Schmidt, it is today almost unanimously agreed that the four sections of the manuscript must be divided into two distinct groups. The first three sections correspond to the three books of one and the same work, probably composed between and the first book pp. On the other hand the fourth section Mead writes Pistis Sophia, pp. We may call it the 2nd-century theory.
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To some later Gnostics, Sophia was a divine syzygy of Christ, rather than simply a word meaning wisdom , and this context suggests the interpretation "The Faith of Sophia", or "The Loyalty of Sophia". The most common view is that the work consists of four books,  but some scholars have posited as many as five or six books.
Until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in , the Askew Codex was one of three codices that contained almost all of the Gnostic writings that had survived the suppression of such literature both in East and West, the other two codices being the Bruce Codex and the Berlin Codex. Aside from these primary sources, everything written about gnosticism before the Nag Hammadi library became available is based on quotes, characterizations, and caricatures in the writings of the enemies of Gnosticism.
The purpose of these heresiological writings was polemical, presenting gnostic teachings as absurd, bizarre, and self-serving, and as an aberrant heresy from a proto-orthodox and orthodox Christian standpoint. Text[ edit ] Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection The work as a whole shows clear signs of having been compiled from multiple sources, with only the first two books following directly on each other.
Even within a single book, occasionally multiple, differing accounts of a single event or cosmological outline appear, suggesting the use and preservation of several sources. Changes in terminology and cosmological description between books also shows that it is a compilation of texts that may have been written over a period of some time.
The bulk of the text Books is in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the disciples, both male and female. First Book[ edit ] The first book Chapters establishes that Jesus remained with the disciples for 11 years after the resurrection, teaching them only the lowest of the mysteries. At a certain point, he ascends and traverses the aeons , defeating the wicked archons , before returning to speak with the disciples further.
Unlike other versions of the Gnostic myth, such as the Apocryphon of John , here Pistis Sophia is a being of the lower, material aeons. She is not a high, divine being, and her restoration is not to the realms of light, but only back to her place in the thirteenth aeon. This is significant in distinguishing the theology of this book from other Gnostic systems — it prioritizes its own, distinct cosmology and mythology above the Sophia myth, which to this author represents inferior, material struggles.
The end of the book also suggests the close connection of this work with the Books of Jeu found in the Bruce Codex Chapter Third Book[ edit ] The third book Chapters is mostly concerned with presenting an ethical or lifestyle code for adherents of the text. It outlines what is needed for right thought and right action, as well as actions that are not acceptable and their punishments. It also discusses at length the dissemination of the mysteries, repentance, and when it is or is not permissible to grant the mysteries to others.
Finally, it discusses the formation of the human being, its components, and how they are connected. Again the Books of Jeu are referenced Chapter , with the stipulation that they contain mysteries that are necessary for all, including the righteous. Fourth Book[ edit ] Part one of this book Chapters deals with cosmological and astrological speculation, and ritual development.
It presents a myth of fallen archons of the aeons being imprisoned within the zodiacal sphere; outlines five realms of punishment the Midst, mhte and the types of sinners each holds; and gives specific configurations of the planets in the zodiac that allow souls to be released from each region. The second part of what is commonly thought of as the fourth book chapters appears after a lacuna in the text, and is probably part of a separate book.
Some of the sins listed are duplicates from part one of book four, but list different punishments. Cosmology[ edit ] Cosmology is a primary focus of the Pistis Sophia — learning the structure of the universe and how to traverse it is considered key in these texts, and the cosmology is one of the most complex from any Gnostic text remaining today.
Summarizing the cosmology is further complicated because the structure is slightly different in each of its separate books, with certain realms added and removed. Some scholars have suggested cosmologies encompassing the entirety of the codex;   recently an outline has been made looking at the cosmology of each text individually.
Generally speaking, the aeonic realms represent the material universe, bounded by the stars and the zodiac. The Midst is the space dividing this region from the upper realms, and is sometimes a waiting space for souls before being allowed to enter the light realms.
The goal of the soul is to ascend beyond the aeons and enter the upper realms of light. This is achieved by receiving the mysteries offered by the group represented by these texts.
The mysteries are not explicitly listed in the text; an initiate would most likely have to prove him or herself worthy by living for some period according to the ethical guidelines provided in the texts before undergoing the baptisms and gaining access to the mysteries.
The Books of Jeu are noted as a source of the mysteries; it is probable that the texts found in the Bruce Codex are very similar, if not identical, with these texts. She dwells in the thirteenth aeon, is tricked into leaving her aeon and descending into Chaos, has her light-power stolen, and is not allowed to return to her place until Jesus ascends through the aeons.
She recites many repentances and prayers, and is repeatedly persecuted by wicked archontic beings before being allowed to wait just outside of the thirteenth aeon for restoration. She is a being of the material aeons, and her restoration is only as far as the thirteenth material aeon.
Unlike Ialdabaoth, he is not created by the Sophia figure, and in fact he holds a slightly higher hierarchical position than Pistis Sophia. His sin is wishing to rule all the material aeons, and he grows jealous when Pistis Sophia chooses to worship the light rather than continuing the ways of the aeons.
Authades appears only in the chapters dealing with the Sophia myth; elsewhere Sabaoth the Adamas is the representative of evil in these texts. He teaches the disciples baptismal rites, and instructs them to give these rites to all who show themselves worthy. He is closely tied to the highest divine being. However, little significance is given to his earthly incarnation — the ritual bread and wine in the baptism is not associated with the Christian Eucharist, and the crucifixion and resurrection play little role.
Here, he only gains his true garment and teaches the disciples the higher mysteries eleven years after his resurrection — downplaying versions of Christianity claiming his earlier teachings as ultimate truth.
Jeu dwells in the Treasury of Light and organizes the cosmos. He places the archons and the aeons in their proper places, and assigns powers to the planets, effectively offering a divine origin for astrology. This is particularly noteworthy given the anti-cosmic nature of some other Gnostic groups. His primary role is overseeing transport of light from the lower realms to the higher light realms as it becomes purified.
His subordinates also deliver certain souls out of the punishment regions when believers on Earth pray for them. This role is most widely discussed through extensive interpretations of Psalm 85 in Chapters He is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct, begetting archons and other beings, and as a result he is imprisoned in the bounds of the zodiac, or the material universe.
Did Jesus have female disciples? The book of Pistis Sophia reveals in its dialogue the true relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Sophia Wisdom itself was regarded by the early Coptics as a female presence who undergoes the experience of transgression and redemption in her path to full participation in the many universes, in conjunction with the Christ. The Coptic Christian documents found in Egypt, like the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Israel, are important in reconstructing the lost years of Jesus and give us in-depth insights into his works and his teachings.
Neoplatonism and Gnosticism Pistis Sophia is an important Gnostic text discovered in ,  possibly written as early as the 2nd century. The five remaining copies, which scholars place in the 5th or 6th centuries, relate the Gnostic teachings of the transfigured Jesus to the assembled disciples including his mother Mary , Mary Magdalene , and Martha , when the risen Christ had accomplished eleven years speaking with his disciples. In it, the complex structures and hierarchies of heaven familiar in Gnostic teachings are revealed. The female divinity of gnosticism is Sophia , a being with many aspects and names. She was envisaged as the Psyche of the world and the female aspect of Logos.