The Gospel of Philip, Dissection

Dear friends, before I get into the dissection, I’d like to apologize for my posts shortage lately. I’ve been sick. I apologize again. I hope that you can forgive me. Let’s get into it then. I hope you enjoy the read.

The Gospel of Philip is a gnostic anthology with a long series of meditation written by disciples of Valentius. Who was aa brilliant 2nd century mystic, teacher & preacher who flourished in Alexandria & Rome. He was reputed to be a candidates for the position of bishop of Rome (a.k.a. The Pope). Valentinus may have been the author of the Gospel of Truth. A beautiful gnostic sermon perserved by the Nag Hammadi texts. There are some that suggest that some of the excerpts in the Gospel of Philip could’ve been from Valentius.

The Gospel of Philip is the 3rd tractate in Codex 2 of the Nag Hammadi library, & it’s copied immediately after the Gospel of Thomas. Whether the text was composed in Syria during the 2nd century or a bit later, as has been proposed, remains somewhat uncertain, thought the references to Syriac terms suggest an acquaintance with the Syriac language & literature.

In selections from the Gospel of Philip given here, Mary Magdalene is mentioned only twice, but the passages are noteworthy. It’s said the Gospel of Philip 59 that 3 women always walked with Jesus. All 3 women were named Mary: Mary (his mother), a sister or aunt of Jesus named Mary, & Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is called his companion, partner, or consort. Later, in the Gospel of Philip 63-64, it’s said that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene more than he loved the other disciples & kissed her often. But the text is unclear as to where Jesus kissed Mary.

Sexuality, marriage, & the bridal chamber are familiar themes in the gospel, & while sex is accepted & marriage is judged necessary (“Without it, the world wouldn’t exist.”), the sacramental mystery of the bridal chamber is emphasized. The place of sexuality & marriage in the Gospel of Philip & other Valentinian texts has been debated by scholars, & some have emphasized a more physical & others a more spiritual understanding of marriage among Valentinians. In any case, according to the Gospel of Philip, the sacramental bridal chamber is pure & leads to the union, the spiritual union, of the partners. Ultimately the bridal chamber leads to a union that has implications for this world & the next, & as a result, the bridal chamber may be considered the greatest of the sacraments. Nonetheless, truth is embraced in symbols & images, & the truth of the bridal chamber likewise comes through symbols & images. The Gospel of Philip also acknowledges the role of kissing. The text states, “The perfect conceive & give birth though a kiss.” This wording may connote a ceremonial kiss, or it may designate how life of spirit is communicated. It may also be connected to sexual intercouse.

The Gospel of Philip is a Valentianian anthology of meditations on a variety of themes, including the sacraments & the biblical figures of Adam & Eve.  Philip is mentioned by name in the text, & this may be the reason the authorship of the gospel is attributed to Philip. The meditations in the Gospel of Philip seem to be arranged in a more or less random order, although at times they seem to be connected to each other by means of catchwords or the juxtaposition of similar ideas. The meditations may derive from different sources, & it leaves open the possibility that some may come from Valentinus himself.

A major theme in the Gospel of Philip is the nature of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of the bridal chamber. The Gospel of Philip 67 seems to list 5 sacraments, each called a “mystery”: “The master did everything in a mystery: baptism, chrism, eucharist, redemption, & bridal chamber.” The meaning of these 5 sacraments isn’t clear. They may be rituals for the passages in one’s life, they may be stages in a more complicated rituals of religious initiation, or they may simply be 5 separate sacraments. Of these 5 sacraments, the bridal chamber receives special attention in the Gospel of Philip. Whether the sacrament of the bridal chamber was acted out in some way or was simply understood spiritually isn’t clear. But the text does say, concerning marriage, “No one can know when a husband & wife have sex except those 2, for marriage in this world (so does that mean that there’s marriage in the hereafter?) is a mystery for those married. If defiled marriage is hidden, how much more is a undefiled marriage a true mystery! It’s not fleshly but pure. It belongs not to desire but to will. It belongs not to darkness or night but to the day & light.” The bridal chamber in this world is considered to be a mystery, & the pure bridal chamber is said to be that much greater.

The Gospel of Philip also acknowledges the role of kissing: the text states, “The perfect conceive & give birth through a kiss.” This wording may connote a ceremonial kiss, it may designate how life, or spirit, is communicated, or it may refer to sexual intercourse. These considerations have led some to assum that Valentinian Christians embraced sexual activity in their lives. Still, the Gosple of Philip affirms that undefiled marriage is not a matter of flesh & desire but of the will. The union achieved in such a sacramental bridal chamber restores the oneness of humankind. Ultimately, that union is a matter of union with the divine, whereby humans are joined to angels in the fullness of divinity.

As this gospel states, ‘You who’ve united in perfect light with holy spirit, unto the angels also with us, as images.’ Such unity & completeness of humankind was lost, the Gospel of Philip declares, in the separation of Adam & Eve. Originally Adam was androgynous, but the fall from the primordial “oneness” allowed mankind to slip into mortality & death. The Gospel of Philip states, “If female had not separated from the male, the female & male wouldn’t have died. The separation of male & female was the beginning of death.” This happens in the bridal chamber: “A woman is united with her husband in the bridal chamber, & those united in the bridal chamber will not be separated again. That’s why Eve became separated from Adam, because she hadn’t united with him in the bridal chamber.”

Many of the meditations on salvation employed in the Gospel of Philip are memorable, but among the most remarkable are those with a mystical quality. Thus, the Gospel of Philip urges the reader not only to ‘follow’ Christ but to ‘become’ Christ. In the realm of truth, the Gospel of Philip 61 states, ‘you’ve seen things there & have become those things, you’ve seen the spirit & have become Christ, you’ve seen the father & will become father.’ The vision of God leads to oneness with God. That final bliss, the Gospel of Philip concludes, is the realization of the divine fullness of the eternal realm. That divine fullness isn’t simply a matter of heaven above. It’s found within: “What’s innermost is the fullness, & there’s nothing further within.”

The Gospel of Philip is the 3rd tractate in Codex II of the Nag Hammagi library, where it follows immediately after the Gospel of Thomas. Most likely it was originally written in Greek. Whether the text was composed in Syria during the 2nd century, or a bit later, as has been proposed, remains somewhat uncertain, though the references to Syriac terms suggest an acquaintance with Syriac language & literature. Sometimes scholars have assigned numbers to this series of meditations, but the numbering systems have proved to be quite arbitrary.

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