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Zugnge zur Gnosis

Akten zur Tagung der Patristischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft


vom 02.-05.01.2011
in Berlin-Spandau
herausgegeben von
Christoph Markschies und Johannes van Oort
PEETERS
2013
LEUVEN WALPOLE, MA
INHALT
Christoph Markschies
Vorwort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VII
Christoph Markschies
Von Afrika bis China Varietten von Gnosis . . . . . . . . . 1
Jens Halfwassen
Gnosis als Pseudomorphose des Platonismus: Plotins Gnosis-
kritik . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Klaus Herrmann
Jdische Gnosis? Dualismus und gnostische Motive in der
frhen jdischen Mystik . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Holger Strutwolf
Theologische Gnosis bei Clemens Alexandrinus und Origenes 91
Ismo Dunderberg
Valentinian Theories on Classes of Humankind . . . . . . . . 113
Einar Thomassen
Saved by nature? The question of human races and soteriological
determinism in Valentinianism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
Katrine Brix
Kosmoskreuz oder Holzkreuz im Evangelium Veritatis
NHC I,3? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Dylan M. Burns
Cosmic Eschatology and Christian Platonism in the Sethian
Gnostic Apocalypses Marsanes, Zostrianos, and Allogenes . . . . 169
Uwe-Karsten Plisch
(K)ein Buch des Allogenes. Einige Beobachtungen zur vierten
Schrift des sogenannten Codex Tchacos (Al Minya-Codex) . . 191
VI INHALT
Hugo Lundhaug
Shenoute of Atripe and Nag Hammadi Codex II . . . . . . . . 201
Glenn W. Most
Do Gnostics Tell Stories Differently From Other People? Nar-
ratological Reflections on Gnostic Narratives . . . . . . . . . . 227
Nils Arne Pedersen
Die Manicher in ihrer Umwelt. Ein Beitrag zur Diskussion
ber die Soziologie der Gnostiker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245
Desmond Durkin-Meisternst
Die Orientierung der Bilder in manichischen Bcherfrag-
menten in der Turfansammlung. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277
Myriam Krutzsch
Beobachtungen zur Herstellungstechnik frher gnostischer
Kodizes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285
Peter Koslowski
Gnosis: Philosophie des Absoluten und absolute Philosophie.
Theosophische Gnosis und Gnostizismus als Typen der Auf-
hebung der Differenz von Philosophie und Theologie . . . . . 295
Indices
Antike und mittelalterliche Autoren, Personen und Personi-
fikationen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319
Neuzeitliche Autoren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322
Abbildungen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 329
Cosmic Eschatology and Christian Platonism
in the Sethian Gnostic Apocalypses Marsanes, Zostrianos, and Allogenes
DYLAN M. BURNS
(The University of Copenhagen)
INTRODUCTION: THE PLATONIZING SETHIAN APOCALYPSES
One of our most important pieces of evidence about Gnosticism is that
of Porphyry, star pupil of the great Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus.
Porphyry writes that there were Christians in Plotinus circle, who read
apocalypses, written by sages such as, Zostrianos, Zoroaster, Allo-
genes, Messos, and others
1
. Texts with titles identical to several of
those mentioned by Porphyry Zostrianos and Allogenes have been
unearthed in Coptic translation at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945.
Although they are revelatory works, they are also deeply implicated in
contemporary Neoplatonism; scholars generally agree that at least one of
these texts, Zostrianos, was brandished by Plotinus opponents
2
.
1
Porph., Plot. 16 (cf. Plotinus in seven Volumes with an English Translation by A.H.
Armstrong, Vol. 1: Porphyry on the Life of Plotinus and the Order of his Books. Enne-
ads I,1-9, LCL 440, Cambridge 1989), following the translation of M. Tardieu.
Les gnostiques dans la vie de Plotin, in: Porphyre: La vie de Plotin, ed. par L. Brisson,
Vol. 2: tudes dintroduction, texte grec et traduction franaise, commentaire, notes
complmentaires, bibliographie, Histoire des doctrines de lantiquit classique, Paris
1992, 503-546.
2
Thus K. Corrigan, Platonism and Gnosticism: The Anonymous Commentary on the
Parmenides: Middle or Neoplatonic?, in: Gnosticism and Later Platonism. Themes,
Figures, and Texts, ed. by J.D. Turner and R.D. Majercik, SBL Symposium Series 12;
Atlanta 2000, (141-177), 168-171; J.D. Turner, Victorinus, Parmenides Commen-
taries and the Platonizing Sethian Treatises, in: Platonisms: Ancient, Modern, and
Postmodern, ed. by K. Corrigan and J.D. Turner, Studies in Platonism, Neoplatonism,
and the Platonic Tradition 4, Leiden 2007, 55-96. Others have argued that the Nag
Hammadi texts are translations of later, post-Plotinian redactions of the texts known
to Plotinus. (L. Abramowski, Marius Victorinus, Porphyrius und die rmischen Gnos-
tiker, ZNW 74, 1983, [108-128] 123-214; R. Majercik, Porphyry and Gnosticism,
CQ 55, 2005, [277-292], 277-278). I have argued elsewhere that the Coptic Zostrianos
from Nag Hammadi is probably a translation of a pre-Plotinian text, but that Allogenes
ideas are more intelligible in the context of Platonism of the fourth century C.E., cf.
D. Burns, Apophatic Strategies in Allogenes (NHC XI,3), HThR 103, 2010, 161-79.
170 DYLAN M. BURNS
These apocalypses belong to a branch of Gnosticism called Sethian,
chiefly due to its focus on the figure of Seth as revealer and savior
3
.
Zostrianos (NHC VIII,1), Allogenes (NHC XI,3), Marsanes (NHC X,1;
probably related in some way to the Apocalypse of Nikotheos mentioned
by Porphyry), and The Three Steles of Seth (NHC VII,5) stand out within
the Sethian literature as particularly exotic. Excepting the Three Steles,
they are apocalypses of the cosmological stripe of 1 Enoch, describing
their eponymous seers heavenly journey and acquisition of heavenly
secrets
4
. Yet scholars have generally assigned the texts to a Pagan or
non-Christian provenance, because they do not refer to Scripture or to
biblical figures besides Adam and Seth
5
. Moreover, they are replete with
the jargon of Neoplatonism, that school of thought so strongly associated
with the last of the Hellenes. In his classic study of Sethianism, John D.
Turner has argued that the texts, which he calls the Platonizing Sethian
treatises, represent a turn of the Sethian school away from Christianity
towards Paganism
6
.
It is true that the Platonizing Sethian texts were written by trained
Platonic philosophers, but they also hold positions that could not
have been acceptable to any Hellenic
7
Platonist, but agree strongly with
3
The seminal studies remain H.-M. Schenke, Das sethianische System nach Nag-Ham-
madi-Handschriften, in: Studia Coptica, hg. von P. Nagel, BBA 45, Berlin 1974, 165-
172; id., The Phenomenon and Significance of Gnostic Sethianism, in: The Rediscov-
ery of Gnosticism. Proceedings of the International Conference on Gnosticism at Yale,
New Haven, Connecticut, March 28-31, 1978, ed. by B. Layton, Vol. 2: Sethian Gnos-
ticism, SHR 41.2, Leiden 1981, 588-616. For criticisms, see F. Wisse, Stalking those
Elusive Sethians, in: The Rediscovery of Gnosticism (see note 3), 563-576; and now
T. Rasimus, Paradise Reconsidered in Gnostic Myth making. Rethinking Sethianism in
Light of the Ophite Evidence, NHMS 68, Leiden 2009.
4
Following the discussion of apocalypse by J.J. Collins, ed., Apocalypse the Mor-
phology of a Genre, Semeia 14, 1979, (1-19), 9.
5
Most recently, see for instance L. Abramowski, Nicnismus und Gnosis im Rom des
Bischofs Liberius. Der Fall des Marius Victorinus, ZAC 8, 2004, (513-566), 561; B.A.
Pearson, Ancient Gnosticism. Traditions and Literature, Minneapolis 2007, 99-100.
6
J.D. Turner, Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition, BCNH Section tudes
6, Louvain/Paris 2001, (179-182), 293; also in various articles and the introductions
to the BCNH editions of the Sethian texts. See also B.A. Pearson, Introduction:
Marsanes, in: Nag Hammadi Codices IX and X, ed. by B.A. Pearson, NHS 15, Leiden
1981, (229-250), 248.
7
I eschew the term Pagan for discussing the various non-Abrahamic religions of the
ancient world as an obfuscating negative definition. Since here we are only concerned
with philosophers committed to Greek language and literature, we can simply refer
to them by the term they used to define themselves, Hellenes. Where others have
used the term Pagan in this context, I have not changed their nomenclature.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 171
contemporary Christian Platonism. In the present contribution, I will
address one of the most significant of these positions, which deals with
the end of the world, or cosmic eschatology.
SETHIAN ESCHATOLOGIES, COSMIC AND PERSONAL
As I just mentioned, the Platonizing Sethian treatises known to Plotinus
and his circle were apocalypses, revelatory narratives describing the visions
and heavenly secrets acquired by a seer from an angelic intermediary. The
literary genre of apocalypse was commonly used in antiquity to explore
important but unverifiable speculations about cosmology and the post-
mortem fate of the soul. Today, biblical scholarship tends to lump these
topics under the term eschatology cosmic and personal
8
.
Eschatology is central to debate over defining the apocalyptic genre.
Scholars ask about the relative importance of historical eschatology,
characterized by ex eventu prophecy and reviews of history (e.g. Daniel),
and cosmological speculation, characterized by cosmological lore
and the revelation of secrets (e.g. 1 Enoch). Like Michael Stone, John J.
Collins simply acknowledges that the literary genre deals in both escha-
tology and cosmology
9
, particularly the post-mortem fate of the soul.
In Semeia 14, he distinguishes these two types of eschatology with the
prefixes cosmic and personal, noting a shift towards the latter in later
Jewish but especially Christian and Gnostic texts
10
. Thus, it is this hope
8
On eschatology in the Old Testament and ancient Judaism, see D.L. Petersen, Art.
Eschatology (Old Testament), AncB Dictionary 2, 1992, 575-579; G. Nickelsburg,
Art. Eschatology (Early Jewish), AncB Dictionary 2, 1992, 579-594. For eschatology
in early Christianity, see D. Aune, Art. Early Christian Eschatology, AncB Dictionary
2, 1992, 594-609; D. Allison, Art. Eschatology of the New Testament, The New
Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible 2, 2007, 294-299.
9
J.J. Collins, Cosmos and Salvation. Jewish Wisdom and Apocalyptic in the Hellenistic
Age, HR 17, 1977, (121-142), 136; id., The Apocalyptic Imagination. An Introduction
to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, The Biblical Resource Series, Grand Rapids
2
1998, 13;
M.E. Stone, Apocalyptic Literature, in: Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period.
Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus, ed. by M.E.
Stone, CRI Sect. 2: The Literature of the Jewish People in the Period of the Second
Temple and the Talmud 2, Assen/Philadelphia 1984, (383-442), 383.
10
J.J. Collins, Morphology (see note 4), 17-18; D. Allison, Eschatology of the New
Testament (see note 8), 298-299. Some scholars, however, are reluctant to use the
term eschatology to talk about individuals. Cf. D.L. Petersen, Eschatology (see note
8), 576; D. Aune, Early Christian Eschatology (see note 8), 594. Nickelsburg con-
trasts focus on personal immortality with the need for a consummation of history
and resurrection of the dead. G. Nickelsburg, Eschatology (see note 8), 589-590.
172 DYLAN M. BURNS
for the transcendence of death (of the individual) which is the distinctive
character of apocalyptic eschatology over against Old Testament
eschatology
11
.

A spike of interest in the afterlife of the individual, instead
of nations, was corroborated by the studies in the same volume of Adela
Yarbro Collins and Francis Fallon
12
.
Gnostic apocalypses, meanwhile, traffic in a highly diverse variety of
eschatologies, both cosmic and personal
13
. The Sethian texts also exhibit
this diversity, with clearly historical/cosmic apocalypses in the Apoca-
lypse of Adam (NHC V,5), the Egyptian Gospel (NHC III,2/IV,2) and the
Trimorphic Protennoia (NHC XIII,1), while the Platonizing treatises
tend to focus on personal eschatology, that is the salvation of souls.
Turner (and Pearson, with respect to Marsanes) has argued further that
there is no sense of cosmic or historical eschatology in the latter
texts, evidence of a movement away from Christian apocalypse towards
Pagan Platonism
14
. However, I will argue that the treatises Marsanes and
11
J.J. Collins, Apocalyptic Eschatology as the Transcendence of Death, in: Seers, Sybils
and Sages in Hellenistic-Roman Judaism, by J.J. Collins, Leiden 2001, (75-98), 84.
12
The more or less systematic review of history, so dominant in some forms of Jewish
apocalypses, is virtually absent in the early Christian apocalypses (but) certain past
events are explicitly recalled as past and recounted as particularly significant for the
present A.Y. Collins, Early Christian Apocalypses, in: Apocalypse, ed. by J.J.
Collins (see note 4), (61-121), 67. This absence is not extended to cosmic eschatology,
however; on the other hand, the otherworldly journey is used more frequently to
express expectations regarding personal afterlife, although it can also be used as a
vehicle for cosmic hopes as well. (Ead., 95). See also F.T. Fallon, Gnostic Apoca-
lypses, in: Apocalypse, ed. by J.J. Collins (see note 4), (123-158), 125.
13
M.L. Peel, Gnostic Eschatology and the New Testament, NT 12, 1970, (141-165),
156-159; thus also H.G. Kippenberg, Ein Vergleich jdischer, christlicher und gnos-
tischer Apokalyptik, in: Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and Near East.
Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August
12-17, 1979, ed. by D. Hellholm, Tbingen 1983, (751-769), 751; H.W. Attridge,
Valentinian and Sethian Apocalyptic Traditions, Journal of Early Christian Studies 8,
2000, 173-211.
14
Cf. above for J.D. Turner, Sethian Gnosticism (see note 6); also id., Introduction:
Zostrianos, in: Zostrien. (NH VIII,1), d. et tr. par C. Barry/W.-P. Funk/P.-H.
Poirier/J.D. Turner, BCNH.T 24, Qubec/Louvain 2000, (1-224), 50: Phenomena
found in most apocalypses but missing in Zostrianos are generally matters of social
and cosmic eschatological conflict Most of the dozen or so texts that have been
identified as Sethian indeed do make great use of Jewish scripture and tradition and
cosmic eschatological motifs, but Zostrianos and the texts associated with it do not
The eschatology of Zostrianos is focused on neither cosmos nor society, but on the
individual. This focus is atypical of most Jewish apocalyptic. See also id., Introduc-
tion: Marsanes, in: Marsans, ed. et tr. par W.-P. Funk/P.-H. Poirier/J.D. Turner,
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 173
Zostrianos presume exactly the sense of cosmic eschatology that are in the
other Sethian treatises; like Jesus of Nazareth, they held that the kingdom
of heaven is at hand.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD AND SOULS IN MARSANES
AND ZOSTRIANOS
The central passage for the problem is in Marsanes, where the eponymous
seer states that the entire defilement (wM) [was saved (tyr[V
oue]ei)]<I> have come to know it, the intelligible (notov) world;
<I have come to know>
15
, as I was deliberating that in every way is the
sensible (asqjtv) world worthy of being saved entirely (atrevoueei
[ty]rV). [For] I have not ceased speaking [of the] Autogenes
16
. Pearson
and Poirier simply affirm that the passage is a remarkable example of
Platonic monism in a Gnostic text, without mentioning the worlds eter-
nity
17
.

So far, so good. As Turner points out, the statement is followed
by the reminder that the author is still discussing Autogenes, who in
Marsanes appears to take upon the Thrice-Male Childs role as a preserver
of the world
18
.
BCNH.T 27, Qubec/Louvain 2000, (1-248), 27.29-30; id., Introduction: Allogenes,
in: Lallogne. (NH XI,3), d. et tr. par W.-P. Funk/P.-H. Poirier/M. Scopello/
J.D. Turner, BCNH.T 30, Qubec/Louvain 2004, (1-175), 29. Cf. H.W. Attridge,
Valentinian and Sethian Apocalyptic Traditions (see note 13), 196: Texts cast in the
form of narratives of ascent experiences have less apocalyptic eschatology, as well as
less direct connection with biblical figures and themes, than the rest of the Sethian
tradition.
15
Agreeing with Pearsons assumption of the texts corruption and provisional restora-
tions; it is hard to make sense of the original (tr. Poirier): et le monde intelligible,
il a connu, en distinguant, que, de toute manire, ce monde sensible [est digne] dtre
prserv tout entier.
16
Mar, NHC X,1 p. 5,15-26.
17
B.A. Pearson, Notes: Marsanes, in: Nag Hammadi Codices IX and X (see note 6),
264; id., Gnosticism as Platonism. With Special Reference to Marsanes (NHC X,1),
HThR 77, 1984, (55-72), 71; J.D. Turner, Introduction: Marsanes (see note 14), 41
(see also ibid., 231); P.-H. Poirier, Commentaire: Marsans, in: Marsans (see note
14), 389 (recalling Plot., Enn. II 4 [12] 4,7-9; II 9 [33] 8,8-10.16-20 [unconvincing
parallels]). Poirier (ibid.,) continues: Elle rejoint un lieu commun platonicien,
savoir que le monde sensible, quoiquinfrieur, est bon et mme admirable.
18
Mar, NHC X,1 p. 3,25-4,2; on the problematic state of the text (irrelevant to the
present argument), see J.D. Turner, Introduction: Marsanes (see note 14), 112 n. 52.
See also ibid., 115, 212.
174 DYLAN M. BURNS
However, Turner, followed by Poirier, goes on to conjecture that
this in turn reveals Autogenes as a commander in Zostrianos who per-
fects Sophia following the creation of the world
19
. The passage cited
the bottom of page ten and top of page eleven of Nag Hammadi
Codex VIII is lacunous, and requires extensive conjectural restoration
on Turners part (left blank by Layton, and Barry/Funk/Poirier) to yield
the desired meaning:
Synopsis of Zostrianos NHC VIII,1 p. 10,28-11,2
Text and tr. Turner
And [again he said, Sophia became]
perfect through [the will of]
[the commander] through whom [the
atmospheric]
[realm perseveres], having
[immutably averted] the destruction of
the world.
au[w on p]ea[v e sovia asR]
tel[io]s ebol it[M piouwj
nte]
pire[V^ Rw] pa e[te pika Na]
yr m[oun] ebol ^ Ito[o]T^ V
eav[pw]wn[e ebol M]pita[k]o
Ntepkosmos
^ No[u]mN[t]atou[w]tB ebol
Text Barry/Funk/Poirier, Layton/
Sieber; tr. mine
[
perfect through [
[ ] it [
[ ] by means of it, as it
[revealed] the destruction of the
world
by means of its immutability.
au [
tel[ios ebol it[
pir . [ ] pa e[
yr M[ ] ebol ^ Ito[o]T^ V.
eav[ou]wn[ ebol M]pita[k]o
Ntepkosmos
No[u]mN[t]atou[w]tB ebol.
In Turners reading, the text states that Sophias repentance ensures the
longevity of creation, contra Plotinus opponents, for whom repentance
for creation connotes its destruction
20
. Thus Turner, followed by Poirier,
reads Marsanes and Zostrianos as supporting a Neoplatonic position about
cosmic eschatology against that of the Christian Gnostics attacked in
Enn. II 9, where Plotinus asks:
19
J.D. Turner, Introduction: Marsanes (see note 14), 115; P.-H. Poirier, Commentaire:
Marsans, in: Marsans (see note 14), 389. Oddly, Poirier here refers to the BFP text
of Zostrianos, which does not support Turners point.
20
J.D. Turner, Commentary: Zostrianos, in: Zostrien (see note 14), 514-515; re: Plot.,
Enn. II 9 [33] 4,15-19.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 175
When is it (the demiurge) going to destroy it (the world)? For if it was
sorry it had made it, what is it waiting for? If its not sorry now for creating
the world, then why will it be sorry later? Or, if it is waiting for the souls
of the elect, then why havent they all come yet?
21
They (that is, the Gnostics) introduce all sorts of comings into being
and passings away (genseiv ka fqorv)
22
Turner extends this reading to Zostrianos based upon his restoration of
pages ten and eleven of Nag Hammadi Codex VIII. This approach is
unsatisfactory for several reasons. The first of them is internal: by Turner
and Poiriers reasoning,
1) the Christian Gnostics known to Plotinus read and rejected the
Sethian perspective on cosmic eschatology in Zostrianos and perhaps
(depending on how one dates it) Marsanes,
2) and expressed their own views to Plotinus along with the text of
Zostrianos.
3) He subsequently rejected their views, although
4) he must have agreed on this point with Zostrianos,
5) which he quotes on other matters in his polemic
23
, but ignores with
respect to cosmic eschatology, focusing instead on the texts readers
in his circle.
This is a convoluted scenario that supposes that the Sethian treatises
were, on the issue of cosmic eschatology, of virtually no importance to
any of their readers in Plotinus circle!
Moreover, Turners reading is based off of restorations to Zostrianos
that are not made in the editions of Layton/Sieber and Barry/Funk/
Poirier, which here agree on the text. The question is whether one
should restore [..]wn as [pw]wn (avert) or [ou]wn (reveal).
Paleographically speaking, both readings are possible, although the latter
is preferable on grounds that the word pwwn does not appear in
any of the Platonizing Sethian treatises. Moreover, the word immuta-
bility (mNtatouwtB) is a common epithet in Zostrianos for the
Protophanes and Kaluptos sub-aeons of Barbelo and their inhabitants
24
;
21
Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 4,14-23. Cf. also the Gnostic claim that it creates for honor
and arrogance and rashness (II 9 [33] 11,22-24).
22
Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 6,58-60; see also II 1 [40] 4,29-33.
23
Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 9,9-22; M. Tardieu, Les gnostiques (see note 1), 528; J.D.
Turner, Commentary: Zostrianos (see note 20), 519-520.
24
Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 48,8; 114,6; 116,19; 122,9; 130,24.
176 DYLAN M. BURNS
it is hard to see how they could have this quality in common with the
world, which in Zostrianos is formed of evil matter. Rather, the fate of
the dissoluble world is contrasted and revealed by providence and its
immutability, for providence is what holds the world together, as
discussed below. Thus, at the end of his sermon, Zostrianos invites his
hearer/reader to
look at the dissolution (ouwtB) of this place, and follow the indissoluble
unbegottenness (mNtatmise) Dissolve (bal ebol) yourselves,
and that which has bound you will be dissolved. Save yourselves so that it
(that is the soul) will be saved! The loving Father has sent you the Savior
(swtr) and he has strengthened you. Why do you hesitate? Seek, when
you are sought. Listen, when you are invited. For time (xrnov) is short.
Do not be deceived; great is the aeon of the aeon of the living, (and great
are) the punishments of those who remain unpersuaded. Many are the
bondages and the torturers that seek you. Flee quickly, before destruction
reaches you. Look to the light, and flee from the darkness. Do not be led
astray to your destruction!
25

Finally, Marsanes references to saving the entire defilement and the
sensible world are too vague to refer to an eternal cosmos. The passage
does not say that the world will be sustained, or preserved eternally.
It does appear to have some kind of monistic view of cosmic eschatology;
what view this might be whether Marsanes actually esteems matter
itself
26
, and how that position might be philosophically (in)defensible is
not clear. I would hypothesize instead that the passage is in keeping with
the common Judeo-Christian idea of a new earth, in which the created
world will be destroyed but replaced by a new, eternal heavenly realm
27
.
In this sense, the world is saved. This new earth was apparently
25
Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 130,21-132,5.
26
See (on TractTrip NHC I,5) A.H. Armstrong, Dualism Platonic, Gnostic, and Chris-
tian, in: Plotinus amid Gnostics and Christians. Papers Presented at the Plotinus
Symposium Held at the Free University, Amsterdam on 25 January 1984, ed. by D.T.
Runia, Amsterdam 1984, (29-52), 45: even if all matter could be saved, this does not
mean that it is esteemed in the first place (on the contrary, it requires divine interven-
tion for salvation).
27
Rev 21,1-2; 2Pe 3,13. See also Isa 65,17; 66,22; 4Ezr 7,89-101; 2Bar 49-52; 72-74.
In the untitled treatise in the Bruce Codex (p. 249 cf. C. Schmidt/V. MacDermot,
ed. and trans., The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex, NHS
13, Leiden 1978), it is a city, Jerusalem, on which see also L. Abramowski, Nag
Hammadi 8,1 Zostrianos, das Anonymum Brucianum, Plotin, Enn. 2,9 (33), in:
Platonismus und Christentum. Festschrift fr Heinrich Drrie, ed. by H.-D. Blume
and F. Mann, JAC.E 10, Mnster 1983, (1-10), 7.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 177
known to Plotinus Christian Gnostics and the Untitled text in the
Bruce Codex
28
.

A hypothesis which accommodates cosmic destruction and elect sote-
riology makes sense of other passages in the text. Marsanes refers to the
end times, and the eschatological rewards of the elect:
It is necessary [for you, (Marsanes), to know] those that are higher than
these and tell them to the powers. For you (sg. masc.) will become [elect]
with the elect ones (netsatP) [in the last] times ([an]aeeu
Nneouaeij)
29
Those who have received you will be given their choice reward (beke)
for their endurance (pomon), and he will protect them from evils. But let
none of us be distressed For (the Great Father) looks upon them all
[and] takes care of them all.
30
And the reward (beke) which will be provided for this one (sing.
masc.) in this manner is salvation (oueei); but () the opposite will
befall there whoever commits sin. [The one who commits] sin by himself
[] But you shall examine who is worthy (ziov) of revealing them,
knowing that [those] who commit sin
31
These passages contrast the elect, who will receive their reward of salva-
tion, with the non-elect, or sinners. The universalist statement that the
Great Father takes care of them all is tempered by the non-universalist
reference to an opposite reward for sinners, that is a lack of salvation.
The simplest solution is to assume that membership in the elect is open
to all, but certainly not accepted by all. In this way, the Father takes
28
Plotinus says that the Gnostics identify a new earth as the rational form of the
world (lgov ksmou [Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 5,26-27] = Unt. p. 249 cf. C. Schmidt/V.
MacDermot, The Books of Jeu [see note 27]); cf. Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 11,11-12;
VI 7 [38] 11.
29
Mar, NHC X,1 p. 10,13-18, agreeing with Poirier (P.-H. Poirier, Commentaire:
Marsans, in: Marsans [see note 14], 400) that the use of [pa]ev indicates a
change of speaker, probably a supernatural authority (i.e. an agent of the Barbelo),
who addresses, in the first-person masculine singular, Marsanes. B.A. Pearson, Notes:
Marsanes (see note 17), 278, sees Marsanes as talking to his audience, with the use of
the singular instead of the plural as a textual corruption. Turner recognizes the escha-
tological import of the passage but simply states that it is quite unclear whether
this reflects a scene of a final cosmic judgment, or merely the periodic judgment of
individual that occurs between successive reincarnations of the soul. J.D. Turner,
Introduction: Marsanes (see note 14), 38-39.
30
Mar, NHC X,1 p. 1,14-25. P.-H. Poirier, Commentaire: Marsans, in: Marsans (see
note 14), 365-366., stresses the paraenetic context and recalls the elect at p. 10,16-23.
31
Mar, NHC X,1 p. 40,2-23.
178 DYLAN M. BURNS
care of them, the sinners, but some will not repent and inherit only the
opposite reward.
As mentioned above, Zostrianos and Allogenes also speak of the fate of
the non-elect. As for those who have material existence, because they
did not know God, they shall pass away (bwl ebol)
32
. (This is
almost certainly the dead kind of humanity that winds up in fire.)
During a discussion of negative theology in Allogenes, the luminaries
declare that someone who mistakenly identifies God with his attributes
has not known God and is liable to judgement
33
. In a comment on
one of these passages, Turner remarks that the souls pass away without
judgment, but this is unlikely, given references to judges and judging
in Zostrianos and Allogenes
34
.

Clearly, the Platonizing Sethian treatises have not only a concep-
tion of the elect, but also of the non-elect. In terms of personal escha-
tology, the texts are non-universalist; in terms of cosmic eschatology,
they presume that the cosmos will be destroyed. In the passages
discussed here, it is clear that there will be an end time where non-
elect souls pass away and others are judged. Thus, to return to
Marsanes ostensibly universalist monism, one must ask what the
entire perceptible world is worthy of being saved from. As Pearson
and Turner have already noted, Autogenes here seems to care for the
world, or, in the parlance of Allogenes, rectify its faults by nature, in
a demiurgical way
35
.
The idea referred to here is likely the dissoluble character of the cos-
mos which must be maintained by God via divine providence, an idea
32
Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 128,13-14.
33
Allog, NHC XI,3 p. 64,14-25.
34
J.D. Turner, Commentary: Zostrianos (see note 20), 650 on Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p.
128,13-14; for judges, see ibid., 9,6-15; for judgment of souls not knowing God,
see Allog, NHC XI,3 p. 64,14-25. Cf. also his reading of the dead souls in fire at
Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 42,6-19. J.D. Turner, Sethian Gnosticism (see note 6), 565-67;
id., Commentary: Zostrianos (see note 20), 650.
35
Allog, NHC XI,3 p. 51,25-32; B.A. Pearson, Notes: Marsanes (see note 17), 264
(recalling the demiurgic gods at Pl., Ti. 41a-42a); id., Gnosticism as Platonism (see
note 17), 71; J.D. Turner, Sethian Gnosticism (see note 6), 577; id., Introduction:
Marsanes (see note 14), 111-112.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 179
common amongst philosophers Hellenic
36
, Jewish
37
, and Christian.
Given the close association of Autogenes with salvific activity and its root
in the Barbelo, the first thought of the Invisible Spirit, it is no surprise
that ancient philosophers usually regarded this cosmic maintenance as
the work of providence. Thus, the passage referring to the salvation of
the whole world is concerned with Gods providential care that maintains
the foundation of its cosmos, here via the demiurgical activity of the
Autogenes aeon. However, Christians such as Athenagoras and Origen
held that God could also allow the world to eventually pass away
38
.
Marsanes references to the end-times and the fate of sinners appear to
agree. There is therefore no reason to assume that Marsanes is not in
keeping with the soteriology of the other Platonizing treatises, wherein
salvation is open to anyone who receives the Gnostic call, while those
who refuse to acknowledge it will be destroyed. None of the Sethian
documents are universalist
39
.
This reading of the texts harmonizes much better with other evidence
about Sethianism, both from Nag Hammadi and from Plotinus. Each of
the non-Platonizing Sethian treatises contains a mini-apocalypse
describing the end of the world. In the Pronoia Hymn at the end of
The Apocryphon of John, the final descent of providence elicits
an awakening of mans divine nature which is tantamount to the
completion (suntleia) of their aeon
40
. The second part of the Trimor-
phic Protennoia, entitled On Fate, is the revelation of Protennoia
36
Pl., Ti. 41a-c; more generally, Lg. X 901d-903b. For the sublunary spheres as
corruptible and in need maintenance, see Arist., Cael. II 3,286a3f.; GC II 10,336a24
32; Metaph. L 6,1072a10, cit. R.W. Sharples, Alexander of Aphrodisias on Divine
Providence. Two Problems, CQ 32, 1982, (198-211), 200 n. 20. See also Athenag.,
leg. 19,3 (cf. Legatio and De Resurrectione, ed. and trans. by W.R. Schoedel, OECT,
Oxford 1972).
37
Philo, opif., 2.10 (cf. Philo, Works, Greek and English Translation, ed. by F.H.
Colson/G.H. Whittaker, Vol. 1-10, Cambridge 1949-1962); for many other passages
in Philo, see D.T. Runia, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato, PhAnt 44,
Leiden 1986, 240-241; also ibid., 153-154; D. Winston, Philos Theory of Eternal
Creation. Prov 1.6-9, PAAJR 46, 1979-1980, (593-606), 599.
38
Athenag., res. 18,3 (cf. Legatio and De Resurrectione [see note 36]); Or., princ. I 4,3
[cf. Origenes, Werke, hg. von P. Koetschau, Bd. 5: De Principiis, GCS 22, Leipzig
1913]; id., Cels. V 26 [cf. Origenes, Contra Celsum, Transl. with an Introduction
and Notes by H. Chadwick, Cambridge 1953].
39
Pace J.D. Turner (Commentary: Zostrianos [see note 20], 554), conjecturing that
most Sethian texts seems to entertain the prospect of universal salvation, except for
those who entirely reject the doctrine, i.e. AJ NHC II,1 p. 25,16-27; 30.
40
AJ, NHC II,1 p. 31,2.
180 DYLAN M. BURNS
(providence) herself describing the confusion of the archons and the
demiurge (or Archigenetor). The coming end of the aeon (qa[]y
Mpaiwn etnajwpe) is to be followed by a harrowing of hell and
an aeon without change (pa ete mNtav Mmau Noujibe)
41
.
The Apocalypse of Adam features three cataclysms that befall the world:
flood and fire are sent by the demiurge to wipe out the seed of Seth, but
the real eschaton arrives with the coming of the Illuminator, at which
point the whole creation that came from the dead earth will be under
the authority of death
42
.
In The Egyptian Gospel as well, there are two cataclysms of flood (a
type [tpov] of the consummation [suntleia] of the aeon) and fire:
these things will happen for the sake of the great, incorruptible race. For
the sake of this race, temptations (peirasmo) will come, an error of false
prophets
43
After recognizing that these disasters were sent by the devil
against his people, Seth summons guardians who bring about a third
parousa, the judgment of the archons and consummation (suntleia)
of the aeon
44
. In fact, Seth was created exactly for this purpose at the
request of Adam, to found the immovable race and that, because of it,
[the] silence [and the] voice might appear, so that the [dead] aeon [may
raise itself,] [and](finally) dissolve (katalein)
45
.
While Plotinus does not directly attack his Christian Gnostic oppo-
nents conception of cosmic eschatology, he clearly thinks they affirm
41
Protennoia, NHC XIII,1 p. 42,1-45,2; 42,19-21. The redactional relationship of this
apocalypse to the rest of the text and Sethian tradition is not clear. Turner hypothe-
sizes that it is a secondary doctrinal addition, drawing on Hellenistic Nekyia tradi-
tions to the earlier, aretological stratum of the text (cf. J.D. Turner, NHC XIII,1:
Trimorphic Protennoia, in: Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII, XIII, ed. by C.W.
Hedrick and E. Pagels, CoptGnL, NHS 28, Leiden 1990, 371-454).
42
ApcAd, NHC V,5 p. 68-70; 75,9-16; 76,17-20; for background and interpretation,
see G.G. Stroumsa, Another Seed. Studies in Gnostic Mythology, NHS 24, Leiden
1984, 83.106; D. Brakke, The Seed of Seth at the Flood. Biblical Interpretation and
Gnostic Theological Reflection, in: Reading in Christian Communities. Essays on
Interpretation in the Early Church, ed. by C.A. Bobertz and D. Brakke, CJAn 14,
Notre Dame 2002, (41-62), 46-60.
43
Gos. Eg., NHC IV,2 p. 72,22-27 = III,2 p. 61,12-15.
44
Gos. Eg., IV,2 p. 72,4 = III,2 p. 61,20.4; IV,2 p. 73,27-75,24 = III,2 p. 63,13-64,9;
see also A. Bhlig/F. Wisse, Commentary: The Gospel of the Egyptians, in:
Nag Hammadi Codices III,2 and IV,2. The Gospel of the Egyptians, ed. with
Translation and Commentary by A. Bhlig and F. Wisse, NHS 4, Leiden 1975, (169-
207), 189.
45
Gos. Eg., NHC IV,2 p. 63,3-8 = III,2 p. 51,10-14, transl. A. Bhlig/F. Wisse,
Nag Hammadi Codices III,2 and IV,2 (see note 44), modified.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 181
that the world both begins in time and eventually ends. As noted at the
beginning of this section, he expends great energy on attacking their
conception of the creator, who will destroy the world. He argues that
they do not understand that the demiurge creates not through discursive
thought (dinoia) but contemplation (qewra);
(This confusion comes from) the people who assume a beginning for what
is eternal; then, they think that the cause of the creating was a being who
turned from one thing to the next and thus changed.
46

Furthermore, Plotinus vigorously insists on the eternal existence of
matter, which cannot dissolve unless it has something to dissolve into
47
.
Two problems are embedded in this complex of evidence. First, Ploti-
nus defends a non-literal reading of the Timaeus where the demiurge does
not actually create the world in time, against the literal reading appar-
ently used by the Gnostics and mocked by Epicureans
48
. Second, and
more relevant for the present discussion, Plotinus does not accept the
idea that the world can be destroyed since he considers the world eternal
and because it would require an intervention by what is eternal in that
which is temporal
49
. If the Platonizing Sethian treatises did indeed
circulate in Plotinus seminar, it would be unlikely that he would have
leveled the aforementioned criticisms against them and their readers if
they in fact affirmed that the world was uncreated and eternal.
THE BACKGROUND OF SETHIAN ESCHATOLOGY
IN CONTEMPORARY HELLENIC, CHRISTIAN, AND GNOSTIC THOUGHT
At this point, it is worth pausing to consider the Platonic philosoph-
ical context of Sethian eschatology. The eternity of the world was an issue
that ancient philosophers staked a great deal of importance upon. The
46
Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 8,2-5; see also V 8 [31] 7; VI 7 (38) 1,38; III 2 [47] 2,16-21.
47
Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 3,7-21.
48
For a fine survey of passages and the issues at hand, see D.J. OMeara, Gnosticism
and the Making of the World in Plotinus, in: The Rediscovery of Gnosticism.
Proceedings of the International Conference on Gnosticism at Yale, New Haven,
Connecticut, March 28-31 1978, ed. by B. Layton, Vol. 1: The School of Valentinus,
SHR 41.1, Leiden 1980, 365-378.
49
Rightly emphasized by E.P. Meijering, God Cosmos History. Christian and Neo-
Platonic Views on Divine Revelation, VigChr 28.4, 1974, (248-276), esp. 253-254;
see also C. Schmidt, Plotins Stellung zum Gnosticismus und kirchlichen Christentum,
TU N.F. 5, Leipzig 1901, 68-71.
182 DYLAN M. BURNS
central concern for Platonists was the eternity of the soul. In an influ-
ential discussion followed by Cicero, Maximus of Tyre, and Macrobius,
Plato states in the Phaedrus that all soul is immortal; it has no begin-
ning, or rather is a beginning for all else, an unmoved mover. The same
goes for the soul of the world itself, which moves all things in it
50
. The
Timaeus, meanwhile, says the world is incorruptible, a proof-text used
by Alcinous
51
. While Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, and Macrobius did
allow for the occasional destruction of civilizations, this was never
tantamount to the destruction of the cosmos
52
. Other thinkers to
defend the eternity of the world included Plutarch
53
,

the Hermetists
54
,
and of course Plotinus himself
55
.
With the rise of Christian intellectuals and their debates with
Hellenic interlocutors, the topic became a central and bitterly-debated
locus of Hellenic-Christian polemics. Like Plato and Aristotle, Celsus
defended the eternity of the world
56
, but believed that there had been
prior world-cycles of floods and conflagrations; they had been garbled by
Christians, who came to think that God will descend bringing fire in
50
Pl., Phdr. 245c-246a; see also Ti. 41b; Cic., Somn. Scip. 8-9 (cf. De Re Publica,
ed. and transl. by C.W. Keyes, LCL 213, Cambridge 1977); id., Tusc. I 53-54
(cf. Tusculan Disputations, transl. by J.E. King, LCL 141, London 1960); Max.Tyr.,
Or. 10,4 (cf. The Philosphical Orations, transl. with an Introduction and Notes by
M.B. Trapp, Oxford 1997).
51
Pl., Ti. 41b; Alcin., Epit. 15.2.
52
Pl., Plt. 269c-274e; Ti. 29a; Arist., Cael. 1,10; Macr., Comm. Somn. Scip. II 10,9-16
(cf. Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, transl. with an Introduction and Notes by
W.H. Stahl, RoC 48, New York 1952).
53
Plu., de E Delph. 393f. (cf. Plutarchs Moralia in sixteen Volumes, Vol. 5: 351C-438E,
transl. by F.C. Babbitt, LCL 306, London 1936); (cf. Plot. Enn., II 9 [33] 6,58-7,3);
de def. Orac. 415f-416a, 433e-f.
54
Ascl. 29 (cf. Hermetica, The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius
in a New English Translation with Notes and Introduction, ed. and transl. by B.P.
Copenhaver. Cambridge 1995): if the world was and is and will be a living thing
that lives forever, nothing in the world is mortal. Ibid., 31; Corp. Herm. XI 3,
5, 15.
55
Plot., Enn. IV 4 [28] 10,5-7. Probably not (as suggested by C. Schmidt, Plotins
Stellung zum Gnosticismus [see note 49], 69) a rebuttal of Rev 4, n ka n ka
rxmenov; a better candidate would be III 7 [45] 3,31-34. 12,13-29; II 1 [40]
1-2.4-5; III 7 [45] 6). While Plotinus defended the worlds eternity, he also adopted
the Stoic idea of the recurrence of events (presumably following the kind of incom-
plete destructions described in Plato and Aristotle Enn. V 7 [18]).
56
Or., Cels. III 39; IV 79; cf. Minuc., Octavius 11,1 (ANF); J.G. Cook, The Inter-
pretation of the New Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism, Peabody 2002, 99.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 183
the manner of a torturer
57
.

Macrobius, too, emphasized that while floods
and conflagrations may nearly devastate the world, the world is never
destroyed. Nothing ever perishes, but is simply changed. He favorably
contrasts Ciceros words about a world that is mortal in part with the
popular belief that some things seem to perish within the universe
58
.
Alexander of Lycopolis mocked the unintelligible physics of Manichaean
eschatological fire
59
. Other approaches focused, like Plotinus, on how
Christian conceptions of creation complicated temporality and the good-
ness of the demiurge: Sallustius states that the universe itself must be
imperishable and uncreated; imperishable, because if it perishes God
must necessarily make either a better or a worse or the same or disorder
60
.

Macarius Magnes Hellenic interlocutor in his Apocriticus criticizes 1Co
7,31 (the present form of the world is passing away), asking how the
demiurge could have created the world poor enough to pass away in the
first place
61
. Later, he attacks descriptions of stars falling and the heavens
rolling up (drawn from the Apocalypse of Peter and Isa 34,4), saying
57
Or., Cels. I 19-20, IV 9,11. Origen responds that Moses and the prophets didnt get
this idea from anyone else (ibid., IV 12; cf. Clem., str. V 14,4 [cf. Clemens Alexan-
drinus, hrsg. von O. Sthlin, Bd. 2: Stromata; Buch I-VI, GCS 52, Leipzig 1960])
and that the cycle is not unlimited (see also Cels. IV 62, 67-78, V 20; A.F.J. Klijn,
Seth in Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Literature, NT.S 46, Leiden 1977, 122; J.G.
Cook, New Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism [see note 56], 98).
58
Macr., Comm. Somn. Scip. II 12,12-16.
59
Alex. Lyc., Man. (cf. P.W. van der Horst and J. Mansfeld, An Alexandrian Platonist
against Dualism. Alexander of Lycopolis Critique of the Doctrines of Manichaeus,
translated with an Introduction, Leiden 1974, 95-97; ch. 26 in: Alexandri Lycopoli-
tani contra Manichaei opiniones disputatio, ed. A. Brinkmann, BSGRT, Stuttgart
1989, 38-40).
60
Sallust., De diis et mundo 7 (cf. Sallustius, Concerning the Gods and the Universe,
ed. with Prolegomena and Translation by A.D. Nock, Cambridge 1996); also 13:
everything made in virtue of a function comes into being with the possessor of the
function, and things so made cannot ever perish, unless their maker is deprived of
the functional power. Accordingly, those who suppose that the universe perishes deny
the existence of gods, or, if they assert that existence, make the Creator powerless.
See also Prolegomena, in: Sallustius, Concerning the Gods (see note 60), (xvii
cxxiii) lx-lxii.
61
Mac. Mgn., apocr. IV 158 (cf. Macarius Magnes, Le Monogns. Macarios de
Magnsie, introd. gnrale, d. critique, traduction franaise et commentaire par
R. Goulet, 2 Vols., Textes et Traditions 7, Paris 2003); for discussion, see J.G. Cook,
New Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism (see note 56), 222 (seeing the parallel
with Plotinus critique at Enn. II 9 [33] 4), 230 n. 383.
184 DYLAN M. BURNS
that whoever could believe such things must be padeutov nasqj-
tov: heaven cannot change and cannot be judged, for it does not sin
62
.
Sethian cosmic eschatology appears instead most intelligible alongside
the developments of contemporary second and third-century Christian
and Gnostic thought. The New Testament, apocalyptic literature, and
the Apostolic Fathers generally held a philosophically nave belief in a
final judgment separating the righteous from the sinner
63
, the physical
destruction of the world, usually through fire
64
, and its subsequent recon-
stitution as a perfect, eternal kingdom
65
. This perspective was also sup-
ported in third-century Christianity, as by Tertullian, Hippolytus, or the
Montanist prophet Maximilla
66
. 2 Enoch proposes that time is finite and
divided, as opposed to the undivided single aeon that will follow the
Final Judgment
67
.
62
Mac. Mgn., apocrit. IV, 164. Cooks recollection (232) of Plotinus defense of the
stars at Enn. II 9 [33] 8 is probably far-fetched.
63
1En. 1,4-7.38; 2En. 46; 65,5-10; 2Bar. 51,1-6; 54,20-22; 83; Apoc. Abr. 29-31;
Apoc. Petr. (Eth.) 4; Apoc. Elij. 5,30-35; Rev 20,12-15; 1Clem. 23-28.
64
Deu 32,22; Mat 5,22; 18,8; Mar 9,43; Rev 20,14; 21,8.
65
For discussion and survey of sources, see H. Kraft, Art. Eschatologie. V. Christliche
Eschatologie, dogmengeschichtlich. RGG
3
2, Tbingen 1957, (672-680), 675-676;
G. May, Art. Eschatologie. V. Alte Kirche, TRE 10, Berlin/New York 1982, (299-
305), 300-303; D. Aune, Early Christian Eschatology (see note 8), 595; H.W.
Attridge, Valentinian and Sethian Apocalyptic Traditions (see note 13), 184-185; A.Y.
Collins, thouhts on New Testament Eschatology in: Aspects of New Testament
Thought, in: The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. by R.E. Brown, J.A.
Fitzmyer and R.E. Murphy, London 1990. Examples of the reconstitution of the
world as a new kingdom include Isa 65,17; 66,22; 2Pe 3; Rev 21; 1En. 45,4-5; 2Bar.,
32,7; 44; 2Clem. 11f.; Herm., mand. 3,8-9. The most egregious examples are
Chiliasm: Rev 20,6; Apoc. Elij. 5,36-9; Iren., haer. V 28,3 (on the latter, see further
C.R. Smith, Chiliasm and Recapitulation in the Theology of Irenaeus, VigChr 48.4,
1994, 313-331).
66
Tert., Marc. III 24; id., An. 55 (cf. ANF: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers
down to A.D. 325, ed. by A. Roberts and A.C. Coxe, Vol. 3-4, Grand Rapids 1976);
Hipp., Dan. 2,4 (cf. ANF: Translations ot the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D.
325, ed. by A. Roberts and A.C. Coxe, Vol. 5, Grand Rapids 1978); Eus., h.e.
V 16,18-19 (cf. The Ecclesiastical History, ed. and transl. by K. Lake and J.E.L.
Oulton, 2 Vols., LCL 153/265, Cambridge 1973/1975); similarly, Hom. Clem. II
15,1-3. See further G. May, Art. Eschatologie (see note 65), 302-303.
67
2En. 65; for discussion in light of contemporary Zoroastrian and Greek concepts of
time, see S. Pines, Eschatology and the concept of Time in the Slavonic Book of
Enoch, in: Types of Redemption. Contributions to the Theme of the Study-Confer-
ence held at Jerusalem 14th to 19th July 1968, ed. by R.J. Zwi Werblowsky and
C.J. Bleeker, SHR 18, Leiden 1970, (72-87), 77-82.
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 185
More philosophically-inclined apologists, however, attempted to nuance
their views in hopes of engaging Hellenic thought. Often this amounted
to attempts to rethink biblical concepts of the worlds destruction in Stoic
terms. Justin Martyr argued that if man had free will, he must receive
eternal reward or punishment as merited; this punishment would be a fire
that would also consume the entire world
68
. He charges that the Stoics
robbed the doctrine of the cosmic conflagration from the Jews, while mis-
takenly loading it with determinism as well as the idea of a re-birth of
another material universe
69
. Clement never explicitly denounces the eter-
nity of the world, but he agrees with Justin that the Stoic kprwsiv is a
scrambled version of Mosaic teaching about the end
70
. Although he
affirmed (limited) successive rebirths of the cosmos
71
, Origen thought that
the cosmos as known by humans was finite and would be destroyed. In his
polemic with Celsus as well as in his commentaries, he is quite clear that
the world is created, destroyed, and judged
72
. In On First Principles,
Origen offers three answers to the question but doesnt settle on any of
them, proposing that 1) only the material world will be destroyed; 2) it
would be transformed into a spiritual world; 3) everything will be annihi-
lated
73
. The tension between the Platonic and Christian perspectives is
68
Just., 1 apol. 20. 28. 60; 2 apol. 7. 9 (cf. ANF: Translations of the Writings of the
Fathers down to A.D. 325, ed. and transl. by A. Roberts and A.C. Coxe, Vol. 1,
Grand Rapids 1977). See G. May, Art. Eschatologie (see note 65), 301; E. Osborn,
Justin Martyr, BHTh 47, Tbingen 1973, 149-153.
69
See Heraclitus ap. D.L. 9.8 (cf. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers,
transl. by R.D. Hicks, 2 Vols., LCL 184/185, London 1972/1979); for the eternal
return, see the sources collected in: A.A. Long and D.N. Sedley, The Hellenistic
Philosophers, 2 Vols., Cambridge 1987, 52.
70
Clem., str. V 1,554.
71
Or., princ. II 3,4-5, III 5,3; for an eventual end to the succession of worlds,
see comm. in Rom. VI 8,8 Scheck.
72
Or., Cels. IV 10. On final judgment in his commentaries, see hom. in Jer. 12,5
(cf. Origen, Homilies on Jeremiah. Homily on 1 Kings 28, transl. by C. Smith, FaCh
97, Washington D.C. 1998); hom. in Lev. 14.4 (cf. Origen, Homilies on Leviticus,
transl. by G.W. Barkley, FaCh 83, Washington D.C. 1990).
73
Or., princ. II 3,6. See also G. May, Art. Eschatologie (see note 65), 302; D.Y.
Dimitrov, Synesius of Cyrene and the Christian Neoplatonism: Patterns of Religious
and Cultural Symbiosis, in: What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?,
ed. by M. el-Abbadi and O. Mounir Fathallah, Library of the Written Word 1.3,
Leiden 2008, (149-170), 155. Origen also denies the eternity of the world at comm.
in Mt. 13.1 (cf. Origenes Werke, hg. von E. Klostermann, Vol 10-12, GCS 38.40.41,
Leipzig 1933-1955 cit. J.W. Trigg, Origen. The Bible and Philosophy in the Third-
Century Church, Atlanta 1983, 213).
186 DYLAN M. BURNS
perhaps most distinctly observed in the person of Synesius of Cyrene, who,
on account of his training in Greek philosophy, simply refused to admit
that the world, with all its parts, must perish
74
.
As Peel showed in his survey of eschatological passages in Gnostic
texts
75
, most Gnostic thinkers also presumed that the world would be
destroyed, whether by means of a restoration (pokatstasiv)
76
, the
consummation (suntleia) of the aeon
77
, dissolution (bwl ebol)
78
,
fire
79
, or cosmic war
80
. Excepting the Epistle to Rheginos, these texts
evince little interest in Greek thought or philosophically-palatable notions
of eschatology. However, contemporary Christian interest in articulating
the end-time terms of the Stoic conflagration (kprwsiv) was strong
amongst Valentinians. For Ptolemy, as with Justin and Clement, final
destruction was favored over the Stoic doctrine of its repeated cycles of
birth and destruction; unlike contemporary proto-orthodox thinkers,
he also stressed the destruction of matter
81
. For many Gnostics as well as
74
tn ksmon o fsw ka tlla mrj sundiafqeresqai (Synes., ep. 105,87-88 [cf. Synsius
de Cyrne, trad. et comment par D. Roques, ed. par A. Garzya, CUFr 397, Paris 2000];
see also J. Bregman, Synesius of Cyrene. Philosopher-Bishop, The Transformation of the
Classical Heritage 2, Berkeley 1982, 159-160; cf. H.-I. Marrou, Synesius of Cyrene and
Alexandrian Neoplatonism, in: The Conflict between Paganism and Christianity in the
Fourth Century: Essays, ed. by A. Momigliano, Oxford 1963, [126-150], 147).
75
M.L. Peel, Gnostic Eschatology (see note 13), 157-158, to which I am indebted for
many of the following citations.
76
Basilides ap. Hipp., haer. VII 26-27 (cf. ANF [see note 66]; A. Mhat, }Apokatsta-
siv chez Basilide, in: Mlanges dhistoire des religions offerts Henri-Charles Puech,
Paris 1974, 365-374, emphasizing continuity with proto-orthodox thinkers like
Irenaeus and Clement); Epiph., haer. LXVI 31-37 (cf. The Panarion of Epiphanius
of Salamis, transl. by F. Williams, 2 Vols., NHS 35/36, Leiden, 1987/1994); Rheg,
NHC I,3 p. 40; Apoc. Petr., NHC VIII,3 p. 73-74.
77
OW, NHC II,5 p. 110-11; 114,24; 121-22; 123,19.30-31; 125,32-33; Gos. Eg.,
NHC IV,2 p. 72,22-27 = III,2 p. 61,12-15; Par. Sem., NHC VII,1 p. 4,2-20; 48,18-
22. See also Codex Tchacos Gospel of Judas p. 54,16-57,19.
78
Dial, NHC III,5 p. 122,2-3; Apoc. Petr., NHC VIII,3 p. 76-77.
79
Noema, NHC VI,4 p. 36,3-8; 46.29-32; Pistis Sophia, 106 (cf. Pistis Sophia. Text
ed. by C. Schmidt with Notes by V. MacDermot, NHS 9, Leiden 1978; The Books
of Jeu [see note 27]; Megale Apophasis ap. Hipp., haer. VI 9,10; Kephalaia 16 [cf.
The Kephalaia of the Teacher. The Edited Coptic Manichaean Texts in Translation
with Commentary, ed. by I. Gardner, NHMS 37, Leiden 1995]).
80
OW, NHC II,5 p. 125,32-34; 126,4-127,4; 126,10-11.14-21; Par. Sem, NHC VII,1
p. 29,7-14; 31,11-22; 43,21-44,25; TractTrip, NHC I,5 p. 137.
81
Ptolemy ap. Iren., haer. I 7,1 (on which see H.W. Attridge, Valentinian and Sethian
Apocalyptic Traditions [see note 13], 184f.); see also Clem., exc. Thdot. 48,4
(cf. Extraits de Thodote. Clment dAlexandrie, Texte grec, introd. trad. et notes de
F. Sagnard, SC 23, Paris 1970).
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 187
Christians and Jews, the eschaton would be accompanied by a final
judgment
82
.
It is in this context that Sethian cosmic eschatology should be under-
stood. Despite clear interest in contemporary Stoic and Platonic thought,
the non-Platonizing Sethian treatises (the Apocryphon of John, Trimorphic
Protennoia, Apocalypse of Adam, and the Egyptian Gospel) all hold to un-
philosophical Judeo-Christian notions of cosmic eschatology. As noted
above, all of the texts assert a consummation of the world or present
aeon; only the Apocryphon fails to explicitly mention a final judgment.
While the Platonizing treatises are not primarily focused on cosmic but
personal eschatology, references to the dissolution of souls, shortness of the
present age (Zostrianos), judges of souls (Allogenes), the end-times, and
lack of salvation for sinners (Marsanes) make it clear that these texts pre-
sume, like the other Sethian treatises, that the cosmos will be destroyed.
Broadly speaking, then, all the Sethian texts agree with contemporary
Christian and Gnostic thought on the destruction of the world.
There are also important differences between the cosmic eschatology
of the Sethian texts and many of their Judeo-Christian contemporaries.
First, although the doctrine of the kprowsiv clearly was central to the
thought of educated Christians and Gnostics (Justin, Clement, Origen,
the Valentinians), Sethians appear to have eschewed it entirely, possibly
excepting the mutilated passage in Zostrianos that appears to associate the
dead type of humanity with fire
83
. More interestingly, the soteriologi-
cal schema of Zostrianos simultaneously affirms the doctrines of reincar-
nation
84
and the end of the world. From a Platonic standpoint, this is
impossible; the doctrine of the transmigration of souls presupposes that
82
Ptolemy ap. Iren., haer. I 13,6; AJ, NHC II,1 p. 27,22-31; GV, NHC I,3 p. 37,34-
38,6; Dial, NHC III,5 p. 127,16-19; Apoc. Petr., NHC VII,3 p. 73,20-74,9; 80,27-
29; Silv, NHC VII,4 p. 102,19-22; Pistis Sophia, chs. 106, 108, 111.
83
Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 42,10-26. It is also possible that the fire in question here is
that which purifies sinners: thus Heb 12; 18,29; 2Pe 3; 7; Rev 14,10; 17,16; Apoc.
Elij. 5,22-24; Orac. Sib. 2,196-213; 4,171-78; 7,117-31; 8,225-30.
84
Reading the aeon of the parokjsiv (sojourn, exile), with Sieber and Turner, as a
locale of metempsychosis. (Zostr, NHC VIII,1 p. 5,8-9; 11-12; 24-27; 43-45; Siebers
note ad loc. in the CGL edition of Zostr NHC VIII,1 p. 5,2425, re: LSJ 1342a; J.D.
Turner, Commentary: Zostrianos [see note 20], 534-544) Abramowski is correct to
point out the Christian valence of the term (L. Abramowski, Nag Hammadi 8,1 Zos-
trianos [see note 27], 3), which probably constitutes a development of the Christian
resident alien motif. (See B.H. Dunning, Aliens and Sojourners. Self as Other in Early
Christianity, Divinations: Rereading Late Antique Religion, Philadelphia 2009.) Cf.
Plot., Enn. II 9 [33] 6,1-3; Unt. 263,16-23; C. Schmidt, Plotins Stellung zum Gnos-
ticismus (see note 49), 61-62; M. Tardieu, Les gnostiques (see note 1), 527-528 n. 60;
188 DYLAN M. BURNS
1) there is a finite number of souls but 2) the universe is eternal
85
. None-
theless, metempsychosis was adopted by a few Christian writers associ-
ated with Gnosticism, including Basilides, the Ophites, Elchasai, Mani,
and the author(s) of Pistis Sophia
86
. Together with these thinkers, the
Sethians adopted a tenet identified amongst later proto-orthodox
Christians as an integral feature of Hellenic Platonism: not the salvation
of all souls or the eternity of the world, but reincarnation
87
.
J.D. Turner, Sethian Gnosticism (see note 6), 570. I explore this complex of evidence
at length in my Yale dissertation.
85
There cannot be an infinite number of souls in an eternal universe because, as Alci-
nous argues, with an infinite number of free souls, the possible number of acts these
souls could perform would be infinite, and since these acts are under the governance
of fate, i.e. divine knowledge, the divine would have to have knowledge of an infinity
of acts. But that is not possible, because infinity is unknowable. (Arist., Metaph. 2A
2,994b22; B 4,999a27; for additional references, see R. Sorabji, Time, Creation, and
the Continuum [see note 71], 186 n. 48). Therefore there cannot be an infinite
number of souls in existence, unless the universe is finite. (cf. Alcin., Epit. 26,1; Der
Platonismus in der Antike: Grundlagen System Entwicklungen, begrndet von
H. Drrie, fortgefhrt von M. Baltes, Teil 6: Die philosophische Lehre des Platonis-
mus, 2 Bde., Stuttgart/Bad Cannstatt 2002, 2. Bde., 259; R. Sorabji, Time, Creation,
and the Continuum [see note 71], 188; also adduces Sallust., de diis et mundo 20
and Olymp., in Phd. 10,1,2-5 [cf. Olympiodorus, ed. by L.G. Westerink, The Greek
Commentaries on Platos Phaedo 1, VNAW.L N.R. 92, Amsterdam 1976].) In his
defense of the idea that there are Platonic forms of individuals, Plotinus agreed that
the number of individual souls must be finite (even if they, as according to the Stoics,
recur infinitely). (Enn. V 7 [18]; W. Stettner, Die Seelenwanderung bei Griechen und
Rmern, TBAW 22, Stuttgart/Berlin 1934, 72) See further the sources collected in
Drrie/Baltes, Die philosophische Lehre des Platonismus (see note 85), 1. Bd.: 431;
2. Bd.: 350 n. 72.
86
Basilides: Clem., str. IV 165,3 = frg. E Layton = frg. 12 Lhr; id.: Or., comm. in
Rom. V 1,27 Scheck = frg. 17 Lhr (omitted by Layton). (Following B.A. Pearson,
Basilides the Gnostic, in: A Companion to Second-Century Heretics, ed. by A.
Marjanen and P. Luomanen, SvigChr 76, Leiden 2005, [1-31], 18; pace P. Nautin,
Les fragments de Basilide sur la souffrance et leur interprtation par Clement
dAlexandrie et Origne, in: Mlanges dhistoire des religions offerts Henri-Charles
Puech [see note 76], [393-404], 394-398). Ophites: Iren., haer. I 30,14; Epiph., haer.
XXVI 10,8; Or., Cels. VI 33; AJ, NHC II,1 p. 26,36-27,11. Elchasai: Hipp., haer.
IX 9. Mani: see Kephalaia 90, 92, 99, and the collection of sources in: G. Casadio,
Manichaean Metempsychosis. Typology and Historical Roots, in: Studia Manichaica
2. Internationaler Kongre zum Manichismus, 6.-10. August 1989 St. Augustin/
Bonn, hg. von G. Wiener und H.-J. Klimkeit, StOR 23, Wiesbaden 1992, 105-130.
See also Pistis Sophia, 283, p. 381,17-383,11.
87
Nemes., nat. hom. II 34,17-18 (cf. Nemesii Emeseni de natura hominis, ed.
M. Morani, BSGRT, Leipzig 1987).
COSMIC ESCHATOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN PLATONISM 189
CONCLUSION
To sum up, the eschatology of Marsanes and Zostrianos describes the
end of the world and the destruction of souls; references to judgment in
Allogenes probably presume a similar position. The Platonizing Sethian
treatises thus engage Neoplatonic metaphysics and mysticism, but actively
reject Hellenic Platonic eschatology. The Sethian Gnostics met Neopla-
tonism head-on and may have even contributed to its development,
but they also rejected key cosmological doctrines of Hellenic Platonism,
most likely in the interests of maintaining a Judeo-Christian identity.
Hellenic philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry, meanwhile, here drew
a line in the sand against Christian and Gnostic intellectuals that would
set the stage for Hellenic-Christian polemics until Justinians closing of
the Academy in 529 C.E. The Sethian Gnostics thus played a crucial role
in the differentiation of Judeo-Christian and Hellenic thought in Late
Antiquity.