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NAG HAMMADI CODICES – MELCHIZEDEK; by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Chanelling Melchisedek

GNOSIS,
MELCHIZEDEK

NAG HAMMADI CODICES

MELCHIZEDEK (IX,1)

by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Introduced by

Birger A. Pearson

Translated by

Søren Giversen and Birger A. Pearson

This tractate is the only writing of the Nag Hammadi corpus that features, or even names, the mysterious “priest of God Most High” encountered by the patriarch Abraham, according to Genesis 14:18 (cf. Ps 110:4). Its title is partially preserved on one of the fragments making up page 1 of Codex IX. Unfortunately, this codex is in a rather bad state of preservation. Only 19 lines of text (out of approximately 745) from the tractate Melchizedek are completely preserved, and less than 50 percent of the total text is recoverable even by means of conjectural restoration. Thus, since there is no other extant copy of this tractate, only a very imperfect picture of its content is possible to attain, and what has been preserved is susceptible to more than one interpretation. The following account must be read with these caveats in mind.

In terms of literary genre, this tractate is an apocalypse, specifically an “apocalypse of Melchizedek.” It contains revelations putatively given by heavenly intermediaries to Melchizedek, who communicates the revelations to a privileged few. Readers are implicitly invited to see themselves as sharing in these special revelations, as members of these privileged few.

The tractate consists of three main parts:

  1. l,1(?)–14, 5: The tractate apparently opens with a brief vocative address by Melchizedek to Jesus Christ, but there quickly follows a third revelation addressed to Mechizedek by a heavenly informant whose name has been restored as “Gamaliel” (5, 18). An important feature of this revelation, addressed to the “priest of God Most High” (12, 10–11; cf. Gn 14:18), is a prophecy of the ministry, death, and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. It also contains a remarkable passage which predicts the coming of (docetic) heretics who will deny the physical reality of Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection (5, 1–11). Melchizedek himself plays a role in this revelation, for a future high-priestly office is prophesied for him (esp. 5, 11–17). A prophecy of the final triumph over death concludes this first revelation (14, 8–9).
  2. 14, 15–18, 11 (?): Melchizedek then arises with joy, and undertakes several ritual actions which may also provide for us some insights into the cultic life of the community for which the writing as a whole is intended: prayers of thanksgiving, baptism, reception of the priestly name, and a presentation of spiritual offerings. This liturgical section also includes a lengthy set of invocations, each beginning “Holy are you,” addressed to members of the heavenly world (16, 16–18, 7; cf. 5, 27–6, 10). What is of special interest here is that most of the names of these divine beings are names that appear in such gnostic texts as The Apocryphon of John and other tractates associated with Sethian Gnosticism. These names include Barbelo, Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithe, Eleleth, and others.

III. 18, 11(?)–27, 10: A second set of revelations transports Melchizedek into the future, again centering on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this time — if our reconstruction of the fragmentary text is correct — Melchizedek is given to understand that the spiritual triumph of Christ over his enemies will be that of Melchizedek himself!

Our tractate thus presents a number of challenging features of special interest to the historian of religions; it is indeed a mèlange of traditions of Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic stamp. Its presentation of the figure of Melchizedek is a case in point: he is not only the ancient “priest of God Most High” known to us from the Bible, but he also returns as an eschatological “high-priest” and “holy warrior.” Such Jewish apocalyptic material as the Melchizedek fragments from Qumran (11 QMelch) and 2 (Slavonic) Enoch shed considerable light on these features.

In this tractate, Melchizedek’s appearance in the endtime is tied to the career of Jesus Christ: his incarnation, death, and resurrection. In other words, Jesus Christ is Melchizedek! Such an idea can be understood as rooted in an interpretation of Hebrews 7:3. Moreover, the idea that Melchizedek is the “Son of God” (i.e., identical to Jesus Christ) gained currency in some early Christian circles, particularly in Egypt.

Can anything be determined about the religious community for which our tractate was composed? The fourth-century bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, St. Epiphamus, gives us an account of a Christian sect whose members referred to themselves as “Melchizedekians” (Haer. 55). A comparison of Epiphanius’ account with Melchizedek reveals enough features in common to suggest that the latter may have originated in a group of “Melchizedekians,” features such as the glorification of the priesthood of Melchizedek and a Christology that insisted on the true humanity of Christ. (The Melchizedekians were not Gnostics.)

But what of the gnostic features clearly discernible in the text? These include the divine names from gnostic mythology already mentioned, a fragment of a theogonic myth (9, 1–10), a gnostic interpretation of the paradise story (9, 28–10, 11), and a reference to the “children of Seth” (5, 20). One possible explanation of these features is that an earlier form of the text has undergone a process of gnostic editing: the latest redactor was a Gnostic who identified Melchizedek-Christ with the gnostic savior Seth and who interpolated into the text the various gnostic features that are now found in it. The final form of Melchizedek is thus a product of Sethian Gnosticism. Other explanations are, of course, possible.

The tractate Melchizedek was written originally in Greek, probably in Egypt. A third-century date is likely, though it could be earlier (or later).

MELCHIZEDEK

IX 1, 1–27, 10

Melchizedek |

Jesus Christ, the Son [of God | …] from […] 5 the aeons that. I [might tell] | all of the aeons, and in (the case of) | each one of the aeons [that I might tell | the] nature of the aeon, what | it is, and that I might put on | friendship and goodness | as a garment, O brother […] and […] 19 their end […]. | And he will [reveal | to them] the truth […] in […] 25 proverb(s) [… 2 at first] in parables | [and riddles …] proclaim 5 them. Death will [tremble] | and be angry, not only | he himself, but also his [fellow] | world-ruling archons [and] | the principalities and the authorities, the 10 female gods and the male gods | together with the archangels. And […] 16 all of them [… | the] world-rulers […] | all of them, and all the | […], and all the […]. 20

They will say [… concerning] | him, and concerning […] | and […] 25 they will […] | hidden [mysteries …] 3 3 | out of | […] the All. They will 5 […] this the [lawyers] | will [bury] him quickly. | [They will] call him, | “impious man, lawless | [(and) impure].” And [on] the 10 [third] day he [will rise | from the] dead [… 4 4 | holy disciples. And] | the Savior [will reveal] to them [the world] | that gives life to the [All.] |

[But] those in the heavens spoke [many] | words, together with | those on the earth [and those] 10 under the earth. […]. 5

[Which] will happen in his name. | [Furthermore], they will say of him that he is | unbegotten though he has been begotten, (that) he does | not eat even though he eats, (that) he does not drink 5 even though he drinks, (that) he is uncircumcised | though he has been circumcised, (that) he is unfleshly | though he has come in flesh, (that) he did not | come to suffering <though> he came to suffering, | (that) he did not rise from the dead 10 <though> he arose from [the] | dead.

[But] all the [tribes and] | all [the peoples] will speak [the truth], | who are receiving from [you] | yourself, O [Melchizedek], 15 Holy One, [High-Priest], | the perfect hope [and] | the [gifts of] life. [I am | Gamaliel] who was [sent] | to […] the congregation of [the 20 children] of Seth, who are above | [thousands of] thousands and [myriads] | of myriads [of the] aeons […] | essence of the [aeons | a] ba […] aiai ababa. O 25 divine […] of the [… | nature … | O Mother] of the aeons, [Barbelo, | O first-] born of the aeons, 6 splendid Doxomedon, Dom[…] | O glorious one, Jesus Christ, | O chief commanders of the luminaries, you [powers] | Armozel, Oroiael, Daveithe, 5 Eleleth, and you man-of-light, | immortal Aeon Pigeradamas, | and you good god of the | beneficent worlds, Mirocheirothetou, | through Jesus Christ, the Son 10 of God. This is the one whom I proclaim, | inasmuch as there has [visited | the One who] truly exists | [among those who] exist [… | do(es)] not [exist], Abel Baruch- 15 [that] you (sg.) [might be given] the knowledge [of the truth | …] that he is [from | the] race of the High-priest | [which is] above [thousands of thousands] and | [myriads] of myriads of the aeons. The 20 adverse [spirits are] | ignorant of him and (of) their (own) | destruction. Not only (that, but) I have come to | [reveal] to you [the] truth | [which is] within the [brethren.] He included 25 himself [in the] living | [offering] together with your [offspring.] He | [offered] them up as an [offering to | the] All. [For it is not] cattle | [that] you will offer up [for sin(s)] 7 of unbelief [and for] | the ignorances [and all the] wicked | [deeds] which they [will do …]. | And they do [not] reach | [the] Father of the All […] | the faith […] 27 to receive [baptism …] | waters […]. 8 For [the waters] which are above | […] that receive baptism | […]. But receive [that baptism | which is] with the water which […] 5 while he is coming [… 9 baptism] as they [… 28 ] pray for the [offspring of the] 9 archons and [all] the angels, together with | [the] seed <which> flowed [forth from | the Father] of the All [… | the] entire […] from [… 5 there were] engendered the [gods and the angels] | and the men […] | out of the [seed] | all of [the | natures], those in [the heavens and] | those upon the earth and [those] 10 under [the earth …] 25 nature of the females […] | among those that are in the […] | they were bound with […] [But this] is [not] (the) true Adam 10 [nor] (the) true Eve.

[For | when they ate] of the tree [of | knowledge] they trampled [the | Cherubim] and the Seraphim 5 [with the flaming sword]. They […] | which was Adam’s | [… the] world-rulers and | […] them out | […] after they had brought forth 10 […] offspring of the archons and | [their worldly things], these belonging to […] 25 light […]. | And the females and the [males,] | those who exist with [… | hidden] from every nature, [and they will | renounce] the archons [… 11 who] receive from him the […]. | For [they] are worthy of [… | immortal], and [great …] | and [great [… 5 and] great […] | sons of [men … | disciples … | image] and […] | from the [light 10 …] which is holy.

For […] from the | [beginning …] a seed […]. 12

But I will be silent | […] for we [are | the brethren who] came down from | [the living […]. They will […] 5 upon the […] 7 of Adam | [… Abel], Enoch, [Noah … 10 you], Melchizedek, [the Priest] | of God [Most High …] | those who […] | women […].

[…] 13 these two who have been chosen will | [at] no time nor | [in] any place will they be convicted, | whenever they have been begotten, 5 [by] their enemies, by their friends, | [nor by strangers nor their | [own] kin, (nor) by the [impious] | nor the pious | [All of] the adverse natures will 10 […] them, whether | [those that] are manifest, or those that | [are] not [manifest], together with those | [that dwell] in the heavens and those that are | [upon] the earth and those that tare under 15 the earth. They will make [war …] | every one. | For […] whether in the […] 21 many […]. 25 And these in the […] | every [one] will […]. | These will […] | with every blow […] 14 weaknesses. These will be | confined in others forms [and | will] be punished. [These] | the Savior will take them [away | and] they will overcome everything, [not with] | their mouths and words | but by means of the […] | which will be done for [them. He will] | destroy Death.

[These things] 10 which I was commanded | to reveal, these things | reveal [as I (have done)]. | But that which is hidden do not reveal | [to] anyone, unless [it is revealed] 15 to you (to do so).”

And [immediately | I] arose, [I, Melchizedek], | and I began to […] | God […] | that I should [rejoice …] 21 while he [is acting …] | living [… | I said], “I [… 26 and I] will not cease, from [now on | for ever], O Father of the [All, | because] you have had pity on me, and 15 [you have sent the] angel of light | […] from your [aeons | … to] reveal […] | when he came he 5 [caused] me [to be raised up] from ignorance | and (from) the fructification | of death to life. For | I have a name, | I am Melchizedek, the Priest 10 of [God] Most High; I | [know] that it is I who am truly | [the image of] the true High-Priest | [of] God Most High, and | […] the world. For it 15 is not [a] small [thing that] | God […] with […] | while he […]. | And [… the angels that | dwell upon the] earth […] 22 is the [sacrifice] of […] | whom Death deceived. | When he [died] he bound them 25 with the natures which are [leading them astray]. | Yet he offered up 16 offerings […] | cattle […] | I gave them to [Death | and the angels] and the […] 5 demons […] | living offering […] | I have offered up myself to you as an offering, together with those that are mine, to | you yourself, (O) Father of the All, and 10 those whom you love, who have come forth | from you who are holy (and) [living]. And <according to> | the [perfect] laws I shall pronounce | my name as I receive baptism [now] | (and) for ever, (as a name) among the living (and) 15 holy [names], and (now) in the [waters], Amen.

[Holy are you], | Holy are [you], Holy are you, O [Father | of the All], who truly exist […] | do(es) not exist, [Abel Baruch 20 …] for ever and ever, [Amen]. | Holy are [you, Holy are you], Holy are [you, | …] before [… | for every and] ever, | [Amen]. Holy are [you], Holy are [you, 25 Holy are you, Mother of the] aeon(s), | Barbelo, | for ever and ever, [Amen. | Holy are you], Holy are you, Holy are you, | [First]-born of the aeons, 30 Doxomedon. [… 17 for ever] and ever, Amen. | [Holy are you, Holy are you], Holy are you. [… 5 for ever and ever], Amen. | [Holy are you, Holy are you], Holy are you. […] 8 [first] aeon. | [Harmozel, for] ever and ever, 10 [Amen. Holy are you], Holy are you, | [Holy are you], commander, luminary | [of the aeons], Oriael, for | [ever and ever], Amen. Holy are you, | [Holy are you, Holy are you], commander 15 [of the aeons], man-of-light, | [Daveithe], for ever | [and ever, Amen]. Holy are you, | [Holy are you, Holy are you, commander-in-chief Eleleth, … 20 the] aeons [… for 25 ever and ever], Amen. | [Holy are you], Holy are [you], Holy are you, | good [god of] 18 the [beneficent] words, … | Mirocheirothetou, [for] | ever and ever, [Amen. | Holy are] you, [Holy are you, Holy are you], 5 Commander-in-chief [of the] | All, Jesus Christ, [for ever and ever], | Amen.

[…]. 9 Blessed […] | confession. [And …] | confess him […] | now […] | then it becomes […] | fear [and …] 15 fear and […] | disturb […] | surrounding [them …] | in the place [which has a] | great darkness [in it 20 and] many […] | appear […] | there [… appear …] 19 And | […] they were clothed with | […] all and […] 10 disturbances. They gave | […] their words | […] and they said to me, | [… Melchizedek, | Priest] of God [Most High … they] spoke as though [… | their] mouths […] | in the All […] 24 lead astray […] 20 with his […] | worship [and …] | faith [and …] | his prayers, And […] 6 those that [are his …] | first […]. 10 They did not care that [the | priesthood] which you perform, [which] | is from [… 14 in the] counsels of […] | Satan […] | the sacrifice | […] his doctrines […] 20 of this aeon [… 25 which] exists(s) [in …] | lead(s) [astray …] 21 and some […] 4 he gave them to [… 6 and] thirteen […] 22 throw [him … | in order that] you might [… 4 for] immediately [… | by means of … | on the ground]. The [… (p. 23 almost completely missing) 24 2 which is above …] 25 me. And | […] you (pl.) struck me, | […] you threw me, | […] corpse. And 5 [you crucified me] from the third hour | [of the Sabbath-eve] until | [the ninth hour]. And after | [these things I arose] from the | [dead …] came out of 10 […] into me. […] | my eyes [saw … 12 they did not] find anyone […] 26 greeted [me …]. | They said to me, “Be [strong, O Melchizedek], | great [High-priest] | of God [Most High, for the archons], | who [are] your [enemies], | made war; you have [prevailed over them, and] | they did not prevail over you, [and you] | endured, and [you] | destroyed your enemies […] 10 of their […] | will rest, in any […] | which is living (and) holy [… | those that] exalted themselves against him in […] | flesh.

[… 27 with] the offerings, working on that | which is good, fasting | with fasts.

These revelations | do not reveal to anyone 5 in the flesh, since they are incorporeal, | unless it is revealed to you (to do so).” |

When the brethren who belong to the | generations of life had said these things, they | were taken up to (the regions) above 10 all the heavens. Amen.

| Small strokes above the line indicate line divisions. Every fifth line a small number is inserted in place of a stroke; the frequency of these numbers, however, may vary in tractates which are quite fragmentary. A new page is indicated with a number in bold type. When the beginning of a new line or page coincides with the opening of a paragraph, the line divider or number is placed at the end of the previous paragraph.

[ Square brackets indicate a lacuna in the manuscript. When the text cannot be reconstructed, three dots are placed within the brackets, regardless of the size of the lacuna; a fourth dot, if appropriate, may function as a period. An exception to this rule is the occasional use of a different number of dots to estimate the extent of the missing portion of a proper noun. In a few instances the dots are used without brackets to indicate a series of Coptic letters which do not constitute a translatable sense unit. A bracket is not allowed to divide a word, except for a hyphenated word or a proper noun. Other words are placed entirely inside or outside the brackets, depending on the certainty of the Coptic word and the number of Coptic letters visible.

( Parentheses indicate material supplied by the editor or translator. Although this material may not directly reflect the text being translated, it provides useful information for the reader.

< Pointed brackets indicate a correction of a scribal omission or error. The translator has either inserted letters unintentionally omitted by the scribe, or replaced letters erroneously inserted with what the scribe presumably intended to write.

Robinson, James McConkey ; Smith, Richard ; Coptic Gnostic Library Project: The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 4th rev. ed. Leiden; New York : E.J. Brill, 1996, S. 438

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