Gospel of Philip

From Academic Kids

Template:Early Christian Writings The Gospel of Philip is one of the texts of the New Testament apocrypha. In a similar manner to the Gospel of Thomas, it is a sayings gospel, a collection of wise sayings, purportedly of Jesus.

The text's misleading title is modern; the only connection with Philip the Apostle is that he is the only apostle mentioned (at 73,8). The text makes no claim to be from Philip.


History and context

A single manuscript of the Gospel of Philip, in Coptic, was found in the Nag Hammadi library, a cache of documents that was secreted in a jar and buried in the Egyptian desert at the end of the 4th century, when Gnostic writings and pagan ones were being burned by the official church.

Among the mix of aphorisms, parables, brief polemics, narrative dialogue, biblical exegesis (especially of Genesis), and dogmatic propositions, Wesley Isenberg has enumerated seventeen sayings (logia) attributed to Jesus, nine of which are citations and interpretations of Jesus' words already found in the canonical gospels (55,33-34; 57,3-5; 68,8-12; 68,26-27; 72,33-73,1; 77,18; 83,11-13; 84,7-9; 85,29-31). The new sayings (55,37-56,3; 58,10-14; 59,25-27; 63,29-30; 64,2-9; 64,10-12; 67,30-35; and 74,25-27), "identified by the formula introducing them ('he said', 'the Lord said', or 'the Savior said') are brief and enigmatic and are best interpreted from a gnostic perspective," Isenberg has written in his Introduction to the text (see link).

Philip emphasizes the sacral nature of the embrace between man and woman in the nuptial chamber.

In the case of the Gospel of Philip, the sayings are presented more purely than in the Gospel of Thomas, since they have no framing text, the gospel is literally one saying followed by another. Other than the text's introduction and title, there is no reason to assume they have anything to do with Jesus.

Many of the sayings are identifiably gnostic, and often appear quite mysterious and enigmatic:

  • Blessed is he who is before he came into being. For he who is, has been and shall be.
  • Echamoth is one thing and Echmoth, another. Echamoth is Wisdom simply, but Echmoth is the Wisdom of death, which is the one who knows death, which is called "the little Wisdom".
  • Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.
  • Jesus came to crucify the world.

One in particular appears to identify the levels of initiation in gnosticism, although what exactly the bridal chamber represented in gnostic thought is currently a matter of great debate.

The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber. - Gospel of Phillip


The Gospel of Philip is a text that reveals some connections with Early Christian writings of the Gnostic traditions. It is a series of logia or pithy aphoristic utterances, most of them apparently quotations and excerpts of lost writings, without any attempt at a narrative context. The main theme concerns the value of sacraments. Scholars debate whether the original language was Syriac or Greek. James Robinson, the text's translator, places the date in the 2nd half of the 3rd century and places its origin in Syria due to the traces of Syriac words, eastern baptismal practices and the ascetic outlook. The on-line Early Christian Writings site gives it a date ca 180 – 250 [1] (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelphilip.html) A second or third century dates is the range given in The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook, Marvin W.Meyer editor, 1987 p. 235.

The text has been interpreted by Wesley W. Isenberg (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 141) as a Christian Gnostic sacramental catechesis. Bentley Layton (The Gnostic Scriptures, p. 325) identified it as a Valentinian anthology of excerpts, and Elaine Pagels and Martha Lee Turner have seen it as possessing a consistent and Valentinian theology. It is dismissed by Ian Wilson (Jesus: The Evidence, 2000 p.88) who argues that it "has no special claim to an early date, and seems to be merely a Mills and Boon-style fantasy of a type not uncommon among Christian apocryphal literature of the third and fourth centuries."

External links


  • Leloup, The Gospel Of Philip: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, And The Gnosis Of Sacred Union 2004.
  • Robinson, James M., The Nag Hammadi Library HarperCollins 1990. The standard translation.
  • Turner and McGuire, Nag Hammadi Library After Fifty Years,: Martha Lee Turner, "On the coherence of the Gospel according to Philip, pp 223 – 50 and Einar Thomasson, "How Valentinian is the Gospel of Philip?" pp 251 – 279.

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