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Gospel of Truth in his death, which is treated without any hint


of docetism (20.25). The homily interprets
HAROLD W. ATTRIDGE
Jesus’ death, using imagery from Colossians
and the book of Revelation, as a revelatory
Entitled after its incipit, the Gospel of Truth is event, disclosing the essence of the Father and
a product of the Valentinian Gnostic tradition the origin and destiny of human beings in him.
found in two copies at Nag Hammadi (see Through attainment of that, Error is destroyed
NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY). The text is not a “gospel” (18.10–11, 24.30–2).
narrating the life and teachings of Jesus; the The second major section (24.9–33.32)
title is used in the more original sense of “good describes the effects of revelation, which
news.” Translated from Greek, the work survives produces unity with the Father (24.9–27.7)
in two copies, a complete text in Codex I,3 in and makes possible authentic human exis-
Subachmimic Coptic and a fragmentary Sahidic tence, envisioned as a state of wakefulness
version in Codex XII,2. The heresiologist (27.7–30.16). It also opens the way to final
Irenaeus, writing around 180 CE, attests a return to the Father (30.16–32.30).
Valentinian work with this title but says little The final section describes the process of
about its content. reintegration to the Father, an attraction imaged
The style of Gospel of Truth is allusive and the as a fragrant aroma (33.33–6.39). The agent of
tone meditative. Affinities between that style the return is the Son who is the Father’s true
and the fragments of Valentinus, a teacher name, naturally connected with the Father’s
active in mid-second-century Rome, have essence (36.39–40.23). The result of the return
suggested to some scholars that he authored is a state of rest in the Father (40.23–41.14).
the homily (see VALENTINUS/VALENTINIANS). Familiar with much of the canonical New
Others have objected that the work seems to Testament, the author weaves images and
know developments in later Valentinianism scriptural allusions into a complex tapestry,
and is therefore the work of a later member but has a particular affinity for the Gospel of
of the school. Whoever composed the text was John. Much of the Gospel of Truth may be
a skilled literary artist. understood as an interpretation of the Fourth
Like other early Christian homilies, the Gospel’s key insight that the cross is a revela-
Gospel of Truth combines exegesis and exhor- tory event, providing specific conceptual con-
tation as it celebrates the good news of God’s tent to that revelation.
revelation through the life and death of Jesus.
The work is structured into three large sec-
tions of exposition separated by two formally REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS
distinct passages, a celebration of the Divine
Word (23.18–24.9) and a parenetic appeal Attridge, H. W. and MacRae, G. (1985) “The Gospel of
Truth.” In H. W. Attridge, ed., Nag Hammadi Codex
(32.31–3.32). The first section of exposition
I (The Jung Codex): 1:55–122; 2:38–135. Leiden.
tells of the generation of Error (17.4–18.11), Magnusson, J. (2006) Rethinking the Gospel of Truth:
which comes from the Father, who is not, how- a study of its Eastern Valentinian setting. Uppsala.
ever, responsible for it. Behind this account lies Williams, J. A. (1988) Biblical interpretation in the
a myth of the fall of Sophia found in many gnostic Gospel of Truth from Nag Hammadi. Atlanta.
second-century gnostic sources. The response Wray, J. H. (1998) Rest as a theological metaphor in
to Error is the work of Jesus as revealer and the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Truth:
teacher (18.11–19.27). That work culminates early Christian homiletics of rest. Atlanta.

The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, First Edition. Edited by Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine,
and Sabine R. Huebner, print pages 2963–2964.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah05078