die Gefallenen: Gnostischen , DOCETAE und Apokryphen

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gnostischen , DOCETAE und Apokryphen

I am doing this post remotely as I am still visiting friends and family up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the Christmas holidays. But I thought I would make this post on a minor debate between me and some colleagues I know at CUA in the hopes of ending the email debate (Really emailing during the holidays? Don’t you guys celebrate Christmas or have something better to do?).

The issue surrounds the nature of the die Gefallenen text itself. A few have conjectured that what translations they have seen currently suggest that this might not be Gnostic in origin (I disagree). They point out that it seems to lack some of the hallmark Gnostic traits like a supreme monadic divinity, a demiurge creator god, the use of aeons (an aspect of God), or some sort of salvation doctrine that involves freeing oneself from the corrupt material world to the greater spiritual world. They contend that the text so far appears to them as more apocryphal in nature similar to texts like the Book of Jubilees or Apocalypse of Peter (less the visions of heaven and hell).

While it is true that the traditional Gnostic nature appears to be lacking so far. Especially when one considers the fact that around the 4th Century a school of Gnosticism known as Valentinianism was just dying off when the text was supposedly written. I would contend that the die Gefallenen appears to me to be more like a docetae tradition or doketai in Greek. This tradition technically pre-dates most traditional Gnostic traditions and is sort of a proto-Gnosticism focusing on the spiritual concepts of appearances in our reality (as in Jesus only appears to be human or even material). If true this is suggestive that the text might be older than 4th Century, but I cannot say.

Much of the text so far appears to be concentrating on the spiritual world of things or is at least written from the spiritual perspective of interacting with our material world. I think the writer (Zuriel) is showing us how the evilness of the material world was introduced through what are lesser spiritual entities (i.e. fallen angels).

It is possible that the monastic community the die Gefallenen was found with may have kept some elements of an earlier Valentinianism mythos and blended it more with traditional Judeo-Christian accepted texts to make the whole thing more palatable. But I don’t think it is apocryphal because the text is not a known text. Almost all the apocryphal texts were circulating around in the early Christian era so much that they are mentioned by early Christian writers in their commentaries. The die Gefallenen is not mentioned at all, and I don’t think one will find it either.

The fact is the book is written in a code like language that took some Nazi code breakers and an enigma machine to crack sort of suggests that a key Gnostic tradition of secret knowledge. This may have been a text that was not available to novice monks until they understood some other fundamental Christian texts. Just look at the Dead Sea Scroll community where they had texts dealing with the warriors of light and darkness fighting it out that were not mentioned by earlier Christian writers or even the Jewish writers of the time. These texts clearly did not circulate and were part of some sort of internal knowledge privy only to the community itself.

One point I think we all can agree on is that even if we “scholars” cannot come to terms with the nature of the text (either Apocryphal or Gnostic) we all can clearly agree that the die Gefallenen is clearly not accepted canon when it comes to Christianity.