Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gnosticism In The Pastorals, Pt. II: Eve's Song

“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20, New King James Version).

The word “contradictions” here in the NKJV is the word “antitheseis” in the Greek, meaning “anti” (against) and “theseis” (arguments). The word “antithesis,” then, means “against arguments.” Used in the context of 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul is saying to Timothy that he should avoid the “arguments against” the truth from “pseudonumou gnoseos,” meaning “false-named knowledge.”

This series will take us through what are called “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.” For those who have never been introduced to the Nag Hammadi, they are, in the words of James M. Robinson, “a collection of thirteen papyrus codices----bound books, not scrolls---that were buried near the city of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt most likely in the second half of the fourth century CE...this is indeed a dramatic escalation of source material on early Christian, Neoplatonic, Hermetic, Sethian, and Valentinian thought” (James M. Robinson, “Preface,” from “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, The International Edition.” New York: HarperOne, 2007, page xi).

The Nag Hammadi are a collection of thirteen books that contain many different theological and philosophical treatises. The name of the Nag Hammadi was given to them because of where they were found (Nag Hammadi, Egypt). According to James Robinson, “most of the tractates are Gnostic” (xi), which leads us to believe that Gnostic thought was highly cherished by the community that lived at Nag Hammadi. It is Gnostic thought that I will be exploring in this enormous series we are embarking upon. The purpose of examining the Gnostic Gospels is so that we can see the types of teaching that existed in Gnostic thought. Upon studying the Pastorals and the Gnostic Gospels, one will understand why the context of the Pastorals had nothing to do with women in ministry and everything to do with false teaching and its destructive impact upon the church of Jesus Christ.

To begin our study of the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, I thought it would be best to start with a small section of a Gnostic work. Tonight’s small section will come from the Gnostic essay, “On the Origin of the World,” described by Marvin Meyer as “a smart Gnostic essay by an author who uses argumentation, narration, and colorful illustration in order to demonstrate the basic points of a Gnostic worldview” (“The Nag Hammadi Scriptures,” page 199).

The section I will come from in “On the Origin of the World” is Eve’s speech, called “The Song of Eve” (114, 4-24):

“Eve is the first virgin, and she gave birth to her first child without a man. She was her own physician. For this reason she is said to have declared:

I am the WIFE, I am the VIRGIN.
I am the comforter of birth pains.
And he is my father and lord.
He is my strength, he speaks of what he wants reasonably.
I AM BECOMING, but I HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO A LORDLY PERSON’” (“Song of Eve,” from “On the Origin of the World,” 114, 4-24. From the “Nag Hammadi Scriptures, The International Edition.” New York: HarperOne, 2007, page 213).

What is a contradiction? I said it above that a contradiction, or the Greek word “antitheseis,” refers to that which “argues against” something said before it. Well, contradictions are all over the place in the Song of Eve. First, she states, “I am part of my mother, and I am the mother.” How does this occur? How can person be both an offspring AND the parent all at the same time? Were this true, Eve would have been “self-created,” which is a contradiction (and an absurdity!).

The next line “I am the wife, I am the virgin,” is also absurd. If someone is a wife (married), how then can they be a virgin (a sign of singleness)? To be a “wifely virgin” is similar to a woman who is a “married batchlorette” or a man who is a “married batchelor.” The two terms side-by-side are a contradiction, for both cannot be true at the same time. It is likely that a man could once be a “batchelor” and then “married” or vice versa; but both cannot be true simultaneously.

The next major absurdity in the Song of Eve is “My husband produced me, and I am his mother.” How can Eve be the offspring of her “husband,” first of all? If she is his wife, how can she be both wife AND child? Next, if she is either wife or child, how then can she be her husband’s “mother”? These are absurdities that make no sense. And her “husband” cannot be her “father” and “lord”; all three cannot peacefully coexist. A father cannot be a husband (this is incest), and a husband cannot be a father.

Last but not least, what about “I am becoming, but I have given birth to a lordly person”? How can Eve be “becoming” and yet “begetting” at the same time? In order to give birth to a “lordly person,” Eve must be a person herself, with a fixed essence of humanness; this doesn’t exist, however, if Eve is “becoming.” Once again, the contradiction is all over the place.

To conclude, let me say that Paul was write when he wrote to Titus in Crete that he should “avoid foolish disputes...for they are UNPROFITABLE and USELESS” (Titus 3:9). The Song of Eve is such an example: it is a song that is full of contradiction (things that go against common sense) and useless. It serves no purpose to write in the manner in which Eve’s speech is written. Is it no wonder that Paul attacked this heresy of the first-century the way he did?


  1. Deidre,

    I found your blog by accident and have just spent the last 3 hours reading and will be reading more while at work tonight! I feel like I have discovered a hidden treasure! I will be looking forward to more posts on the Gnostic influences in the pastorals as I do not believe the church in general recognizes the amount of influence the early gnostic heresy had on the church in the 1st Century. I could not find a private email address for you. Please review my personal info and if you are comfortable with what you read, would you email me privately so I can send you a couple of questions "off the record". My own blog is at http://clarksons.org/blog/

    Grace to you and peace.


  2. Wiley,

    What an honor it is to hear from you!
    I am so touched by your commenting here at the site...and yet, I feel so humbled by it as well. I could easily take credit for the work here...but in the end, all glory goes to God for the great mind and heart for research He has given me.

    I have a contact e-mail address, which you can use to contact me: church022001@yahoo.com.

    I went on your blog to look for a contact, but couldn't find one. So, just contact me at the e-mail address in this response. Make sure you introduce yourself again so I can know who you are. I often get e-mailed by visitors to the site, so I can't often keep up with the names and concerns.

    I do look forward to hearing from you. May God bless you in what you read and see here. E-mail me with all questions you have, and I'll do my best to answer them. God bless.


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