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The Apocryphal New Testament Easy to use collection of English translations of the New Testament Apocrypha.

The Gospel of the Egyptians 22

This apocryphal gospel is likely to have originated in Egypt in the middle of the second century. Clement of Alexandria and Origen knew it, which indicates its circulation within Egypt itself. In Origen's first Homily on Luke he refers to those who composed the Gospel of the Egyptians as an example of those who attempted to write gospels prior to Luke (Luke 1: 1 ). It was accepted at an early date as canonical in Egypt although by the time of Origen it was numbered among the books to be rejected.

The contents of this gospel are known from the following references in the works of church fathers, in particular from Clement of Alexandria:

  • Clement, Strom. 3. 6. 45; 3. 9. 63–6; 3. 13. 92 f.

  • Hippolytus, Haer. (Philosophoumena), 5. 7

  • Epiphanius, adv. Haer. 62. 2. 4; Excerpta ex Theodoto, 67.

In so far as they can be reconstructed from the above passages, the contents suggest that this is a secondary gospel with a distinct doctrinal tendency, namely to promote Encratism, especially the rejection of marriage (e.g. in Strom. 3. 6. 45 Clement reports that when Salome asked how long death should have power she is told that it is ‘as long as you women give birth to children’). The gospel was also used to prove the doctrines of the Naassenes and the Sabellians.

It resembles Gnostic works in assigning an important role to the female disciples, especially in this case to Salome. Other teaching (e.g. as reported by Clement, Strom. 3. 13. 92) encourages the elimination of the sexual differences between male and female, a doctrine to be found for instance in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (logia 22 and 114).

Attempts to identify the Gospel of the Egyptians with other apocryphal writings (by Schneckenburger and others) are discussed in full by Schneemelcher in Hennecke3 or 5, i, who shows that these are not convincing. Likewise it is improbable that works known to us from the Oxyrhynchus and other papyri fragments should be assigned to this gospel.

The extracts are set out in:

  • Preuschen, 2 f., 135 f.

  • Klostermann, Apocrypha, ii. (2)12–13.

  • de Santos Otero, 53–7 (with Spanish trans.).

  • [Cf. Fabricius, i. 346–9.]

Synopses

  • Aland13, 584–6. [The passages from Hippolytus are attributed to the Gospel of the Naassenes.]

  • Huck–Greeven13, 285 f.

  • Boismard, 415.

Modern Translations

English

  • James, 10–12.

  • Hennecke3, i. 166–78.

  • Hennecke5, i. 209–15.

French

  • Migne, Dictionnaire, ii, cols. 217–20.

  • Éac, 473–7.

German

  • Hennecke1, 21–3 (E. Hennecke); cf. Handbuch, 38–42.

  • Hennecke3, i. 109–17 (W. Schneemelcher).

  • Hennecke5, i. 174–9 (W. Schneemelcher).

Italian

  • Bonaccorsi, i. XV, 14–15.

  • Erbetta, i. 1, 147–52.

  • Moraldi, i. 383–5.

General

M. Schneckenburger, Über das Evangelium der Ägyptier (Berne, 1834).

Patristic Citations

Epiphanius, adv. Haer. 62. 2 (Holl, GCS 31, p. 391):

Their (the Sabellians') entire error has its cause and strength in some a pocrypha, especially in the so‐called Gospel of the Egyptians to which some have ascribed this name. For in it many such things are transmitted as esoteric doctrine of the Lord, as if he had taught his disciples that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same.

Hippolytus, Haer. 5. 7 (Wendland, p. 81) :

[The Naassenes] say that the soul is something which is hard to find and hard to know. For it remains not in one fashion and in one form, nor also in one affection so that it could be called after one pattern or perceived in its nature. These manifold strange notions they find in the so‐called Gospel of the Egyptians.

Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3. 9. 63 (Stählin, GCS 52 (15), p. 225) :

Those who are opposed to God's creation because of continence, which has a fair‐sounding name, also quote the words addressed to Salome which I mentioned earlier. They are handed down, as I believe, in the Gospel of the Egyptians. For they say: the Saviour himself said, ‘I have come to undo the works of the female’, by the female meaning lust, and by the works birth and decay.

Ibid. 3. 9. 64 (Stählin, p. 225) :

Salome asked correctly when the Logos spoke of the end, ‘How long shall death prevail?’ . . . Wherefore the Lord very aptly answered, ‘As long as you women bear children’.

Cf. ibid. 3. 6. 45 (Stählin, p. 217) and id., Excerpta ex Theodoto, 67 (ed. O. Stählin, iii, GCS 172 (Leipzig, 1909; rev. L. Früchtel and U. Treu, Berlin, 1970), p. 129).

Ibid. 3. 9. 66 (Stählin, p. 226) :

Why do they (heretics who reject marriage) not also quote the following words which were spoken to Salome, they, who sooner follow everything else than the true evangelical canon? For when she said, ‘Then I have done well in not giving birth’, imagining that it is not permitted to bear children, the Lord answered, ‘Eat of every herb, but the bitter one eat not.’

Ibid. 3. 13. 92 (Stählin, p. 238) :

When Salome asked when it shall be made known the Lord said, ‘When you tread under foot the covering of shame and when out of two is made one, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.’ And this word we have not in the four gospels transmitted to us but only in the Gospel of the Egyptians.

Cf. 2 Clem. 12. 2, 4, 5: 23 Ed. K. Bihlmeyer, Die Apostolischen Väter, i (Tübingen, 21956), 76 (= Sammlung ausgewählter kirchen‐ und dogmengeschichtliche Quellenschriften, ii. 1). For the Lord himself, being asked by someone when his Kingdom would come, replied, ‘When two shall be one, that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.’ Now, two are one when we speak the truth one to another, and there is unfeignedly one soul in two bodies. And ‘that which is without as that which is within’ means this: He calls the soul ‘that which is within’, and the body ‘that which is without’. As, then, your body is visible to sight, so also let your soul be manifest by good works. And ‘the male with the female, neither male nor female’, this he said, that brother seeing sister may have no thought concerning her as female, and that she have no thought concerning him as male. ‘If you do these things’, he says, ‘the Kingdom of my Father shall come.’

Notes:

22 This Greek gospel is not to be confused with a Gospel of the Egyptians found at Nag Hammadi.

23 Ed. K. Bihlmeyer, Die Apostolischen Väter, i (Tübingen, 21956), 76 (= Sammlung ausgewählter kirchen‐ und dogmengeschichtliche Quellenschriften, ii. 1).

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