These are my notes on the surviving excerpts available from the so-called Gospel of the Egyptians:
– The Gospel of the Egyptians does not exist, except as experts from writings attributed to Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Epiphanus.
– Humans will live and die as long as women continue to give birth to children. This presumes an eschatology driven by human action, namely sex and child-bearing, two negatives.
– Salome is a central character. She is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, so the Gospel of the Egyptians may have depended on the Second Gospel. Salome’s greatness is found in that she has no children.
– Jesus is presented as being anti-sex. He calls it a “bitter plant” and a “garment of shame”. He decries gender, exalting a genderless existence. Jesus is quoted as saying he came to destroy the “works of the female”, which are presented as causing lust, giving birth, and forcing the continuation of decay and death. Needless to say, this document seems a bit misogynistic.
– This document is said to have advocated a doctrine that the soul changes, though the extent of this teaching is unknown, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one and the same “person”.
Seems about as kooky as what sometimes passes as “biblical” today. Oh the times, they ain’t a-changin’!
It does show that Christianity has sometimes become a product of its environment more than a shaper of its environment.
Thanks for this, Brian. On the kookiness… I’ll add that Clement does seem to cite the Gospel on occasion in a positive way. But it’s also worth noting that the citations we have, especially in Epiphanus, aren’t interested in presenting a comprehensive account of the Gospel’s contents and because of the polemical nature of the writing are more likely the highlight the text’s atypical ‘rough’ edges.
Thanks for this, Brian. There’s also a reference in Origen, In Ioan. ii.12: ‘the Saviour himself says: ‘My mother the Holy Spirit took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me away to the great Mount Tabor.’
On the kookiness… I’ll add that Clement does seem to cite the Gospel on occasion in a positive way (Strom. iii.9.63.1, 9.93.1). But it’s also worth noting that the citations we have, especially in Epiphanus, aren’t interested in presenting a comprehensive account of the Gospel’s contents and because of the polemical nature of the writing are more likely the highlight the text’s atypical ‘rough’ edges.
That is a helpful reminder. I wish we could stumble across intact versions of these Gospels so that we could get a better picture of their overall context!
Just as interesting are possible Egyptian precursors to Judaism and Christianity:
“Moses” of course is part of an Egyptian name. And he lived and worked in Egypt.
The whole idea of an immortal soul leaving the body at death, (Egyptian Ka and Ba; two souls?), seems far more Egyptian than Jewish in fact; much of Judaism believing only in “Sheol.”
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