Gospel of Basilides

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The Gospel of Basilides is the title given to a reputed text within the New Testament apocrypha, which is reported in the middle of the third century as then circulating amongst the followers of Basilides (Βασιλείδης), a leading theologian of Gnostic tendencies, who had taught in Alexandria in the second quarter of the second century. Basilides's teachings were condemned as heretical by Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130 – c.200),[1] and by Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 - c.236),[2] although they had been evaluated more positively by Clement of Alexandria (c.150 – c.215).[3] There is, however, no agreement amongst Irenaeus, Hippolytus or Clement as to Basilides's specific theological opinions;[4] while none of the three report a gospel in the name of Basilides.[5] The first direct reference to a Gospel of Basilides is therefore that found in Origen (c.185 – c.254), who reports;

The Church has four Gospels. Heretics have many. One of them is entitled ‘According to the Egyptians’, another is ‘According to the twelve apostles’. Basilides too dared to write a ‘Gospel according to Basilides' .[6][7]

Origen’s notice is the source for references to the Gospel of Basilides in Jerome,[8] Ambrose,[9] Philip of Side,[10] and the Venerable Bede.[11] But none of these authors report any quotations from the supposed gospel, nor are they able to give an indication as to its content or character.[12][13][14] Much more is known about Basilides major work in twenty-four books;[15] for which Clement of Alexandria records the title Exegetica (or 'Treatises')[16][17] and provides quotations from book twenty-three, while other quotations are preserved in the works of Hegemonius.[18][19] Eusebius of Caesarea reports Agrippa Castor (mid 2nd century) as describing the Exegetica as, twenty-four books on the Gospel,[20][21] and this notice has been interpreted as characterising the full Exegetica as an extended commentary, whose base text might be inferred as being the lost Gospel of Basilides. From this assumption and the surviving quotations from the Exegetica, a range of theories have been developed as to the nature of the Gospel of Basilides:[22] that it was a redaction of the Gospel of Luke; that it combined the Gospels of Luke and Matthew; that it was a ‘’diatessaron’’ or harmony of all four gospels; that it was an independent account of the life of Jesus; and even that it was an abstract treatise or homily on the religious significance of Jesus, with no specific relation to his teachings of the events of his earthly ministry, similar in this respect to the Gospel of Truth,[23] another Gnostic work.[24] Some scholars maintain that Origen’s notice of a Gospel of Basilides was referring to the Exegetica itself; and that the two titles are therefore to be identified.[25] Otherwise, the Gospel of Basilides could denote a second or third century Gnostic text (whether lost or surviving under another title) with no connection to Basilides himself, other than being preserved within the sect that bore his name.[26] Wilhelm Schneemelcher states that,

In short it must be said that all conjectures concerning the Gospel of Basilides remain uncertain.[27]

Account of the Crucifixion[edit]

Basilides is reported as having taught a docetic doctrine of Christ's passion. Although Irenaeus’s makes no mention of Basilides having written a gospel, he does record him as teaching that Christ in Jesus, as a wholly divine being, could not suffer bodily pain and did not die on the cross; but that the person crucified was, in fact, Simon of Cyrene.[28][29]

He appeared on earth as a man and performed miracles. Thus he himself did not suffer. Rather, a certain Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry his cross for him. It was he who was ignorantly and erroneously crucified, being transfigured by him, so that he might be thought to be Jesus. Moreover, Jesus assumed the form of Simon, and stood by laughing at them.[30][31]

Epiphanius of Salamis reports the same episode as being taught by Basilides,[32] although he may in this be relying solely on Irenaeus.[33] Accounts of the living Christ being seen laughing alongside, or above, the crucifixion are also found in two second/third century Gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi Library; the Apocalypse of Peter[34][35] and The Second Treatise of the Great Seth;[36][37] and in the latter text, Simon of Cyrene is also identified as being one of a succession of bodily substitutes for the spiritual Christ. Winrich Löhr infers that a common mid-second century gospel tradition (which he nevertheless doubts as originating with Basilides himself) must underlie both the Irenaeus notice and the two Nag Hammadi texts.[38]

Islamic tradition, interpreting the Qur’an at Chapter 4, Verse 157, would also maintain that another was substituted for Jesus, son of Mary, on the cross;[39] although without identifying the person substituted, and also without the key, Gnostic, element of Christ laughing at the successful divine stratagem.

Qur'an Sura 4 Verse 157:

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger — they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.[40]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cross F.L, Livingstone E.A. eds. (1997). article "Basilides". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019211655X.
  • Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck.. ISBN 9783161526367
  • Löhr, Winrich A. (1995). Basilides und seine Schule. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 9783161463006
  • Schneemelcher, Wilhelm (1991). New Testament Apocrypha; English translation by R. McL. Wilson. James Clarke. ISBN 0227679156.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Haer. 1.24.4
  2. ^ Ref. VII 20.1
  3. ^ Strom. Iv 12.81; Strom. III 1.1
  4. ^ Frank Leslie Cross, Elizabeth A. Livingstone (1997). "Basilides". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. p. 168. ISBN 019211655X. 
  5. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 87. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  6. ^ in Luc. Hom. I.2
  7. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 85. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  8. ^ Com. in Mat. prol
  9. ^ Exp. Ev. Luc. i.2
  10. ^ Hist. fr 4.4
  11. ^ In Luc. Ev. Exp. I prol
  12. ^ Schneemelcher, Wilhelm (1991). New Testament Apocrypha; English translation by R. McL. Wilson. James Clarke. p. 397. ISBN 0227679156. 
  13. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 85. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  14. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 94. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  15. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 82. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  16. ^ Strom. IV 12.81
  17. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 90. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  18. ^ Acta Archelai 67 5, 7-11
  19. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 84. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  20. ^ H.E. IV 7.7
  21. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 89. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  22. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 78. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  23. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 94. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  24. ^ Schneemelcher, William (1991). New Testament Apocrypha; English translation by R. McL. Wilson. James Clarke. p. 398. ISBN 0227679156. 
  25. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 78. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  26. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 94. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  27. ^ Schneemelcher, Wilhelm (1991). New Testament Apocrypha; English translation by R. McL. Wilson. James Clarke. p. 399. ISBN 0227679156. 
  28. ^ Frank Leslie Cross, Elizabeth A. Livingstone (1997). "Basilides". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. p. 168. ISBN 019211655X. 
  29. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2005). Lost Christianities. OUP. p. 188. ISBN 0195182499. 
  30. ^ Haer. 1.24.4
  31. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 80. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  32. ^ Pan. 24.3.2,4
  33. ^ Kelhoffer, James A. (2014). Conceptions of "Gospel" and Legitimacy in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 87. ISBN 9783161526367. 
  34. ^ Brashler, James A. (1984). Introduction to the Apocalypse of Peter in The Nag Hammadi Library in English; James M. Robinson ed. Brill. p. 339. ISBN 9004071857. 
  35. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2005). Lost Christianities. OUP. pp. 185–187. ISBN 0195182499. 
  36. ^ Gibbons, Joseph A. (1984). Introduction to the Second Treatise of the Great Seth; in The Nag Hammadi Library in English; James M. Robinson ed. Brill. p. 329. ISBN 9004071857. 
  37. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2005). Lost Christianities. OUP. pp. 187–188. ISBN 0195182499. 
  38. ^ Löhr, Winrich A. (1995). Basilides und seine Schule. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 255–273. ISBN 9783161463006. 
  39. ^ Sale, George (1877). The Koran, translated into English from the original Arabic. Frederick Warne. p. 51. note 6. to Sura 3 
  40. ^ Pickthall 2001, p. 86