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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

NAG HAMMADI CODICES- PLATO, REPUBLIC 588A–589B, by Archbishop Uwe Ae.Rosenkranz

stairway to heaven



by Archbishop Uwe Ae.Rosenkranz

Introduced by

Howard M. Jackson

Translated b

James Brashler

Edited by

Douglas M. Parrott

Tractate VI, 5 is a Coptic version of part (588A-589B, not, as formerly, 588B) of Socrates’ parable in the ninth book of Plato’s Republic, in which the human soul is likened to a trichotomous hybrid of different forces: a hybrid composed of a many-headed beast, representing the baser passions; a lion, representing the nobler passion courage; and man, representing the outermost element, reason. The fact of the excerption of the parable as an independent unit, perhaps originally in some philosophical anthology, is made understandable by its great popularity among late antique authors, especially Neoplatonists, who frequently cite or allude to it. What has proved more difficult to account for is the extent to which the Coptic version deviates from the Greek original. So much does it deviate from what Plato wrote that the tractate’s first editors (1971) did not recognize it for what it is. The deviation has been accounted for in two ways. In the first, it is viewed as the product of inept translation (so Schenke, who first recognized the tractate’s Platonic identity in 1974, and Brashler). In the second, it is viewed as the product of gnosticizing redaction of the Greek original, a redacted version which was then translated into Coptic (so Orlandi). These explanations are obviously not mutually exclusive, and the truth may therefore be a mixture of both (so Jackson and Painchaud). An additional element is doubtless also the incapability of the Coptic language to render the complexities and niceties of Plato’s style. The question who the gnosticizing redactor may have been is not readily answerable, since many late antique groups with world-denying and ascetic inclinations revered Plato and shared technical terminology. It may have been Hermetists, especially as Hermetic tractates (VI, 6, 7, 8) follow our tractate, in which case VI, 5–8 would have come to the Coptic translator as a group. But gnostic tractates precede VI, 5, and the repeated allusion, for example, to “images” and the references in 50, 24–33 to the weakness of man (or the [primal] Man) with regard to the images of the evil beast and the lion and his initial fall into their clutches, together with the directive to him to cast down and trample the images, suggests a specifically gnostic setting, perhaps even more explicitly a Manichaean one.


VI 48, 16–51, 23

“Since we have come | to this point in a discussion, let us again take up | the first things that were said | to us. And we will find 20 that he says, ‘Good is | he who has been done injustice completely. | He is glorified justly.’ | Is not this how he was | reproached?”

“This is certainly the 25 fitting way!”

And I said, | “Now then, we have spoken because | he said that he who does injustice | and he who does justice | each has 30 a force.”

“How then?” |

“He said, ‘An image that has no | likeness is the rationality of the soul,’ | so that he who said these things will 49 understand. He […] 3 or not? We […] | is for me. But all […] 5 who told them […] | ruler, these now have become natural creatures – even | Chimaera and Cerberus | and all the rest that 10 were mentioned. They all | came down and they cast | off forms and | images. And they all became | a single image. It was 15 said, ‘Work now!’ | Certainly it is a | single image that became | the image of a complex beast | with many heads. 20 Some days indeed it is like | the image of a wild beast. | Then it is able to cast | off the first image. And | all these hard 25 and difficult forms | emanate from it with | effort, since these are | formed now | with arrogance. And also 30 all the rest that are | like them are formed | now through the word. For now | it is a single image. | For the image of the lion is one thing 35 and the image of the man is another. 50 […] single […] is the […] of | […] join. And this | […] much more complex | [than the first]. And the second 5 [is small].”

“It has been formed.” |

“Now then, join them to | each other and make them a single | one – for they are three – so | that they grow together 10 and all are in a | single image outside of the image | of the man just like him | who is unable to see | the things inside him. But what 15 is outside only is what he sees. | And it is apparent | what creature his image is in and | that he was formed | in a human image.

“And I spoke 20 to him who said that there is profit | in the doing of injustice for the man. | He who does injustice truly | does not profit nor | does he benefit. But 25 what is profitable for him is this: that he | cast down every image of the | evil beast and trample | them along with the images of the lion. | But the man is in weakness 30 in this regard. And all the things that he | does a e weak. | As a result he is drawn to | the place where he spends time with them. 51 […]. And he […] 3 to him in […]. | But he brings about […] 5 enmity […]. | And with strife they | devour each other among | themselves. Yes, all these things | he said to everyone who 10 praises the doing of injustice.” |

“Then is it not | profitable for him who speaks | justly?”

“And if he | does these things and speaks in them, 15 within the man they | take hold firmly. | Therefore especially he strives | to take care of them and he nourishes | them just like the 20 farmer nourishes his | produce daily. And | the wild beasts | keep it from growing.”

| 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.

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. 318


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