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Nag Hammurabi Codices- The high minded- by Archbishop Rosary


Nag Hammurabi Codices-

The high minded-

by Archbishop Rosary


Introduced and translated by

John D. Turner

Hypsiphrone, which means “high-minded one” or perhaps “she of exalted thought,” is the fourth and last treatise of Codex XI of the Coptic library from Nag Hammadi. It presently consists of four large and two small fragments containing the lower portions of the inner and outer margins of two papyrus leaves, which must have originally contained the entirety of this short treatise. It is written in the same script as the much longer and better preserved treatise of that Codex, Allogenes, although there is no discernible further relationship beyond these two treatises. Hypsiphrone is written in an apparently standard Sahidic Coptic dialect, unlike the other treatises of Codex XI. It bears the superscript title “Hypsiph[rone],” the remainder of the title being restored from other occurrences within the treatise; since the conclusion of the treatise is not extant, it may or may not have borne a subscript title.

Apart from the poor condition of the treatise, even its cryptic title affords little insight into its content. The incipit “The book (or scroll) [concerning the things] that were seen [by] Hypsiphrone being [revealed in the place of [her] virginity” adds little more. Although there is mentioned a plurality of persons speaking with one another, the treatise does not appear to be a dialogue. Instead, the whole is presented as a speech of Hypsiphrone who reports the receipt of certain revelations during her descent from the “place of her virginity” into the world. The only figure mentioned by Hypsiphrone is one Phainops, “he of the gleaming eye,” who apparently presides over a fount of blood into which he breathes, and which seems to produce a fiery effect.

One may conjecture that Hypsiphrone represents some form of the personified thought of a high deity who leaves her dwelling in the transcendental realm, where there are no distinctions of gender, to descend to the earthly real at the time of the creation of humankind. There she encounters Phainops, probably in the act of creating humankind, who apparently produces “a [man in the likeness] of blood” from his fiery fount of blood.

In spite of the paucity of text, what remains seems to have some affinity with the group of gnostic texts generally designated as Sethian. To judge from the name Hypsiphrone, one may have to do here with the Sethian figure of Eleleth, called Phronesis in Hyp. Arch. (93, 8–97, 21), one of the traditional Sethian Four Illuminators, whose name might be derived from Aramaic ‛illith, “the tall one,” which could be rendered by Greek hypsiphrone.

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 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. Eg.) is held responsible for the act usually ascribed to Sophia: that of producing the demiurge Yaldabaoth. Eleleth/Hypsiphrone would also be responsible for the projection below 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). Thus, although it bears no trace of the traditional Sethian names for these figures, Hypsiphrone may in fact be very closely related to the other Sethian texts.


XI 69, 21–72, 33

Hypsiphrone |

The book [concerning the things] that were | seen [by] Hypsiphrone | being [revealed] in 25 the place of [her] virginity. | [And she listens] to | her brethren […] Phainops | and […] and | they speak [with one another] 30 in a [mystery].

Now I | [was first by individual] ranking […] 70 14 I came [forth 15 to the place] of my [virginity] | and I went down | to the [world. Then I] was told | [about] them (by) those who abide | in [the place] of my [virginity]. 20

And I went | down [to the world] and they said | to [me, “Again] Hypsiphrone | [has withdrawn] outside | the [place of her] virginity.” 25 Then the one [who] heard, | Phainops, [who breathes] into | [her fount of] blood, spread [out] | for her.

[And] he said, | [“I am Phainops …] 71 18 err […] 20 desire [… the number] | of just the [human] remnants | or that I may see a [man, the blood-likeness | or …] 25 of a [… fire] and a [… in] his | hands.

Then [as for me, I said | to] him, [“Phainops] has not [come] upon | me; he [has not] 30 gone astray. [… see] a | man […] him […] 72 18 For […] which he | said […] Phainops 20 this […].

I saw him | and [he said] to me, “Hypsiphrone, | [why do you dwell] outside me? | [Follow me] and I will | tell [you about them].” So I 25 followed [him], for [I] was | in [great] fear. And | he [told me] about a fount of [blood] | that is [revealed by] setting afire | […] he said […].

| 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.

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. 501


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