Yoel), Doxomedon, Esephech, Meirothea, Prophania, Plesithea and Metanoia, and perhaps many others which can no longer be identified in the extant state of the two texts.[33]
Yet it is also clear that Zostrianos derives its basic metaphysical structure from a source much like that of Allogenes. In fact, nearly everything in Zostrianos as it now stands can be derived from the Apocryphon of John, the Gospel of the Egyptians and Allogenes except for the names of certain figures peculiar to itself. Most of these names unique to Zostrianos are Greek or Graecicizing formations, suggesting a weakening of Judaic influence.

The Sethians and the Gnostics of Plotinus

When one realizes that Allogenes and Zostrianos are probably to be included in the "apocalypses of Zoroaster and Zostrianos and Nicotheos and Allogenes and Messos and of other such figures" (Porphyry, Vita Plot. 16) whose stance was attacked by Plotinus and whose doctrines were refuted at great length by Amelius and Porphyry himself in the period 244-269 CE,[34] one may date Allogenes and Zostrianos around 225-270 CE.[35] In his antignostic treatise (Enn. III.8; V.8; V.5 and II.9, chronologically 30-33), Plotinus surely has these tractates in view.[36] Closely associated with these treatises are The Three Steles of Seth and Marsanes. While the date of The Three Steles of Seth seems indeterminate, Marsanes seems to come slightly later than Allogenes and Zostrianos. B. A. Pearson[37] suggests that the name Marsanes, mentioned in the Untitled text of the Bruce Codex (235-13-23 Schmidt-MacDermot) in connection with Nicotheos (and Marsianos in Epiphanius' account of the Archontics, Haer. 40.7.6), reflects a Syrian background for its author, and dates Marsanes in the early third century. But one may also argue for dating it to the last quarter of the third century in that it posits an unknown Silent One above even the Invisible Spirit in much the same way Iamblichus during this same period posited an ineffable One beyond even the Plotinian One that heads the noetic triad (apud Damascius, De Princ. I 86,3-15; 101,14-15; 103,6-10).

Zostrianos and Plotinus

Zostrianos in particular contains doctrines refuted by Plotinus in Ennead II.9. The question then arises as to the relative chronology of Allogenes and Zostrianos with respect to Plotinus. It would be comforting to conclude that these Sethian treatises are dependent on the philosophy of Plotinus and the anonymous Parmenides commentary (which Hadot ascribes to Porphyry), since then a specific source for the ontology of these documents could be determined. However, the fact that documents under these names were read in Plotinus' circle suggests that they were produced earlier than Plotinus' refutation, during Porphyry's six-year stay with Plotinus in Rome from 263 to 268 C.E. In the case of Zostrianos, so many of whose features are echoed in Plotinus' critique of the Gnostics, it seems nearly certain that Plotinus' circle had some version of this document in view during the course of his refutations of the Gnostics, and that it is this treatise which Porphyry regarded as late and spurious, and against which Amelius composed a forty-book refutation. Of course, since both Allogenes and Zostrianos bear traces of redaction and literary dependency, one cannot be certain of the precise version of these treatises available to Plotinus and his circle.
    No definitive solution to the chronological priority of sources is possible owing to the possibility of multiple versions of these Sethian treatises. However, there may be adequate warrant for placing Allogenes and Zostrianos at a time before Plotinus, since most of their doctrine could be drawn from Numenius, the Chaldaean Oracles and other second century Platonic sources, in addition to similar notions found in the Apocryphon of John. Given Porphyry's love for oracular literature, the incredible parallels to Allogenes found in the Parmenides commentary attributed to Porphyry could be explained as originating with the authors behind Allogenes et al. just as well as originating from the more sophisticated philosophy of Porphyry. The existence-vitality-mentality triad could be derived from the Chaldaean Oracles; Proclus, Damascius, and probably Porphyry exegeted them in this way. There is also a striking parallel between Allogenes (NHC XI,3: 49,26-38) and Proclus, Elem. theol. prop. 103, but the Elements is much later work than Allogenes on any reading.
    R. Majercik has recently argued that these treatises neither predate nor are contemporaneous with Plotinus, on the grounds that the triadic groupings used in them have an explicit and fixed form uncharacteristic of Plotinus; their technical use of the term hyparxis for the first member of the Existence-Vitality-Mentality triad has no specific significance for Plotinus (who employs the nomenclature Being-Life-Mind); and that the nomenclature of these triads on various levels reflects a method of paronymy and doctrine of predominance and cyclical implication likewise uncharacteristic of Plotinus.[38] Instead, all of these features are found in Plotinus' disciple Porphyry, whose lost commentary on the Chaldaean Oracles (and perhaps the anonymous Parmenides commentary attributed to him by P. Hadot) must have been the Greek source that mediated them not only to the Sethian treatises, but also to the Christian Neoplatonists Victorinus and Synesius.
Yet the principle of mutual implication and predominance is clearly present already in Plotinus (e.g., Enn. V.8.4.7-24), Numenius (frg. 41 des Places = test. 33 Leemans), and perhaps in the Chaldaean Oracles (frgg. 21, 27),[39] and the dependence of Victorinus on Porphyry does not mean that Porphyry is the ultimate source of the terms tridynamos (not in Porphyry's extant works), hyparxis, ontotês, ousiotês (occurring earlier in Albinus/Alcinous, Didask. X.3.7), zôotês, and nootês. The ultimate source of these ideas probably cannot be identified as a particular individual, but more than likely they stem from the philosophical exchange within Plotinus' circle in Rome 244-269 C.E., which included not only Plotinus, Porphyry, and Amelius, but also quite likely the authors and revisers of these selfsame Platonizing Sethian treatises.

The Baptismal Tradition and Sethian Textual Interrelationships

My hypothesis of Sethian origins is that the Sethianism of the Nag Hammadi treatises seems to be a product of two distinct but not entirely unrelated speculative movements within or on the fringe of Hellenistic Judaism: 1) that segment of the wisdom tradition that was in conversation with contemporary Platonism, which I take to be the originating milieu of the "Barbeloite" speculation on the divine Wisdom and Name, and 2) the rather more apocalyptically oriented form of speculation on the traditions concerning the primordial figures of Adam and Seth that gave rise to the sacred history of the Sethians. The name "Barbeloite" is inspired by Irenaeus' ascription to this group or school of the theogony and cosmogony he describes in Haer. I.29, recognized by contemporary scholars as being nearly identical with that found in the four versions of the Apocryphon of John.
    The first movement conceived the receipt of revelation as a kind of baptism in wisdom, conceived as a light or knowledge, and conferred by the Logos or Voice or First Thought of the high deity; sometime in the first century this movement was influenced by Christian baptizing groups, causing them to construe Christ as the revealer of this saving baptism. The second group, which I call "Sethites" (in distinction from Gnostic Sethians), conceived of revelation as deriving from certain ancient records containing the sacred history of the enlightenment of their primordial ancestors, records of which had been brought to light by a recent reappearance of Seth, the original and chief recipient of this revelation. The fusion of this group with previously Christianized Barbeloites resulted in an implicit or explicit identification between Seth and Christ typical of many Sethian Gnostic treatises.
    It seems as if the baptismal rite was originally foreign to the pre-Sethian-Gnostic Sethites and was adopted by them in the course of their contact with other baptismal movements, probably Christian or Christian-influenced, such as the group behind the theogonies featuring the figure of Barbelo. Furthermore, it seems likely that the baptismal rite was the cultic setting within which the apparently non-baptismal visionary ascension in texts like Allogenes and the Three Steles of Seth arose. In these two texts, it appears that the ascensional rite has become detached from the older baptismal mystery, while in Zostrianos (and perhaps Marsanes) it is still associated with the baptismal rite, or at least interpreted in terms of it. Such a detachment or abandonment of traditional baptismal symbolism seems a rather radical step. The Three Steles of Seth continues to maintain some of the traditional terminology associated with the Sethian primeval history and baptismal rite, such as the names Geradamas, Emmacha Seth and Mirotheas / Mirotheos (as well as the traditional-sounding doxology in VII, 7: 126,1-16, echoed also in Allogenes, XI, 3: 53,32-55,11). Allogenes, on the other hand, carries over only such Sethian traditional nomenclature (the Invisible Spirit, Barbelo and Autogenes) as seems to be typical of those materials which I have classified as "Barbeloite." Although it directly quotes a segment of the negative theology found also near the beginning of the Apocryphon of John, it shows no interest in the details or characters of the "Sethite" sacred history derived from Genesis 1-6. In both of these texts, the specifically baptismal terminology, such as the "Five Seals," the "Living Water" and the like, are absent, while at least some baptismal terminology is maintained in Marsanes and Zostrianos. Instead, the process of enlightenment is now presented in a new conceptual framework derived from contemporary Platonic appropriation of the ascent to and vision of ultimate Beauty presented in Plato's Symposium 210A-212A, whose stages of conceptual abstraction leading to a vision of ultimate Beauty are interpreted in terms of an increasingly cognitively vacant intellection of ever higher levels of transcendent reality.
    The precise textual interrelationships within this group are difficult to determine. All four texts show no interest in the Sethite primeval history, but they continue to trade in the traditional nomenclature for the denizens of the divine world found in that part of the Apocryphon of John that overlaps the Barbeloite account of Irenaeus (Haer. I.29) and which is also found in the Trimorphic Protennoia and the Gospel of the Egyptians (the Invisible Spirit, Barbelo, the Autogenes Son, and the Four Lights; only Zostrianos tells the story of Sophia). Even more obviously, none of these texts shows any distinctive Christian influence. When it comes to the question of compositional priority within this text group, however, one might suggest either of two basic scenarios.
    On the one hand, the clearer, more systematic presentation of this contemplative praxis in Allogenes without the benefit of baptismal concepts and the relative precision of its use of Platonic philosophical terminology might be taken to bespeak its relative originality and priority within this group, followed next by the Three Steles of Seth. By contrast, Zostrianos would be a less precise version of the metaphysics and ascensional practice found in Allogenes, but represent a distinct effort to maintain continuity with the baptismal rite by interpreting the stages of ascent in Allogenes as baptismal sealings. Marsanes would continue this trend, but with attenuated interest in the baptismal rite, mentioning only some vague "washings" and completely reapplying the term "seal" to designate various ontological levels in the spiritual hierarchy. On this construction, Allogenes and the Three Steles of Seth would represent a straight-line development from a stage of the Barbeloite tradition prior to its fusion with the Sethite sacred history, perhaps even prior to its adoption of Christian motifs, in which there was either no interest in baptismal practice or else a decisive break with it. Zostrianos and, to a lesser degree, Marsanes, represent not only a continuation of the Barbeloite nomenclature, but also either a continuation of the baptismal tradition or a restorative reinterpretation of it, perhaps in reaction to its absence in Allogenes and the Three Steles of Seth, upon whose metaphysical doctrine they could be seen to depend. Again, if the portion of negative theology that Allogenes shares in word-for-word parallel with the Apocryphon of John derives from the Apocryphon of John and not a source from which the Apocryphon of John derived this negative theology, the author of Allogenes could also have had access to the Apocryphon of John's Sethite primeval history as well as its doctrine of the Five Seals, but chose to ignore it. The absence of such features in Allogenes tends to support the hypothesis that it  represents a radical break with the Sethian baptismal tradition.
    On the other hand, one might also argue for the chronological priority of Zostrianos within this text group, on the grounds that it not only evinces traditional Sethian baptismal concerns, but also contains a number of features not present in the other three treatises, and which are singled out for criticism and ridicule by Plotinus in his second Ennead: the story of the "fall" of Sophia; many instances of glossalalia; frequent lists of multiple divine beings whose names may have seemed to have magical import; and various technical terms denoting levels of reality in addition to those of the Invisible Spirit, Triple-Powered One, and the tripartite Barbelo-Aeon, such as the Antitypoi, the Paroikeseis, the Metanoiai and the Ge Aerodios. Since such features were criticized by Plotinus himself, and since the late and spurious character of Zostrianos was pointed out by Porphyry, and since Amelius composed a 40 volume refutation of the same work, one might surmise that Allogenes, which lacks these features, was composed as a refinement of Zostrianos which would be more acceptable to the circle of Plotinus by virtue of a clearer and more accurate and technical exposition of the ontology and visionary ascent basic to Zostrianos freed from its objectionable excesses.[40]         Indeed, Allogenes explicitly represents even the Luminaries of the Barbelo-Aeon as being ignorant about the existence of any spiritual powers other than the Invisible Spirit, his Triple-Power, and the tripartite Barbelo-Aeon; to seek beyond these is a "waste of time" (NHC XI, 67,22-35). Perhaps in like spirit, the author of Allogenes designated his work as the "seal" -- i.e. the summary and final instance of -- "all the books of Allogenes" (NHC XI, 69,17-19; cf. Epiphanius, Haer. 31.75; 31.82), perhaps a designation comprising these four treatises and others we do not possess. On this construction, Zostrianos would constitute either an early witness to a break with Christian Sethianism in favor of an alliance with religious Platonism along the lines of a Neopythagorean and Middle Platonic ontology similar to that found in the Chaldaean Oracles and in the early Neoplatonists, or a direct continuation of the Barbeloite baptismal theology along a trajectory that by-passed Christianity altogether. Marsanes, with its alphabet mysticism, would represent a continuation of this trend in an even more theurgical direction, while Allogenes and the Three Steles of Seth would represent a break with the baptismal theology in favor of developing and clarifying a praxis of contemplative ascent structured according to the traditional Barbeloite theogony, but free of the excesses of Zostrianos.
In contrast with my earlier views on the subject, I am now inclined to think in terms of the chronological priority of Zostrianos with respect to Allogenes. If Allogenes represents a refinement of Zostrianos, the problem of determining antecedents to the Platonizing metaphysics of these treatises is now shifted to a topological and source analysis of Zostrianos, which is rendered problematic by its fragmentary state. Its dependence on Sethian baptismal theology, especially of the sort found in the Gospel of the Egyptians, is clear, but the question of the philosophical sources is much more difficult, since key passages are either missing or seriously truncated by lacunae invariably located at crucial expository points. The most likely sources of its philosophical conceptuality are to be found in Numenius and in the Chaldaean Oracles, works which are unfortunately equally if not more fragmentary.
    Assuming that the foregoing textual comparisons are not to be explained by dependencies upon versions of texts to which we have no access, the obvious conclusion seems to be that these four texts represent a departure from a Christian Sethianism in which both the baptismal rite and the Sethite primeval history played a fundamental role. Such a departure would be most likely occasioned by a Christian rejection of the Sethian interpretation of the significance of Christ, namely that Christ is the pre-existent Son of Barbelo and the Invisible Spirit, and that Seth's appearance in the guise of Jesus is to be explained as the form in which Barbelo or Seth appeared on the third of three descents, namely as the Logos who confers the celestial baptismal rite of the Five Seals. In such a situation, these authors may have been forced to seek a less mythological and Christian interpretation of the transcendental theology of the Barbeloite tradition than that offered by baptismal conceptuality or by the Sethite speculation on Genesis 1-6 typical of such texts as the Apocryphon of John, the Trimorphic Protennoia, and the Gospel of the Egyptians. The most hospitable environment for such a venture would have been that wing of contemporary Neopythagorean Platonism represented by Philo of Alexandria, Numenius, the Chaldaean Oracles, and whoever else was committed to the Platonic philosophical articulation of biblical and other traditional wisdom.

Textual Interrelationships Extending beyond the Sethian Corpus

The earliest (before 175 C.E.) examples of a developed transcendental wisdom theology that might serve as a basis for the theology and cosmology of the Sethian treatises seem to be the curiously self-contained, rather hymnic account of the three descents of the divine Pronoia found at the end of the longer versions of the Apocryphon of John (NHC II, 30,12-31:25), the Barbeloite theogony of Irenaeus (Haer. I.29) and the non-Christian, non-Barbeloite and conceivably pre-Sethian theogony of Eugnostos the Blessed (NHC III, 3 and V, 1). It is noteworthy that these accounts, which display no interest in the Sethite primeval history, focus on transcendental personifications of the divine wisdom occupying various ontological levels, such as the figure of Barbelo and the numerous Sophia figures of Eugnostos the Blessed.
    Within these accounts, baptismal motifs occur only in the Pronoia hymn, in which the divine Pronoia confers the Five Seals on her third and final descent. The Pronoia hymn displays no Christian features except the possible allusion to Eph 5:14 (the awakening of sleepers) in a section of the hymn that seems like a later gloss (NHC II,1: 31,4-10). The Irenaeus account relates the origin and deployment of the primal triad of the Invisible Spirit, Barbelo, the Autogenes Son, and the Four Lights, in the lowest of which dwells Sophia; it is superficially Christianized by the identification of the Autogenes Son with Christ, whose only function is to inaugurate the possibility of the enlightenment and subsequent generation of all things; in addition the account concludes with a lengthy account of Sophia's generation of the creator Archon.
    The non-Sethian Eugnostos the Blessed has no such Christian features, but is subsequently Christianized by its incorporation into the Sophia of Jesus Christ (NHC III, 4 and BG 8502, 3), which adds the story of Sophia's role in the creation of the lower world, Yaldabaoth's stealing of her power, the production of the psychic Adam and his progeny from a drop of the pleromatic light, and introduces the figure of the risen Jesus as narrator of the entire theogony, cosmogony and anthropogony, and as the savior of those caught in the lower world. The lengthy cosmological and soteriological conclusion of the Sophia of Jesus Christ introduced by Mary's question (BG 8502, 3: 117,13-127,11) displays features which resemble materials in both the Hypostasis of the Archons and the Trimorphic Protennoia. In BG 117,13-121,13 the Sophia of Jesus Christ shares a number of motifs with the Hypostasis of the Archons, such as Sophia's desire to create without a consort, her emanation of a drop of light below the veil separating the higher and lower worlds, the alternate name Yaldabaoth of the arch-creator, the formation of Adam as a molded form endowed with soul insufflated from on high, yet inert and slumbering, and Adam's naming of the animals. On the other hand, the Sophia of Jesus Christ (BG 121,13-127,11) shares a number of features with the Trimorphic Protennoia, such as the savior's "loosening of the bonds" and "breaking the gates of the pitiless ones," the names "Invisible Spirit," "Archigenetor" (also in Eugnostos) and "Sons of Light," as well as the boasting of the creator and angels.
    These similarities between the Sophia of Jesus Christ and the Sethian treatises (Hyp. Arch. and Trim. Prot.), which do not seem to stem from the Sophia of Jesus Christ's dependence on Eugnostos the Blessed, seem to suggest that the Sophia of Jesus Christ was composed in an environment informed by these two Sethian treatises or their immediate sources. By contrast with the elaborate Sethian accounts containing these features, the Sophia of Jesus Christ's account is highly abbreviated, suggesting that the Sethian materials influenced the Sophia of Jesus Christ rather than vice versa. On the other hand, Eugnostos the Blessed, with its supreme pantheon and multiple Sophia figures shows very little similarity with the theogonical sections of the Sethian treatises, save perhaps the triad of Immortal Man = God, Son of Man = Adam and Son of the Son of Man = Savior (= Seth?).
    Another theogony and cosmogony is offered by the Apocryphon of John, which is almost a duplicate of that in the Irenaeus account, but continues with an extensive anthropogony that draws upon the Sethite primordial history from Genesis 2-6. The Apocryphon of John, with its extensive theogony, cosmogony and anthropogony, contains a single reference to the baptism of the Five Seals by virtue of its incorporation of the Pronoia hymn, which seems foreign to the rest of the text. This hymn, however, seems to form the underlying basis of the Trimorphic Protennoia, a document devoid of interest in the interpretation of Genesis 2-6, but which contains a brief version of the cosmogony (Christ's establishment of the four lights) found in Irenaeus, Haer. I.29 and the Apocryphon of John; it is heavily steeped in baptismal motifs. As in the Pronoia hymn of the Apocryphon of John, the Trimorphic Protennoia ascribes the origin of the baptism of the Five Seals to the third descent of Pronoia or Protennoia, but unlike the Apocryphon of John, it clearly presents baptism as involving some kind of celestial ascent.
    In Haer. I. 30, Irenaeus ascribes a gnostic mythology to anonymous "others" (alii) whom Theodoret (Haeret. fab. compend. I, 14) identifies as "Sethians whom some call Ophians or Ophites." Here one finds a triad of highest beings: The high deity (First) Man is Father of All. His Thought (ennoia) which proceeds from him is the Son of Man. Below these is the Holy Spirit, the Mother of the Living, from whom the First Man begets Christ, the "Third Male" (tertius masculus).[41] The Spirit emits Sophia-Prunicos, who by gravity descends to and agitates the waters below, taking on a material body. When she is empowered from above to escape this body and ascend to the height, it becomes the father of the Archon Yaldabaoth. The Archon produces seven sons named as in the Apocryphon of John and boasts that he alone is God, to which his mother responds that "Man and the Son of Man" are above him. Although this theogony and cosmogony is quite different than the Barbeloite account in the preceding chapter, it too is extant in Irenaeus' original Greek and covers the same mythical territory from the appearance of first principles to Sophia's generation of the Archon and his boasting. At the point where the original Greek gives way to the Latin text alone (Haer. 1.30.7), one finds an anthropogony and soteriology with many similarities to that found in the Apocryphon of John. It relates Yaldabaoth's making of the man and the woman, both of whom are specially enlightened by Sophia, followed by the stories of the tree of gnosis, the expulsion from paradise, the birth of Cain, Abel, Seth and Norea, and the flood. The final act is the incognito descent of Christ, the Third Male, through the seven heavens, who puts on his sister Sophia and rescues the crucified Jesus. Just as the Apocryphon of John portrays Barbelo as repeatedly initiating the salvific process, so too the Ophite system describes repeated salvific acts of Sophia: she provides the divine model for the protoplast and assures the enlightenment of Eve and the protection of her light-trace from conception through the Archon; she reveals the bitter significance of Adam and Eve's bodies and aids the conception of Seth and Norea as well as the birth of the wise Jesus. The final salvific act is the deliverance of Sophia and Jesus by Christ. Many of these motifs are at home in the Sethian treatises, but especially in the second half of the Apocryphon of John (BG 8502,2: 44,19ff, NHC II,1: 13,3ff; similarly in other versions), which is not paralleled by the Barbeloite system of Irenaeus (Haer. I. 29). Much of this material common to the Apocryphon of John and the Ophites is connected with the interpretation of Genesis 1-6, and one finds versions of this not only in the Apocryphon of John but also extensively in the Hypostasis of the Archons, and to a lesser extent in the Apocalypse of Adam and the Gospel of the Egyptians.

A Possible Compositional Sequence

A possible way of sorting out these interrelationships would be to attribute chronological primacy to those texts that seem to be sources of other texts in this group. Two obvious non- or pre-Christian candidates would be the theogony in Eugnostos the Blessed and the triple descent of the divine wisdom as reflected in the Pronoia hymn. One might add to this the Christianized Barbeloite theogony of Irenaeus, although it may derive from a source it shared in common with the various versions of the Apocryphon of John.
    The Pronoia hymn or its equivalent, focusing upon Pronoia's three descents culminating in the conferral of the Five Seals, was eventually incorporated into the Apocryphon of John and the Trimorphic Protennoia, which were subsequently Christianized; all these materials reflect varying degrees of concern with a baptismal rite in the course of which one experiences final enlightenment. Along a separate but parallel path, Eugnostos the Blessed, focusing upon a primal pentad of masculine divine beings and various manifestations of the divine wisdom associated with them, was incorporated into the (basically non-Sethian) Sophia of Jesus Christ. Along with other sources, it is conceivable that Eugnostos the Blessed may have formed part of the inspiration for the Apocryphon of John's negative theology (ultimately derived from Plato's Parmenides), its doctrine of the emergence of the second principle (Barbelo) from the supreme deity's (the Invisible Spirit's) self-reflection, and possibly its conception of the relations between Autogenes, Pigeradamas, and Seth (from the triad Immortal Man, Son of Man, and Son of the Son of Man). So too, one must postulate sources for the Sethite primeval history, such as the anthropogony and story of the flood in the Hypostasis of the Archons and the Apocryphon of John, amplified by the postdiluvian Sethite history offered by the first half of the Apocalypse of Adam.
    Proceeding to the level of texts which are dependent upon the first two (Eugnostos and the Pronoia hymn), the Trimorphic Protennoia builds upon the Pronoia hymn, and clearly develops its "sealing with Five Seals" in the direction of a celestial ascent. The conclusion of the Sophia of Jesus Christ elaborates upon the descent of the divine wisdom as a mistaken act of Sophia (as does the Irenaeus account), using motifs and phrases reminiscent of those found in the Hypostasis of the Archons and the Trimorphic Protennoia. The Apocryphon of John and, to a lesser extent, the Trimorphic Protennoia, develop the theme of the descent of the divine wisdom by distinguishing the salvific descents of Barbelo as a higher wisdom figure from the mistaken creative act of Sophia as a lower wisdom figure, which latter also leads naturally to a greater concern with cosmogony and anthropogony. In contrast to the Apocryphon of John, the Trimorphic Protennoia stresses the innocence of Sophia, a theme that reappears in the Gospel of the Egyptians. In the case of the Apocryphon of John, concern with anthropogony and soteriology seems to lead to the initial introduction into this text group of the Sethite primordial history derived from Genesis 2-6, much of which is also reflected in the Hypostasis of the Archons and Irenaeus' [Haer. I.30] Sethian-Ophite account.
    Perhaps at a tertiary stage of literary development, the theogony, baptismal rite, and the primordial history become elaborated in the Apocalypse of Adam and the Gospel of the Egyptians, while the theme of the primal triad is developed in a very different and strongly Platonic direction by Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos, and Marsanes, with almost no attention paid to the primal anthropogony and the Sethite primeval history. In the light of this, it seems that the wing of Sethianism behind the Platonizing texts was responsible for developing the ascensional praxis out of the original baptismal context it occupies in the Trimorphic Protennoia and the Gospel of the Egyptians. Most of the Christian traces in the other Sethian treatises were expunged by this move, as was the scheme of successive salvific descents of Barbelo marking out the epochs of the Sethian sacred history.
    The initial Sethian rapprochement with Christian ideas, ranging between positive in the case of the Apocryphon of John, the Hypostasis of the Archons, and Melchizedek, and more polemical in the case of the Trimorphic Protennoia and the Gospel of the Egyptians, and perhaps neutral in the Apocalypse of Adam, may have proved a liability. While current Christological concepts could clearly articulate the impending or recent eschatological advent of Seth in their own era, to adopt these meant also to reinterpret them in a Sethian way and thus challenge a more "orthodox" Christological interpretation. Although this preserved for a time their separate conscious identity as an elect body, in the long run it would have earned the hostility of the increasingly better organized institutional "orthodox" Church. Influential church fathers holding powerful positions in the Church singled out the Sethians along with many others for attack. This may have led certain Sethians to make common cause with the devotees of another prestigious religio-philosophical position, namely Platonism. While initially welcomed in pagan Platonic circles, their insistence on enumerating and praising their traditional divine beings with hymns, glossalalia, and other forms of ecstatic incantation irritated the more sober Platonists such as Plotinus, Porphyry and Amelius. Although the Platonists initially regarded the Sethians as friends, soon they too, like the heresiologists of the Church, began writing pointed and lengthy attacks upon them for distorting the teaching of Plato which they adapted to depict their own spiritual world and the path towards assimilation with it.
    In accord with this developmental scenario, one may suggest the following stemma of dependencies:
 
Apoc. Adam  Pronoia hymn  (Eugnostos
        | 
Iren. Haer I.30
Iren. Haer I.29          |             |
        | 
  Hyp. Arch
         | 
   Ap. John 
  <--|   
Trim. Prot
  <--    |
        | \           |             |
        | Gos. Egypt. (Soph. Jes. Chr.) 
   Norea       Melch.   / Zost.
Allogenes
Steles Seth 
Marsanes
This suggested stemma of the Sethian treatises would yield the sequence: the Apocalypse of Adam, the Hypostasis of the Archons, and the Thought of Norea, the Trimorphic Protennoia, the Apocryphon of John, the Gospel of the Egyptians, Melchizedek, Zostrianos, Allogenes, the Three Steles of Seth, and Marsanes.

[1] H.-M. Schenke, "Das sethianische System nach Nag-hammadi-Handschriften," Studia Coptica (ed. P. Nagel; Berliner Byzantinische Arbeiten 45; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1974), 165-173, hereafter cited as "Das sethianische System," and "The Phenomenon and Significance of Gnostic Sethianism," in The Rediscovery of Gnosticism: Proceedings of the International Conference on Gnosticism at Yale, March 28-31, 1978, (ed. B. Layton; Supplements to Numen 41; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1980-1981 [hereafter cited as Rediscovery]) 2.588-616, hereafter cited as "Gnostic Sethianism."
[2] "The Riddle of the Thunder (NHC VI, 2)," in C.W. Hedrick and R. Hodgson, eds., Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986, 37-54).
[3] In this connection, Stroumsa, Another Seed, 55 n.77, refers to 2 Enoch 18, where the size of the angelic "watchers" of Gen 6:1-4 who fathered the race of giants on mortal women is said to be "greater than that of giants." Cf. P.H. Poirier and M. Tardieu, "Catégories du temps dans les écrits gnostiques non valentiniens," Laval Théologique et Philosophique 37 (1981), 3-13. The fount of blood may refer to the heavenly Adamas or heavenly archetype of Adam, described in Orig. World (108,2-31) as the "enlightened bloody one" (based on the Hebrew pun on 'adam, "man," and dam, "blood"). In Gos. Egypt. III, 2: 56,22-59,9, Eleleth is probably the one responsible for the emission of the "blood drop" enshrining the image of the heavenly Adam. In this case, Hypsiphrone would be the Illuminator Eleleth, who in some Sethian texts is regarded as the abode of Sophia and certain "repentant souls" and in others (Trim. Prot., Gos. Egypt.) is held responsible for the act usually ascribed to Sophia: that of producing the demiurge Yaldabaoth. Eleleth/Hypsiphrone would also be responsible for the downward projection of Adamas, the image of God after whom the earthly Adam is modeled. In any case, Hypsiphrone is certainly a figure similar to that of the descending and restored Sophia. Phainops, "radiant-faced one," might then be a name for either the enlightened archetypal Adamas, or, since he seems to be distinguished from the "fount of blood," for the fiery angel Sabbaoth, the brother of the evil demiurge produced by the breath of Zoe, Pistis Sophia's daughter, in an effort to imprison the demiurge (Hyp Arch. 95,5-96,4).
[4] See my "Hypsiphrone," in The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. III, Edited by D.N. Freedman, New York: Doubleday, 1992, 352-353.
[5] Schenke, "Gnostic Sethianism," 596-7.
[6] In a paper at the 1993 SBL Annual meeting, "The Literary Contacts between the Writing without Title (CG II,5) and Eugnostos (III, 3 and V, 1).
[7] Is it merely a coincidence that in Codex VIII, the apparently non-Christian Zostrianos, which contains some cosmological material resembling that in Ap. John, is followed by the Christian Letter of Peter to Philip?.
[8] Charaxio (III,2: 68,13) might mean something like "mountain [Heb. har] of the worthy [Gk. axios, i.e. "those who are worthy," a frequent self-designation for persons to whom the Sethian texts are addressed], where Seth put the treatise, and upon which the sun cannot rise (i.e. in the southern hemisphere; cf. Virgil, Aeneid 1.243-251; Cicero, Luc. 123; Tusc. 1.68). A Charaxio is also mentioned by Ovid at Metam. 12.272 as a Lapith and at Heroides 15.117 as a brother of Sappho. For "worthy" as a formulaic self-designation of the Sethians, cf. Ap. John (NHC II,1: 4,29-30; 7,29-30; 25,19-26,7); Trim. Prot. (NHC XIII,1: 42,25-26; 44, 31-32); Gos. Egypt. (NHC III,2: 55,12-16; 65,26-66,8); Zost. (VIII,1: 4,16-17; 24,21-23); Allogenes (NHC XI,3: 52,22-25; 57,35-39; 68,16-20); Steles Seth (NHC VII,5: 118,20-22; 121,14-15); Marsanes (NHC X,1: 40,20-22).
[9] See H.-M. Schenke, "Gnostic Sethianism," 597-602.
[10] IV, 2: 59,13-29; III, 2: 49,22-50,17; 53,12-54,11; 55,16-56,3; 61,23-62,13.
[11] B. Layton, "The Riddle of the Thunder (NHC VI,2)," in C.W. Hedrick and R. Hodgson, eds., Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986, 47).
[12] Namely Barbelo, Doxomedon, the Light Oroiael (and probably Harmozel, Daveithe and Eleleth), the Man of Light Pigeradamas, and Mirocheirothetos (cf. Meirothea).
[13] H. Jonas, Gnosis und spätantiker Geist Vol. I (Göttingen, 1934, 251-4) and Vol. II, Part 1: Von der Mythologie zur mystischen Philosophie (Göttingen, 1954). Part 2, which was to treat Plotinus, did not appear, but the basic outlines of his approach to Plotinus may be seen in his essays: "The soul in Gnosticism and Plotinus," and "Myth and Mysticism: A Study of Objectification and Interiorization in Religious Thought," both in Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1974); "Plotin über Ewigkeit und Zeit: Interpretation von Enn. III 7," in Politische Ordnung und menschllche Existenz: Festgabe für E. Voeglin (Munich, 1962), pp. 295-319; "Plotins Tugendlehre: Analyse und Kritik," in Epimeleia: Die Sorge der Philosophie um den Menschen (Ed. F. Wiedemann (Munich, 1964), pp. 143-173; A.D. Nock, Early Gentile Christianity and its Hellenistic Background (New York, 1964); W. Theiler, "Gott und Seele in kaiserzeitlichen Denken." in Recherches sur la tradition platonicienne (Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique III; Geneva: 1955), pp. 66-80; reprinted in W. Theiler, Forschungen zum Neuplatonismus (Berlin, 1966), pp. 104-123.
[14] P. Boyancé, "Dieu cosmique et dualisme: Les archontes et Platon," in Le Origini dello Gnosticismo, Colloquio di Messina 13-18 Aprille 1966; Testi e discussioni publicati a cura di Ugo Bianchi (Supplements to Numen XII; Leiden, 1967), 340-86; R. Crahay, "Elements d'une mythopée gnostique dans le Grèce classique, in Le Origini dello Gnosticismo, pp. 323-38; H.J. Krämer, Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysik (Amsterdam: 1964, 2nd ed. 1967). Christoph Elsas, Neuplatonische und gnostische Weltablehnung in der Schule Plotins, (Berlin 1975), which seeks to build on the earlier work of Carl Schmidt (Plotins' Stellung zum Gnosticismus und Kirchlichen Christentums. [TU NF V,4]. Leipzig, 1901).
[15] Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysik, 259. Allogenes frequently stresses the necessarily non-active character of contemplative thought in its reversion to the primal source.
[16] G.W. MacRae, "The Jewish Background of the Gnostic Sophia Myth," Novum Testamentum 12 (1970), 86-101; B.A. Pearson, "Friedländer Revisited: Alexandrian Judaism and Gnostic Origins," Studia Philonica 2 (1973), 2331; "Jewish Haggadic Traditions in the Testimony of Truth from NH (IX.3)," in J. Bergmann, K. Drynjeff, and H. Ringgren, eds., Ex Orbe Religionum: Studia Geo Widengren oblata (Leiden: Brill, 1973), vol. 1, 457-70; "Biblical Exegesis in Gnostic Literature," in Michael Stone, ed., Armenian and Biblical Studies (Jerusalem, 1976), 70-80; "Gnostic Interpretation of the Old Testament in the Testimony of Truth," Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980), 311-19; "The Problem of 'Jewish Gnostic' Literature," in Hedrick and Hodgson, eds., Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986), 15-36; Alan F. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Leiden: Brill, 1977); Jarl E. Fossum, The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Intermediation and the Origin of Gnosticism (WUNT 36; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1985); see also his articles "Gen. 1,26 and 2,7 in Judaism, Samaritanism, and Gnosticism," Journal for the Study of Judaism 16 (1985), 202-39; "The Origin of the Gnostic Concept of the Demiurge," in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 61 (1985), 145-52; G.A.G. Stroumsa, Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology (NHS 24; Leiden: Brill, 1984).
[17] I.P. Culiano, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, (trans. H.S. Weiser, San Francisco: Harper, 1990), 123-5.
[18] Harold Bloom, Kabbalah and Criticism (New York: Continuum, 1983), esp. 62.
[19] These observations are made in E. Thomassen, "The Platonic and Gnostic 'Demiurge'," in Apocryphon Severini: Essays presented to Søren Giversen, Oslo: Aarhus University Press, 1993, 226-244.
[20] Ap. John (NHC II, 1: 4. 22-28 = BG8502, 2:26,15-27,11); Megale Apophasis (Hipp. Ref. VI 9, 18, 5-6). To my knowledge, the production of the second principle by self-reflection is found elsewhere only in Eugnostos (NHC III, 3: 75, 3-6 = V, 1: 4, 16-20) and Soph. Jes. Chr. (NHC III, 4: 99, 2-7 = BG8502, 3: 91,4-9), and perhaps in Plotinus, Enn. V.1.7.5-6 (Pôs oun noun gennai; He hoti têi epistrophêi pros auto heôra; hê de horasis autê nous), though this statement is uncharacteristic of him elsewhere.
[21] The Neopythagorean derivation of an Indefinite Dyad from the Monad (not in the Old Academy) and the interaction of these two principles to produce the triad as the first real number would then provide a metaphysical system of ontological derivation from the Father-Mother-Son triad. In this way the Monad becomes a Dyad by a process of self-doubling (diplasiasmos, episunthesis heautêi: Theon of Smyrna, Expositio 27,1-7; 100,9-12 Hiller; Nicomachus, Intro. Arith. 113,2-10 Hoche; Sextus Empiricus, Hyp. Pyrrh. 3.153; Adv. math. 10.261; Hippolytus, Ref. 4.43), or begetting <Iamblichus> Theol. arith. 3.17-4,7 de Falco) or by division (diachôrismos: <Iamblichus>, Theol. arith. 5,4-5; 8,20-9,7;13,9-11 de Falco) or by ektaisi or progression from potentiality as in a seed (epektaisi: Nicomachus apud <Iamblichus> Theol. arith. 3,1-8; 16,4-11 de Falco) or by receding from its nature (kata sterêsin autou chôrein: Moderatus, apud Simplicius, In Phys. 230,34-231, 27 Diels; recedente a natura sua singularitate et in duitatis habitum migrante: Numenius, frg. 52 des Places) or by flowing (rhuein, rhusis: Sextus Empiricus, Adv. math. 3.19; 3.28; 3.77; 7.99; 9.380; 9.381; 10.281; an idea perhaps first introduced by Archytas). Hippolytus shows that the Simonian Megale Apophasis, like the Valentinians, used the concept of emanation (probolê, proerchesthai) of a Dyad preexisting in the Monad (the Valentinians, Ref. 6.29.5-6; the Megale Apophasis, Ref. 6.18.4-7). The Allogenes group utilizes, besides the Existence, Vitality, Mentality progression, also the notion of self-extension (by self-extension in Marsanes X, 1: 32,5-33,2 and Allogenes XI, 3: 45,22-24) and by division in 3 Steles Seth VII, 5:121,25-123,14 (combined with ektaisi in Zost. VIII, 1:81,1-20 and with withdrawal in Marsanes X, 1: 9,1-21).
[22] This bifurcation is more thoroughly explored in my "The Gnostic Threefold Path to Enlightenment: The Ascent of Mind and the Descent of Wisdom," Novum Testamentum 22 (1980), 324-351.
[23] E.g., 1 Enoch 42, 2; Enoch 2-23; Test. Levi. 2-5; Asc. Is.; Apoc. Bar 6, 3 Bar 1; Vita Ad. et Ev. 25, Apoc. Sophonias apud Clem. Alex. Strom. V.11, Apoc. Abraham 15; Apoc. Moses 37; often in rabbinic Merkaba and Hekhaloth speculation; 2 Cor 12 and numerous Christian and Gnostic Apocalypses. See W. Bousset, Die Himmelreise der Seele (Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 4 [1901], reprint Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1960), 136-169, 229-273. C. Colpe has attempted to establish a phenomenological criterion for the gnostic version of the ascent of the soul ("Die Himmelreise der Seele," in Le Origini dello Gnostismo: Colloquio di Messina, 13-18 Aprile 1966; Testi e Discussioni. Ed. by U. Bianchi. [Supplements to Numen XII; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967, pp. 429-445). He points out that in Iranian and Jewish sources depicting the ecstatic ascent of the soul through the heavens, the soul of the visionary is never aboriginally consubstantial with the object of vision. When assimilation occurs, as in investiture with the cloak of glory (1 Enoch 62; 2 Enoch 22), it is conferred, not achieved by mental praxis. In Greek and Gnostic sources, the ascending soul is as a rule thought to be consubstantial with the object of vision according as these sources reflect the notion of the analogy between the microcosmos (= highest part of the visionary's soul) and the macrocosmos (the highest level of the cosmos). The Gnostic descent and ascent scheme is distinguished by the motif of the redeemed redeemer, according to which the upper macrocosmic soul becomes the redeemer of the lower microcosmic soul by awaking the latter from the sleep of incarnation so as to release it for its ascent to its origin. Allogenes, Zost. and Steles Seth are therefore not "Gnostic" in this sense, unlike Ap. John and Trim. Prot. which depict the descents of the First Thought (like the descent of Wisdom) as redemptive of its fallen (consubstantial!) portions (merê, melê). For Trim. Prot. and the Pronoia hymn of Ap. John the ascent of the redeemed soul is effected by means of the mystery initiation motif of the Five Seals. This rite is not portrayed as a self-performable ascent; instead, the soul must be raised up from its sleep by a succession of celestial helpers or psychopomps located at various levels of the ascent (cf. the divine awakening of the cosmic soul in Albinus/Alcinoos, Didask. 14.3); it cannot raise itself, as in Allogenes, Zost. and Steles Seth. It appears that the Jewish myth of wisdom forms the pre-gnostic prototype for the descent motif of Ap. John and Trim. Prot., while the Greek visionary literature provides the prototype for the ascent motif of Allogenes, Zost. and Steles Seth. The visionary ascents of Jewish apocalyptic, lacking the motif of the consubstantality of knower with known, seems to stand apart here, although it may indeed have contributed to the Gnostic descent motif through certain of its eschatological speculations.
[24] A closely related scheme occurs in the Gospel of the Egyptians (III, 63,4-64,9; IV, 74,17-75,24) where the revealer, this time Seth rather than Barbelo, is said to pass through three parousiai experienced by his seed, the incorruptible generation: the flood, the conflagration, and finally the judgment of the hostile powers by Seth in the form of Jesus. On the final descent, Seth will rescue his seed by the conferral of the baptism of the Five Seals. So also in the Apocalypse of Adam, there are three saving descents, but in each case the redeeming figures appear to be different: at the flood the seed of Seth is rescued by great angels (V, 69,1-25); at the conflagration, the seed of Seth is rescued by Abrasax, Samblo and Gamaliel (V, 75,9-76,7); thereafter "for the third time," at the advent of the days of death, the Illuminator will save their souls (V 76,8-77,3). However, the modalistic scheme is already making inroads in Apoc. Adam: although the successive descents are each ascribed to separate figures, the phrase "the third time" is clearly a device to cause the reader to see them all as manifestations of a single figure, the Illuminator.
[25]See G. W. Macrae, "The Jewish Background of the Sophia Myth," Novum Testamentum 12 (1970), 86-101; but Cf. H. Conzelmann, "Die Mutter der Weisheit," Zeit und Geshichte: Dankesgabe an Rudolf Bultmann zum 80. Geburtstag. Ed. E. Dinkler (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1964, pp. 225-234, who argues that the prototype of the hypostatized Sophia is Isis.
[26] I here adopt the analysis of E. O'Brien, The Essential Plotinus (New York: Mentor Books, 1964), 16-17.
[27] Plato's successors such as Xenocrates and Aristotle also maintained a threefold approach to philosophy, subdividing it into theology, mathematics and physics (Aristotle) or into physics (including the idea theory), ethics, and logic (Xenocrates). The latter became the standard division of subject matter in the Academy as well as within the Peripatetic and Stoic traditions. Even the Epicureans divided philosophy into physics, ethics, and epistemology (to kanonikon). Since Aristotle, the domain of theoretical philosophy was physics, at whose summit was "first philosophy," called theology or metaphysics, then mathematics, including astronomy, and then physics proper. On this division and its history in western thought, see P. Merlan, From Platonism to Neoplatonism (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1953), pp. 53-77. Cf. Aristotle, Met. 1026a 6-19; 1064b 1-3; Xenocrates apud Sext. Emp. Adv. Math. VII, 16,147 (= frgs. 1 and 5 Heinze). Commenting on this phenomenon, P. Hadot ("La métaphysique de Porphyre," pp. 127-129, citing Chalcidius, In Tim. 272; 335, and Proclus, In Tim. I, p. 202 Diehl) points out that Porphyry's systematic arrangement of Plotinus' Enneads conforms to this scheme (Enn. I = ethics; Enn. II, III = physics; Enn. IV, V, VI = epoptic, the objects of contemplation), as do certain Neoplatonic prescriptions for the order of the study of Plato's dialogues (Republic = ethics; Timaeus = physics; Parmenides = theology).
[28] E.g., the Chaldaean Oracles (frg. 1 des Places/Majercik), Numenius (frg. 2 des Places = frg. 11 Leemans), Valentinus (apud Hipp., Ref. 6.37.7), Albinus/Alcinoos, Didasc. 10.5-6; 28,1-3: the viae analogiae, negationis, additionis and eminentiae), Plutarch, de Is. et Os 382D-E; Theon. Smyr., Expos. p. 14,18 - 16,2; Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 1.28.176.1-3; 5.11.71), Origen (Contra Celsum 7.42; In cant. cant. p. 75,6 [Baehrens]) and especially Plotinus (Ennead VI,7.36). What is generally common to these visionary ascents is initial purification, usually through some form of instruction involving the use of analogies, negations, and successive abstraction until the contemplative mind has become absorbed in its single object (the One, the Good, the Beautiful, etc.) at which point one "suddenly" sees the ultimate source of all these; here philosophy and intellection give way to ecstasy.
[29] This is not at all to deny that instances of the vertical scale can be found in Jewish texts (e.g., in Philo or in the various levels of heavenly realms of apocalyptic texts) or that instances of the temporal scale can be found in Platonic texts (references to the four ages of Humankind, etc.).
[30] Cf. the sequence phônê, lexis, logos in Diog. Laert., Vitae 7.57.
[31] C.W. Hedrick, "The Apocalypse of Adam: A Literary and Source Analysis," Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers (1972), 581-590, and more fully, The Apocalypse of Adam: A Literary and Source Analysis (Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 46; Chico, CA: Scholar's Press, 1980).
[32] Hedrick detects two sources, A and B in Apoc. Adam. Source A contains a deathbed testament of Adam who relates to his son Seth the loss of his knowledge of God which he shared with Eve until they were split into two aeons, and were enslaved to the creator who brought the flood and conflagration. The couple's fleshly seed is preserved in the offspring of Noah, who together with his sons Ham, Japheth and Shem, are regarded as sinful Sethites who have disobeyed their heritage and have made a pact to serve the evil creator Sakla, since they, like the angels of Gen 6:1-4, have lustfully cohabited with mortal women, the offspring of Cain. Yet among the offspring of Noah, who form twelve kingdoms, there is a "righteous remnant" consisting of 400,000 of the sons of Ham and Japheth who defect from the Shemites (apparently the seed of Shem, the Jews are completely condemned) and join with the true, undefiled seed of Seth. While all the sons of Noah are saved from the flood by "holy angels," the 400,000 will be saved from the conflagration (of Sodom and Gomorrah) by Abrasax, Samblo and Gamaliel and will live forever in the aeons (probably of the Four Lights), but the rest of the offspring of Noah serve the creator and will surely die.
[33] See J.-M. Sevrin, Le dossier baptismal Sethien: Etudes sur la sacramentaire gnostique (Bibliothèque Copte de Nag Hammadi, Etudes 5; Quebec: Presses de l'Université Laval, 1986) and my "To See The Light: A Gnostic Appropriation Of Jewish Priestly Practice And Sapiental And Apocalyptic Visionary Lore," to appear in Prophecy in Early Judaism (ed. R.W. Berchman; Supplements to Studia Philonica; Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 1994).
[34] Cf. Porphyry, Vita Plot. 16: "There were in his town many Christians and others, and sectarians who had abandoned the old philosophy, men of the schools of Adelphios and Aculinos, who possessed many treatises of Alexander the Libyan and Philocomos and Demostratos and Lydos and produced revelations by Zoroaster and Zostrianos, and Nicotheos, and Allogenes and Messos, and other people of the kind ..." See C. Schmidt, Plotins Stellung zum Gnosticismus und kirchlichen Christentum (Texte und Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Literatur 20; Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1901); C. Elsas, Neuplatonische und gnostische Weltablehnung in der Schule Plotins (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1975), both without benefit of Allogenes, The Three Steles of Seth, Zostrianos and Marsanes. More recently, see J.H. Sieber, "An Introduction to the Tractate Zostrianos," Novum Testamentum 15 (1972), 233-40; idem, "Introduction" to Zostrianos (NHC VIII,1) in J.H. Sieber, ed., Nag Hammadi Codex VIII, (Nag Hammadi Studies 31; Leiden: Brill, 1991), 19-25; M. Tardieu, "Les trois stèles de Seth," Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Religieuses 57 (1973), 545-75; J.M. Robinson, "The Three Steles of Seth and the Gnostics of Plotinus," in Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Gnosticism, August 20-25, 1973. (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1977), 132-142; B. Pearson, "The Tractate Marsanes (NHC X) and the Platonic Tradition," pp. 373-84 and A.H. Armstrong, "Gnosis and Greek Philosophy," pp. 87-124 in Gnosis: Festschrift für Hans Jonas (ed. B. Aland; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1978), 373-384; idem, "Gnosticism as Platonism: With Special Reference to Marsanes," Harvard Theological Review (77:1 (1984), 55-73 [reprint in idem, Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity, (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 148-164; idem, "Introduction" to Marsanes (NHC X) in Nag Hammadi Codices IX and C, (Nag Hammadi Studies 15; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1981), 244-50; J.D. Turner, "The Gnostic Threefold Path to Enlightenment: The Ascent of Mind and the Descent of Wisdom," Novum Testamentum 22 (1980), 324-351; idem, "Sethian Gnosticism: A Literary History," in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (ed. C.W. Hedrick and R. Hodgson; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986), 55-86; idem, "Gnosticism and Platonism: The Platonizing Sethian Texts from Nag Hammadi in their Relation to Later Platonic Literature," in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism (ed. R.T. Wallis; Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992), 424-59; idem, "Text , Translation and Notes," and A. Wire, "Introduction," to Allogenes in Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII and XIII, (ed. C.W. Hedrick; Nag Hammadi Studies 28; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990).
[35]Porphyry certainly recognized Zostrianos as a spurious and recent work; Allogenes is also to be included among the various Sethian works under the name of Allogenes mentioned by Epiphanius around 375 CE (Haer. 39.5.1; 40.2.2).
[36] This is the Gross-Schrift recognized by R. Harder, "Ein neue Schrift Plotins," Hermes 71 (1936), 1-10, reprinted in Kleine Schriften (ed. W. Marg; Munich, 1960), 257-274. The unpublished paper of R.T. Wallis, "Plotinus and the Gnostics: The Nag Hammadi Texts" (23 pp.; summarized by me in "Gnosticism and Platonism: The Platonizing Sethian Texts from Nag Hammadi in their Relation to Later Platonic Literature," in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, ed. R.T. Wallis; Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992, 455-6) gives a thorough demonstration of the relation between Zostrianos and the Gnostics with whom Plotinus remonstrates.
[37] B.A. Pearson in Nag Hammadi Codices IX and X, 229-250.
[38] See R. Majercik, "The Being-Life-Mind Triad in Gnostocism and Neoplatonism," Classical Quarterly 42 (1992), 475-488. The techniques of paronymy (e.g., noein, nootês, nous) and mutual predominance and cyclical implication are used to show that at the level of the Invisible Spirit, the Being-Life-Mind triad is present 1) as pure activity (existing, living, thinking; einai or hyparchein, zên, noein); on the level of the Triple-Powered One, 2) is present as a triad of abstract qualities (existence, vitality, mentality; ousiotês or ontotês, zôotês, nootês), and 3) is present at the level of the Barbelo Aeon, as a triad of substantial realities (Being, Life, Mind; to on, zôê, nous). The Invisible Spirit exists, lives and knows: "Now he is something insofar as he exists, in that he either exists and will become, or {acts} <lives> or knows, although he {lives}<acts> without Mind or Life or Existence or Nonexistence incomprehensibly" (XI,3: 62,31-39). The Triple Powered One is cyclically Being, Vitality and Mentality by mutual implication and predominance of different modes at various phases of deployment: "He is Vitality (tmntônh = zôonês) and Mentality (tmnteime = nootês) and Being (pet[sinvcircumflex]oop = to on or perhaps ontotês). So then, Being (pê ete pai pe = to on) constantly possesses its Vitality (tmntônh = zôotês) and Mentality (noêtês for nootês); and {Life having} Vitality (tmntônh = zôotês) possesses {non-} Being (ousia for ousiotês?) and Mentality (tmnteime = nootês); Mentality (noêtês for nootês) possesses Life (pônh = zôê) and Being (pet[sinvcircumflex]oop = to on or perhaps ontotês). And the three are one, although individually they are three" (XI,3: 49,26-38). The Aeon of Barbelo is Being, Life and Mind: its Kalyptos-level contains the realm of pure being (ta ontôs onta); the aeon of Barbelo is called "an Eternal Life" (XI,3: 66,30-34), 2) and the "knowledge" or "first thought" of the Invisible Spirit (51, 8-32), containing the perfect Nous Protophanes.
[39] P. Hadot, Porphyre et Victorinus (Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes, 1968), 1.239-46, traces the concept of the complete interpenetration throughout a thing of all its components (homoiomery) in which certain features predominate at various times from Anaxagoras (apud Aristotle, Phys. 187b1-2) through the Stoics, Antiochus of Ascalon (apud Cicero, Tusc. V,22) Philo (Abr. 11.53) and Numenius to Porphyry, whom Iamblichus (apud Stobaeus, Anthol. I.49.32) states to have accepted it "with hesitation;" the most explicit instance is Victorinus, Adv. Arium IV.5. Cf. P. Hadot, "Être, Vie, Pensée chez Plotin et avant Plotin" in Les sources de Plotin (Entretiens sur l'Antiquité Classique V; Vandoeuvres-Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1960), 107-57.
[40] R. Majercik suggests a similar revision, in particular to conform with the "teachings of the great Porphyry," thereby gaining intellectual credibility in Roman intellectual circles.
[41] Her excess power descends further in the form of the androgynous Sophia Prunicos; from the chaotic waters below her, she takes on a material body which bears the ignorant demiurge Yaldabaoth, while she herself ascends to the eighth heaven. Thence she implores her mother Holy Spirit to send aid in the form of her brother Christ who descends upon Jesus, leaving him to die while he reascends with his sister Sophia to the imperishable aeon.