Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 01:17:19 -0500 (EST) From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: Crosstalk-L Subject: Franzmann on the HJ in Nag Hammadi Dear Crosstalkers, Here's an essay I wrote dealing with how certain events in the life of the Historical Jesus were seen in NH writings, based on Franzmann. Best wishes, Yuri. Majella Franzmann: how the HJ was seen in Nag Hammadi gospels AUTHOR: Franzmann, Majella, 1952- TITLE: Jesus in the Nag Hammadi writings PUBLISHED: Edinburgh : T & T Clark, 1996. DESCRIPTION: xxv, 293 p. NOTES: Includes bibliographical references (p. 215-246) and indexes. ISBN: 0567085260 This is a very stimulating work that deals with many much neglected subjects and source material in the history of early Christianity. In Chapter 1, Franzmann observes that, in spite of some quite unconvincing disclaimers, still far too few NT scholars are taking non-canonical materials seriously when dealing with early Christian literature, traditions, and beliefs. This is what has been described by some as "the tyranny of the canon" that is still very much with us. She notes that there are far too few scholars in N. America indeed, with few exceptions like James Robinson and Crossan, who are giving appropriate consideration to non-canonical materials. Franzmann's work is devoted to a detailed consideration of what insights about Jesus we can gain from Nag Hammadi writings. I have found in it substantial amounts of material that would seem to support the view that the earliest post-Easter Christian faith was Adoptionist. According to this view, Jesus was basically a mortal man, albeit a very remarkable man in many respects, until the time when he was crucified unjustly by the Romans. At the moment of his death, he was adopted by God as his son, and the Messiah of Israel. His return to earth and full vindication were believed to be imminent, and were eagerly awaited by the earliest generation of Christians. Also, it was believed that his return will bring about the End of the Old World, punishment of evildoers, the reward for the just, and a complete cosmic transformation of society -- all in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures. In this article I would like to consider certain passages in Nag Hammadi gospels, as analysed by Franzmann, that portray some key events in the story of Jesus. I will consider here the passages reflecting the earthly origins of Jesus, and the crucifixion. In another article, I will also review how the baptism of Jesus is viewed by NH gospels according to Franzmann. Of course the texts of NH, while often dissenting from catholic positions on many issues, do not always agree with each other either. These texts are clearly sectarian, and they evidently belonged to a number of movements, each having their own distinct theology. Quite a lot of material in these texts seems rather late, and a product of considerable theological development in various directions. But what makes them especially valuable is that a lot of these gospels seem to preserve some very early statements of belief. EARTHLY ORIGINS OF JESUS ========= Some NH texts presuppose quite clearly that Jesus had two natures, one human, and one divine. This is in line with Adoptionist theology. According to early Adoptionists, Jesus had a normal human birth, and was fully human until the crucifixion. The Gospel of Philip. Franzmann writes about this gospel, "The concept of dual parentage occurs clearly in Gos. Phil. where the virgin Mary is named as mother (55.23-24; 59.7). In clear polemical reinterpretation of the tradition found in the canonical scriptures, the text states that she did not conceive by the Holy Spirit, for women do not conceive by other women (55.23-27; the Holy Spirit or Sophia Achamoth is clearly a female character in the text)." (p. 49) "...in Gos. Phil. we have a concept of two sets of parents, the earthly parents Mary and Joseph, and the heavenly parents, the Father of All and the Holy Spirit, which double parentage of course could serve as a basis for teaching about the two natures." (p. 52) The Testimony of Truth. "Testim. Truth also presents a concept of dual entry into the earthly realm for the Jesus figure. In this case the first entry by human birth involves only one human parent, and the second entry that takes place at the Jordan is not described explicitly in parenting imagery." (p. 52) So it seems like a dual entry of Jesus into the world, quite an early theological concept, is portrayed here. But it needs to be noted that also some elements of later theology are apparently intermingled in these accounts, i.e. a Virgin Birth. I don't think the Virgin Birth concept really was introduced into the canonical gospels before the end of the first century. It seems like it became an accepted part of faith sometime towards the middle of the second century only. So, in so far as the NH texts talk about "only one parent for Jesus", they seem to bear the mark of a later theological development. The Testimony of Truth gospel also contains much polemics against both the catholics and the other gnostics. For example, martyrdom is condemned, as well as placing too much reliance in baptism. (p. 189) "The Father, the God of Truth, does not want human sacrifice." (32.19-22) Also, the Resurrection on the Last Day is condemned. (34.26-35.4) Paul is also condemned, presumably, as his Gal 1:8 seems to be in sight in 73.17-22. To summarise, a very early Adoptionist understanding of Jesus having been born fully a mortal man, and living his life as such previous to his death and Adoption is reflected in these texts to a certain extent. CRUCIFIXION ====== Many very early Adoptionist ideas are clearly present in these NH texts dealing with crucifixion. Specifically, they seem to reflect Resurrection-Adoptionist theology, which appears to be the earliest Christian faith. The Paraphrase of Shem. At least one scholar is of the opinion that this text portrays the Resurrection of the Saviour directly after his death on the Cross. "Roberge speaks at one point of the ascent of the Saviour "on the occasion of the crucifixion"." (p. xviii) But the question is rather complicated, since there is a lack of clarity about this text, and who exactly is being crucified. Franzmann doesn't think the Crucifixion of Jesus is being portrayed. She also thinks that "...the work is at basis non-Christian Gnostic (see Wisse 1970, 140; Bertrand 156; and Sevrin 1975,88)." (p. xix) Trimorphic Protennoia. This gospel portrays a direct ascension of Jesus from the Cross. "Trim. Prot. 50.12-15 states that the Word puts on Jesus and bears him from "the cursed wood" and establishes him in the dwelling places of his Father." (p. 150) This, it seems to me, is very important testimony, since it indicates that this text was composed as part of the earliest Resurrection-Adoptionist catechesis. The Apocryphon of James. This text features a very interesting version of the burial: "The passion includes abuse, unjust accusation, being shut up in prison, unlawful condemnation, crucifixion [without] reason, and burial in the sand..." (p. 151) No tomb burial here, in other words. This also seems like a very early witness. The Gospel of Truth. In this text, curiously, the Cross is portrayed as the "Tree of Knowledge" (18.22-35). "Jesus is nailed to a tree and becomes a fruit of the knowledge of the Father. Eating of this fruit causes enlightenment and mutual knowing between those enlightened and the one who enlightens." (p. 151) There's little mention of death on the Cross. Rather, the Cross seems to be portrayed as _both_ the Tree of Knowledge, and the Tree of Life. The Apocalypse of Peter. This is the text that features the "Laughing Saviour". Jesus himself is not crucified, but some sort of a substitute is crucified instead. "The living Jesus" is laughing at the resulting spectacle, and at the ignorance of the persecutors. The sense here is that, instead of Jesus, the material world, itself, had been crucified. (p. 156) The concept of someone substituting for Jesus, and taking his place on the Cross, was common among a number of Christian gnostic groups, and some of these traditions may be quite early. Some echo of such a substitution is found in the canonical gospels of Mk, Mt, and Lk, where Simon is selected to bear the Cross for Jesus. (Of course the question may be asked if the gnostics "misappropriated" Simon of Cyrene for their own nefarious purposes, or, perhaps, Simon was included in the gospels because the tradition of such a substitution on the Cross already existed previously. Neither possibility should to be dismissed a priori, in my view.) This text also seems to feature some anti-Pauline invective. (Pp. 188, 190) A certain "evil craftsman" is condemned (possibly a reference to Paul as tent- maker). The Concept of our Great Power. This text (42.18-19) features the ascension of Jesus after "...the cosmic struggle against the ruler of Hades and the archons..." (p. 159) So it can be assumed that this text also portrays the ascension directly after the death on the Cross. The Gospel of Philip According to this text, resurrection must come before death. (p. 194) Many other texts state that the complete salvation has already occurred for the gnostic. (p. 195) This is clearly the concept of the "spiritual resurrection". While most of the Nag Hammadi gospels are clearly rather late in the versions in which we see them, and date possibly from the second and third centuries, many of them also seem to have incorporated some very early texts and theologies. These early elements make NH gospels a very important witness to earliest beliefs and earliest theological conflicts in the movement. All this casts considerable light on the formation of early Christian canon. It is unfortunate that so few NT scholars seem to be working with this important material. --- Yuri Kuchinsky || Toronto The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is equivalent to becoming God -=O=- JulianClick here to go one level up in the directory.