The Sophia of Jesus Christ

A pair of documents discovered among the Nag Hammadi treasures contained such similarities that one appeared to be based upon the other. Scholars assert that the Eugnostos the Blessed tractate was directed at one audience and the Sophia of Jesus Christ was aimed at a different group, possibly non-Christian Gnostics who were already familiar with Eugnostos but for whom Christianity was something new. In the Nag Hammadi Library, side-by-side texts show how the non-Christian document (Eugnostos) could be transformed into the Gnostic Christian text of the Sophia of Jesus Christ. Some words are taken verbatim from Eugnostos into the other text and placed upon Jesus' lips. This raises the question of whether writers in antiquity borrowed from other texts to attribute sayings and words of explanation to Jesus in the works they were creating.

The process of drawing upon one document to modify or create another was possibly used on other Gnostic texts, such as the Apocryphon of John and the Gospel of the Egyptians, according to Douglas M. Parrot's introduction to the Sophia of Jesus Christ in the Nag Hammadi Library. Scholars have referred to Eugnostos the Blessed and the Sophia of Jesus Christ (also called the Wisdom of Jesus Christ) as a revelation discourse in which the risen Christ answers his disciples' questions. Two different versions of both the Sophia of Jesus Christ and Eugnostos the Blessed were discovered at Nag Hammadi. The dating of the Sophia of Jesus Christ seems to be near the end of the first century. Eugnostos may have been composed during Jesus' lifetime or thereafter.

Eugnostos the Blessed opens as a letter with a formal greeting and goes on to proclaim that even the wisest philosophers have not understood the truth about the “ordering” of the world and that they have spoken three opinions, not agreeing. The Sophia of Jesus Christ opens after Jesus has risen and his twelve disciples and some women go up on a mountain called Divination and Joy. There the Savior appears and tells them that their speculation about the world order has not reached the truth, nor has it been reached by the three ways the philosophers (who don't agree) have put forth. Right away, it is easy to see the close association of the two texts.

The similarity continues with the way both texts describe the Supreme Being as “ineffable.” Jesus says the word in response, however, to a question from Matthew. And so the two texts move along, with the Eugnostos the Blessed revealing how the universe emerged out of the “ineffable” Father. A series of Aeons (male and female) emanated from him. They, in turn, along with their assorted attendants, fill various heavenly realms. Eventually humans emerge. Their realm is called the realm of Immortal Man. In the Sophia of Jesus Christ, much of the same information unfolds in Jesus' answers to his disciples' questions.

The Syrian and Egyptian schools of Gnosticism often featured in their doctrines an unknowable Supreme Being who emanated lesser beings called Aeons in pairs (male and female). These Aeons came forth in sequential order with the lowest of them being the Christ and Sophia pair. All together, they were seen as symbolizing the abstract nature of the Divine.

The Father of the Universe, according to Eugnostos the Blessed, is more correctly referred to not as Father but as Forefather. The text discusses how that which comes from the imperishable will never perish but that which emerges from the perishable will die. These sections of the two texts are almost identical. Both texts conclude with the revelation that the Son of Man and his consort Sophia together show forth a light that is both great and androgynous — this light is the Savior. His masculine name is Savior, Begetter of All Things; his feminine name is Sophia, All Begetress.

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