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NAG HAMMADI CODICES- The ARCHONS- by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

REVELATION 19; 11 - 21

The Rider on the White HORSE- THE HYPOSTASIS OF THE ARCHONS

NAG HAMMADI CODICES

THE HYPOSTASIS OF THE ARCHONS (II,4)

by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Introduced by

Roger A. Bullard

Translated by

Bentley Layton

The Hypostasis of the Archons (“Reality of the Rulers”) is an anonymous tractate presenting an esoteric interpretation of Genesis 1–6, partially in the form of a revelation discourse between an angel and a questioner. While the treatise illustrates a wide-ranging Hellenistic syncretism, the most evident components are Jewish, although in its present form The Hypostasis of the Archons shows clearly Christian features and thus can be considered a Christian work. Its theological perspective is a vigorous Gnosticism of perhaps Sethian affiliation.

It is generally assumed that The Hypostasis of the Archons, like all the other Nag Hammadi texts, is a translation from Greek. The possibility of a Coptic pun on the phrase “beside me” (Is 46:9) and “blind” (Hyp. Arch. 86, 30; 94, 22), as well as the description of animal-headed Rulers (87, 29) suggests that the provenance may have been Egypt.

The document is tentatively dated in the third century C.E. It is obviously no later than the fourth century, to which the Nag Hammadi collection is dated. But the well-developed gnostic treatment of the material in this document as well as the midrashic handling of scriptural material argue against an early date. Further, the philosophical orientation of 96, 11–14 has been identified as typical of third-century Neoplatonism.

The questions of date and provenance are complicated by the possibility that the work as it stands is a result of a Christian editor’s having combined a narrative source (interpreting parts of Genesis) with a revelation discourse concerned with soteriology and eschatology, and placing them both within a Christian framework.

The Hypostasis of the Archons is certainly the work of a gnostic teacher instructing an audience. While using previous material, he writes from a position of authority, even in the angelic revelation where a character in the discourse is ostensibly speaking. The audience is a Christian Gnostic community, aware of material of both testaments and accepting the authority of Paul. They are familiar with Jewish literary traditions, including apocalyptic. A traditional function of apocalyptic — providing reassurance for an insecure community — is operative here. The Hypostasis of the Archons is thus an esoteric work, written for a self-conscious community which probably felt pressure from a Christian community that defined itself as orthodox and others as heretical.

There is clearly some literary relationship between The Hypostasis of the Archons and On the Origin of the World, which follows this tractate in Codex II. Both seem to draw from common sources. The latter mentions a Book or Books of Norea (102, 11, 24–25), to which Epiphanius also refers. It has been suggested that The Hypostasis of the Archons is to be identified with that source, but without compelling evidence.

After a brief introduction quoting “the great apostle” Paul, The Hypostasis of the Archons offers its mythological narrative. The main characters in the mythological drama which unfolds include the blind ruler Samael, also called Sakla (“fool”) and Yaldabaoth, who blasphemes against the divine; the spiritual Woman, who rouses Adam and outwits the rapacious rulers; the Snake, the Instructor, who counsels the man and woman to eat of the fruit forbidden by the rulers; and Norea, the daughter of Eve, a virgin pure in character and exalted in knowledge. On page 93 of the tractate the focus changes somewhat: on center stage now is the great angel Eleleth, who reveals to Norea the origin and destiny of the archontic powers.

The Hypostasis of the Archons proclaims, as its title indicates, the reality of the archontic rulers: far from being merely fictitious, imaginary powers, the archons are all too real. These rulers indeed exist. This is a grim reality for the Christian Gnostics, who define their own spiritual nature in opposition to that of the ruling and enslaving authorities. Yet, as this document promises, the Christian Gnostics can have hope, for their spiritual nature will be more lasting than the archons, and their heavenly destiny will be more glorious. In the end the rulers will perish, and the Gnostics, the children of the light, will know the Father and praise him.

THE HYPOSTASIS OF THE ARCHONS

II 86, 20–97, 23

On account of the reality (hypostasis) of the authorities (eksousiai), (inspired) by the spirit | of the father of truth, the great | apostle — referring to the “authorities of the darkness” (Col 1:13) — told us | that “our contest is not against flesh and | [blood]; rather, the authorities of the universe 25 and the spirits of wickedness” (Ep 6:12). | [I have] sent (you) this because you (sg.) inquire about the reality | [of the] authorities.

Their chief is blind; | [because of his] power and his ignorance | [and his] arrogance he said, with his 30 [power], “It is I who am God; there is none | [apart from me].”

When he said this, he sinned against | [the entirety]. And this speech got up 87 to incorruptibility; then there was a voice that came | forth from incorruptibility, saying, | “You are mistaken, Samael” — which is, “god | of the blind.”

His thoughts became blind. And, having expelled 5 his power — that is, the blasphemy he had spoken — | he pursued it down to chaos and | the abyss, his mother, at the instigation of Pistis | Sophia (Faith Wisdom). And she established each of his offspring | in conformity with its power — after the pattern 10 of the realms that are above, for by starting from the | invisible world the visible world was invented.

As incorruptibility | looked down into the region of the waters, | her image appeared in the waters; | and the authorities of the darkness became enamored of her. 15 But they could not lay hold of that image, | which had appeared to them in the waters, | because of their weakness — since beings that merely possess a soul | cannot lay hold of those that possess a spirit — for | they were from below, while it was from 20 above.

This is the reason why “incorruptibility | looked down into the region (etc.)”: | so that, by the father’s will, she | might bring the entirety into union with the light. The rulers (archontes) laid | plans and said, “Come, 25 let us create a man that will be soil from | the earth.” They modelled their creature | as one wholly of the earth.

Now the rulers … | body … they have … female … is … | with the face of a beast. They had taken [some soil] 30 from the earth and modelled their [man], | after their body and [after the image] | of God that had appeared [to them] | in the waters.

They said, “[Come, let] us | lay hold of it by means of the form that we have modelled, [so that] 35 it may see its male counterpart […], 88 and we may seize it with the form that we have modelled” — not | understanding the force of God, because of | their powerlessness. And he breathed into | his face; and the man came to have a soul (and remained) 5 upon the ground many days. But they could not | make him arise because of their powerlessness. | Like storm winds they persisted (in blowing), that they might | try to capture that image, which had appeared | to them in the waters. And they did not know 10 the identity of its power.

Now all these (events) came | to pass by the will of the father of the entirety. Afterwards, | the spirit saw the soul-endowed man | upon the ground. And the spirit came forth from | the Adamantine Land; it descended and came to dwell within 15 him, and that man became a living soul. |

It called his name Adam since he | was found moving upon the ground. A voice | came forth from incorruptibility for the assistance of Adam; | and the rulers gathered together 20 all the animals of the earth and all the | birds of heaven and brought them in to Adam | to see what Adam would call them, | that he might give a name to each of the birds | and all the beasts.

They took Adam 25 [and] put him in the garden, that he might cultivate | [it] and keep watch over it. And the rulers issued a command | to him, saying, “From [every] tree | in the garden shall you (sg.) eat; | yet — [from] the tree of recognizing good 30 and evil do not eat, nor | [touch] it; for the day you (pl.) eat | [from] it, with death you (pl.) are going to die.”

They | […] this. They do not understand what | [they have said] to him; rather, by the father’s will, 89 they said this in such a way that he | might (in fact) eat, and that Adam might <not> regard them as would a man of an exclusively | material nature.

The rulers took counsel | with one another and said, “Come, let us cause 5 a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.” And he slept. | — Now the deep sleep that they | “caused to fall upon him, and he slept” is Ignorance. — They opened | his side like a living woman. | And they built up his side with some flesh 10 in place of her, and Adam came to be endowed | only with soul

And the spirit-endowed woman | came to him and spoke with him, saying, | “Arise, Adam.” And when he saw her, | he said, “It is you who have given me life; 15 you will be called ‘Mother of the living.’ | — For it is she who is my mother. It is she who is the physician, | and the woman, and she who has given birth.”

Then the | authorities came up to their Adam. | And when they saw his female counterpart speaking with him, 20 they became agitated with great agitation; | and they became enamored of her. They said to one another, | “Come, let us sow our seed | in her,” and they pursued her. And | she laughed at them for their witlessness 25 and their blindness; and in their clutches, she became a tree, | and left before them her shadowy reflection resembling herself; | and they defiled [it] | foully. — And they defiled the stamp of | her voice, so that 30 by the form they had modelled, together with [their] (own) image, they made themselves liable to condemnation. |

Then the female spiritual principle came [in] | the snake, the instructor; and it taught [them], | saying, “What did he [say to] | you (pl.)? Was it, ‘From every tree in the garden 35 shall you (sg.) eat; yet — from [the tree] 90 of recognizing evil and good | do not eat’?”

The carnal woman said, | “Not only did he say ‘Do not eat,’ but even | ‘Do not touch it; for the day you (pl.) eat from it, with death you (pl.) are going to die.’” |

And the snake, the instructor, said, “With death | you (pl.) shall not die; for it was out of jealousy | that he said this to you (pl.). Rather your (pl.) eyes | shall open and you (pl.) shall come to be like gods, recognizing 10 evil and good.” | And the female instructing principle was taken away from the snake, | and she left it behind merely a thing of the earth. |

And the carnal woman took from the tree | and ate; and she gave to her husband as well as herself; and 15 these beings that possessed only a soul, ate. And their imperfection | became apparent in their lack of acquaintance; and | they recognized that they were naked of the spiritual element, | and took fig leaves and bound them | upon their loins.

Then the chief ruler came; 20 and he said, “Adam! Where are you?” — for he did not | understand what had happened.

And Adam | said, “I heard your voice and was | afraid because I was naked; and I hid.” |

The ruler said, “Why did you (sg.) hide, unless it is 25 because you (sg.) have eaten from the tree | from which alone I commanded you (sg.) not to eat? | And you (sg.) have eaten!” |

Adam said, “The woman that you gave me, | [she gave] to me and I ate.” And the arrogant 30 ruler cursed the woman.

The woman | said, “It was the snake that led me astray and I ate.” | [They turned] to the snake and cursed its shadowy reflection, | […] powerless, not comprehending | [that] it was a form they themselves had modelled. From that day, 91 the snake came to be under the curse of the authorities; | until the all-powerful man was to come, | that curse fell upon the snake.

They turned | to their Adam and took him and expelled him from the garden 5 along with his wife; for they have no | blessing, since they too are | beneath the curse.

Moreover they threw mankind | into great distraction and into a life | of toil, so that their mankind might be 10 occupied by worldly affairs, and might not have the opportunity | of being devoted to the holy spirit.

Now afterwards, | she bore Cain, their son; and Cain | cultivated the land. Thereupon he knew his | wife; again becoming pregnant, she bore Abel; and Abel 15 was a herdsman of sheep. Now Cain brought | in from the crops of his field, but | Abel brought in an offering (from) among | his lambs. God looked upon the | votive offerings of Abel; but he did not accept the votive offerings 20 of Cain. And carnal Cain | pursued Abel his brother.

And God | said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” |

He answered, saying, “Am I, then, | my brother’s keeper?”

God said to 25 Cain, “Listen! The voice of your brother’s blood | is crying up to me! You have sinned with | your mouth. It will return to you: anyone who | kills Cain will let loose seven | vengeances, and you will exist groaning and 30 trembling upon the earth.”

And Adam [knew] | his female counterpart Eve, and she became pregnant, and bore [Seth] | to Adam. And she said, “I have borne [another] | man through God, in place [of Abel].” |

Again Eve became pregnant, and she bore [Norea]. 35 And she said, “He has begotten on [me a] virgin 92 as an assistance [for] many generations | of mankind.” She is the virgin whom the | forces did not defile.

Then mankind began | to multiply and improve.

The rulers took counsel 5 with one another and said, “Come, let | us cause a deluge with our | hands and obliterate all flesh, from man | to beast.”

But when the ruler of the forces | came to know of their decision, he said to Noah, l0 “Make yourself an ark from some wood | that does not rot and hide in it — you | and your children and the beasts and | the birds of heaven from small to large — and set it | upon Mount Sir.”

Then Orea came 15 to him wanting to board the ark. | And when he would not let her, she blew upon the | ark and caused it to be consumed by fire. Again he | made the ark, for a second time.

The rulers went to meet her | intending to lead her astray. 20 Their supreme chief said to her, “Your mother | Eve came to us.”

But Norea turned to | them and said to them, “It is you who are the rulers of | the darkness; you are accursed. And you did not know | my mother; instead it was your female 25 counterpart that you knew. For I am not your descendant; | rather it is from the world above that I am come.” | .

The arrogant ruler turned, with all his might, | [and] his countenance came to be like (a) black | […]; he said to her presumptuously, 30 “You must render service to us, | [as did] also your mother Eve; for I have been given (?) | […].”

But Norea turned, with the might of […]; and in a loud voice [she] cried out | [up to] the holy one, the God of the entirety, 93 “Rescue me from the rulers of unrighteousness | and save me from their clutches — forthwith!”

The <great> angel | came down from the heavens | and said to her, “Why are you crying up 5 to God? Why do you act so boldly towards the | holy spirit?”

Norea said, “Who are you?” |

The rulers of unrighteousness had withdrawn from | her. He said, “It is I who am Eleleth, | sagacity, the great angel, who stands 10 in the presence of the holy spirit. | I have been sent to speak with you and | save you from the grasp of the lawless. And I | shall teach you about your root.”

— Now as for that angel, | I cannot speak of his power: his appearance is like 15 fine gold and his raiment is like snow. | No, truly, my mouth cannot bear | to speak of his power and the appearance of his face! |

Eleleth, the great angel, spoke to me. | “It is I,” he said, “who am understanding. 20 I am one of the four light-givers, | who stand in the presence of the great | invisible spirit. Do you think | these rulers have any power over you (sg.)? None | of them can prevail against the root 25 of truth; for on its account he appeared | in the final ages; and | these authorities will be restrained. And these authorities | cannot defile you and that generation; | for your (pl.) abode is in incorruptibility, 30 where the virgin spirit dwells, | who is superior to the authorities of chaos | and to their universe.”

But I said, | Sir, teach me about the [faculty of] | these authorities — [how] did they come into being, 35 and by what kind of genesis, [and] of 94 what material, and who | created them and their force?”

And the | great angel Eleleth, understanding, spoke to me: | “Within limitless realms 5 dwells incorruptibility. Sophia, | who is called Pistis, wanted to | create something, alone without her consort; and | her product was a celestial thing. |

“A veil exists between the world above 10 and the realms that are below; and | shadow came into being beneath the veil; | and that shadow became matter; | and that shadow was projected | apart. And what she had created became 15 a product in the matter, like an aborted fetus. | And it assumed a plastic form molded out of shadow, and became an arrogant beast resembling a lion.” | It was androgynous, as I have already said, | because it was from matter that it derived.

“Opening his 20 eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit; | and he became arrogant, saying, ‘It is I who am God, and there | is none other apart from me.’

“When he said | this, he sinned against the entirety. | And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, 25 saying, ‘You are mistaken, Samael’ — | which is, ‘god of the blind.’

“And he | said, ‘If any other thing exists before | me, let it become visible to me!’ And | immediately Sophia stretched forth her finger 30 and introduced light into | matter; and she pursued it down | to the region of chaos. And she returned | up [to] her light; once again darkness | […] matter.

“This ruler, by being androgynous, 35 made himself a vast realm, 95 an extent without limit. And he contemplated | creating offspring for himself, and created | for himself seven offspring, androgynous just like | their parent.

“And he said to his offspring, 5 ‘It is I who am the god of the entirety.’

“And Zoe (Life), | the daughter of Pistis Sophia, cried | out and said to him, ‘You are mistaken, Sakla!’ — | for which the alternate name is Yaltabaoth. She | breathed into his face, and her breath became 10 a fiery angel for her; and | that angel bound Yaldabaoth | and cast him down into Tartaros | below the abyss.

“Now when his offspring | Sabaoth saw the force of that angel, 15 he repented and | condemned his father and his | mother matter.

“He loathed her, but he | sang songs of praise up to Sophia and her daughter Zoe. | And Sophia and Zoe caught him up 20 and gave him charge of the seventh heaven, | below the veil between | above and below. And he is | called ‘God of the forces, Sabaoth,” | since he is up above the forces 25 of chaos, for Sophia established | him.

“Now when these (events) had come to pass, he made | himself a huge four-faced chariot of cherubim, | and infinitely many angels | to act as ministers, 30 and also harps and | lyres.

“And Sophia took her daughter | Zoe and had her sit upon his right to teach him about the things that exist | in the eighth (heaven); and the angel [of] wrath 35 she placed upon his left. [Since] that day, [his right] has been called 96 life; and the left has come to represent | the unrighteousness of the realm of absolute power | above. It was before your (sg.) time that they came into being (text corrupt?).

“Now when | Yaldabaoth saw him in this 5 great splendor and at this height, he envied him; | and the envy became an androgynous product. | and this was the origin of | envy. And envy engendered death; and death | engendered his offspring and gave each 10 of them charge of its heaven; and all the heavens | of chaos became full of their multitudes.

“But it was | by the will of the father of the entirety that they all came into being — | after the pattern of all the things above — | so that the sum of chaos might be attained. 15

“There, I have taught you (sg.) about the pattern | of the rulers; and the matter in which it was expressed; | and their parent; and their universe.” But I | said, “Sir, am I also | from their matter?”

— “You, together with your offspring, are from 20 the primeval father; | from above, out of the imperishable light, | their souls are come. Thus the authorities | cannot approach them because of | the spirit of truth present within them; 25 and all who have become acquainted with this way | exist deathless in the midst | of dying mankind. Still that sown element (sperma) | will not become known now.

“Instead, | after three generations it will come to be known, 30 and has freed them from the bondage of the | authorities’ error.”

Then I said, | “Sir, how much longer?”

He said | to me, “Until the moment when the true man, | within a modelled form, reveals the existence of (?) 35 [the spirit of] truth, which the father has sent. 97

“Then he will teach them about | everything: And he will anoint them with the | unction of life eternal, | given him from the undominated generation. 5

“Then they will be freed of | blind thought: And they will trample under foot | death, which is of the authorities: And they will ascend | into the limitless light, | where this sown element belongs. 10

“Then the authorities will relinquish their | ages: And their angels will weep | over their destruction: And their demons | will lament their death.

“Then all the children | of the light will be truly acquainted with the truth 15 and their root, and the father | of the entirety and the holy spirit: They will all say | with a single voice, | ‘The father’s truth is just, and the son | presides over the entirety’: And from everyone 20 unto the ages of ages, ‘Holy — holy — holy! Amen!’” |

The Reality |

Of the Rulers

( 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.

| 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.

< 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. 161

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