Allogenes

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Allogenes is a repertoire, or genre, of mystical Gnostic texts dating from the first half of the Third Century, CE. They concern Allogenes, "the Stranger" (or "foreigner"),[1] a half-human, half-divine capable of communicating with realms beyond the sense-perceptible world, into the unknowable.

Sources and Dating[edit]

The Coptic text of Allogenes (Allog), the first Allogenes source to be discovered in modern times, is the third item in Codex XI of the Nag Hammadi library (NHC XI,3), held on leaves 45-69.[2] The tops of many leaves are missing, as is the entire opening to the work.

The Temptation of Allogenes (Allogenes T), also in Coptic, is the fourth item in the Codex Tchacos, discovered in the 1970s but not made public until 2006. As this source also contains the text for the controversial Gospel of Judas, far more attention has been accorded to that work than to The Tempatation of Allogenes, which remains in a fragmentary condition. As one of the antiques dealers who handled Codex Tchacos disseminated parts of the manuscript for individual sale, not all of the pages relating to The Tempatation of Allogenes have been located, edited or published.[3] An uncredited translation of part of the text from 2006 mixes up lines from The Gospel of Judas with passages from The Tempatation of Allogenes.

Radiocarbon dating establishes Codex Tchacos as physically earlier of the two sources, dating to 280 CE plus or minus sixty years.[4] Nag Hammadi Codex IX, along with the rest of the library, dates from 348 CE plus or minus sixty years.

Historic references to Allogenes[edit]

Writing between 374 and 375 CE in the "Against Sethians" section of his Panarion, also known as Against Heresies (39.5.1), Epiphanius of Salamis states that "[The Sethians] compose books in the names of great men, and say that seven books are in Seth's name, but give other, different books the name 'Stranger.'" Epiphanius comments that the Sethians "forged certain books in the name of Seth himself, and say they are given by him -- others in the name of him and his seven sons. For they say he had seven sons, called 'Strangers'". In 40.2.2 Epiphanius also mentions that the Archontics "have forged their own apocrypha (...) and by now they also have the ones called the 'Strangers.'"[5][6]

No other Christian heresiologist of the ancient world mentions Allogenes, and based on this, Antoinette Clark Wire suggests that these works did not exist before 200 CE.[7] However, more than a century before Epiphanius, the Allogenes books were likewise condemned by Neo-Platonist thinkers.[8] In his Vita Plotini, Porphyry includes a list of texts known to Plotinus, which he describes as being written by "many Christians," containing entries for an Apocalypse of Allogenes in addition to one for Allogenes' son, Mesos. According to Zeke Mazur, the evaluation of this material at Rome by Plotinus' circle would have occurred in the 260s.[9] Porphyry comments that "They deceived many, and were themselves deceived, as if Plato had not penetrated deeply into intelligible substance." Porphyry remembered that Plotinus delivered refutations to this literature in his lectures, and wrote a book, Against the Gnostics, which survives in the Enneads (II, 9) but Plotinus does not mention any particular book by name. Nevertheless, where Porphyry agrees with Epiphanius is that Allogenes was a cycle of books, referred to in the plural, rather than as a single work. No text corresponding to the Apocalypse of Mesos mentioned by Porphyry has ever been found.

Temptation of Allogenes[edit]

The Tempatation of Allogenes begins with Sakla (i.e. Satan) tempting Allogenes; "Be like those in this world and eat one of my possessions!" But using almost exactly the same words of Jesus Christ in Gospel of Matthew 4:10, Allogenes rebuffs the demiurge, saying "Away from me, Satan! It is not you I search, but my Father." He further proclaims that Satan will not survive the ages, as he is "the first star of their family line" and "his star is burnt out." Allogenes calls out to God for "spiritual knowledge;" on Mount Thambour (Mount Tabor) he is answered by a voice from a cloud which tells him that "Your pleas are heard and I am being sent to you in this location to go and spread the Glad Tidings. But you have not found an escape from this prison yet." [3]

It is not clear how the fragments of The Tempatation of Allogenes fit together, and some of the Gospel of Judas material is mixed in; it is possible that Judas Iscariot is employed as a character in the text as well.

Allogenes (NHC XI,3)[edit]

The surviving text from Nag Hammadi begins with an Allogenes recounting to his son Mesos a dialog with an angel, Youel, revealing to him aspects of the Triple-Powered-One, a being more powerful than God, embodying Vitality, Mentality, and That-Which-Is. After Youel concludes her lesson, Allogenes states "My soul went slack, and I fled and was very disturbed. And I turned to myself and saw the light that surrounded me and the Good that was in me, I became divine." After Allogenes considers the revelations made to him for a period of one hundred years, Youel returns and sings a hymn of praise to the Unnamable one, and then Allogenes ascends into an encounter with "the ineffable and Unknowable God." He is guided into the Aeon of Barbelos by the Luminaries, who engage in Negative, or Apophatic theology. Quite some time is spent in the description of this matter: "He is not corporeal. He is not incorporeal. He is not great. He is not small. He is not a number. He is not a creature. Nor is he something that exists, that one can know. But he is something else of himself that is superior, which one cannot know." This is the best preserved and longest continuous passage of Allogenes. After an ellipse, an unidentified authority commands Allogenes to write down what he has learned and to place it on a mountain, under guard, with an oracle, and he dedicates the work to his son Mesos; "These are the things that were disclosed to me."[10]

Origin and concordances[edit]

Although the roughly contemporary opponents of Allogenes literature provide some clues to its origin by virtue of their opinions, there is little concord among scholars in this regard; other than that it is Gnostic, it has yet to be definitively classified. The Temptation of Allogenes is a Christian Gnostic text that places Allogenes in Christ's stead in Matthew Chapter 4, adding Gnostic allusions; he describes "my Father" as "[he] who is raised high above all great Aeons of heavens, each with their own God." The NHC Allogenes is a non-Christian, wholly Gnostic text; it is largely thought to be Sethian, with Allogenes as an allegory for Seth.[11] However, Wire clarifies that the text nowhere mentions Seth or his children.[7] When The Temptation of Allogenes first appeared, there was hope that the new discovery might help to fill in some of the missing lines of Allogenes, but it is clear from what has been published that The Temptation of Allogenes is a wholly independent composition. At least it confirms the plurality of Allogenes books hinted at by Epiphanius, Porphyry and in the closing lines of Allogenes itself: "Proclaim them, O my son Mesos, as the seal for all the books of Allogenes." [11]

Wire[7] identifies concordances between Allogenes and the Greek Corpus Hermeticum or Hermetica, Apocryphon of John, Trimorphic Protennoia, Epistle of Eugnostos, the Sophia of Jesus Christ and the NHC Gospel of the Egyptians. Porphyry identified Allogenes in the same breath as Zostrianos, and in this purely Gnostic context, Wire adds the Untitled Text of the Bruce Codex, Marsanes and The Three Steles of Seth. Despite Porphyry's dismay at the Sethians' lack of digestion of Plato, some common turns of phrase between the Nag Hammadi Allogenes and Proclus' Elements of Theology turn up in the Fifth Century CE, but not before that. Nevertheless, based on the considerable Neoplatonic content and negative theology of Allogenes, Wire concludes that the text that we have is the same one read by Plotinus and his school in the 260s. John Douglas Turner suggests that Allogenes was written in direct response to the Neoplatonists' rejection of Zostrianos; Porphyry notes that his colleague Amelius wrote a 40-volume refutation to that text, which no longer survives and may have appeared around 240 CE. As a result, scholarship on Allogenes has largely existed in the shadow of Zostrianos. On the other hand, Dylan Burns separates from the rest in proposing that the NHC Allogenes is a post-Plotonian redaction of an earlier Greek text and is therefore not the same as the one known to Plotinus.

David Brons identifies the NHC Allogenes as "Non-Valentinian," but used by the school, and the Nag Hammadi Codex in which it has been recovered is otherwise devoted exclusively to Valentian texts.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Greek: ἀλλογενής (allogenēs), used in the Septuagint, meaning "[from a] different family/nation"
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-05.  List of the treatises in the Nag Hammadi Coptic Library
  3. ^ a b [1] The Coptic Ps. Gospel of Judas
  4. ^ [2] Radiocarbon Dating the Gnostics after Nicaea
  5. ^ Birger A. Pearson, "Seth in Gnostic Literature" in The Rediscovery of Gnosticism, ed. by Bentley Layton, E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands 1981. ISBN 90 04 06176 2
  6. ^ The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I (Sects 1-46). Translated by Frank Williams, Koninklijke Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands 1997
  7. ^ a b c Antoinette Clark Wire, "Allogenes: Introduction" in Nag Hammadi Codices Xi, Xii, Xiii, ed. by Elaine H. Pagels and Charles W. Hedrick. E.J. Brill, The Netherlands, 1990
  8. ^ John Douglas Turner, Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition. Les Presses de l'Université Laval, Peeters - Lovain - Paris, 2006
  9. ^ [3] Plato’s Sophist in Platonizing Sethian Gnostic Interpretation
  10. ^ [4] Online text of the Allogenes
  11. ^ a b Birger A. Pearson, Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2006
  12. ^ http://gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Valentinian_Writings.htm Writings of the Valentinian School

Further reading[edit]

  • Birger A. Pearson, "Seth in Gnostic Literature" in The Rediscovery of Gnosticism, ed. by Bentley Layton, E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands 1981. ISBN 90 04 06176 2
  • Birger A. Pearson, Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2006
  • Karen L. King, The Revelation of the Unknowable God. with Text, Tralsations, and Notes to NHC XI,3 Allogenes. Polebridge Press - Santa Rosa, CA, 1995.
  • John Douglas Turner, Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition. Les Presses de l'Université Laval, Peeters - Lovain - Paris, 2006
  • Robert Haardt, Gnosis and Testimony. E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands 1971
  • Antoinette Clark Wire, "Allogenes: Introduction" in Nag Hammadi Codices Xi, Xii, Xiii, ed. by Elaine H. Pagels and Charles W. Hedrick. E.J. Brill, The Netherlands, 1990
  • Dylan Burns, "Apophatic Strategies in Allogenes." Harvard Theological Review 103:2, 2010, ppg. 161-79.
  • Zeke Mazur, "The Platonizing Sethian Gnostic Background of Plotinus’ Mysticism,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago 2010 http://kalyptos.org/Zeke/
  • The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I (Sects 1-46). Translated by Frank Williams, Koninklijke Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands 1997

External links[edit]