The Religious A priori

Women And Christianity

Neither Male Nor Female:

Gnostic "Feminist" Teachers of Ephesus?

Apocryphon of John:

I entered into the midst of the dungeon which is the prison of the body. And I spoke thus: "He who hears, let him arise from the deep sleep." And then he (Adam) wept and shed tears. After he wiped away his bitter tears he spoke, asking: "Who is it that calls my name, and whence has this hope come unto me, while I am in the chains of this prison?" And I spoke thus: "I am the Pronoia of the pure light; I am the thought of the undefiled spirit. . . . Arise and remember . . . and follow your root, which is I . . . and beware of the deep sleep."

Diana of Ephesus

My interpritation of 1 Tim 2:11 depends upon proving that there was such a cult of Gnostic Female supremicist teachers working in that city at the time of Paul.

The Argument:

The argument is that the injunction against women teaching is a temporary move desinged to combat the growing tendency toward Gnostic-style teachings. These teachings typically embody sensuality, urge the andonment of marriage, and perhaps refur to matters of the OT law which are grossly inaccurate. Paul laid this injunciton upon Timothy, not as a universal command for all time, but to inform him of his current practice in light of the current climate. Perhaps Paul's practice was not meant to be limited in time, but it was mosly likely limted to those women who were not prepared to teach. If that is the case, it really indicates more of an open attitude toward teaching, since before the policy was inacted, apparenlty anyone could teach.

There is no doubt that such a group existed, and if one is bound to stick to the same assumptions that the complamentarians and traditionalists will make about the authorship of the Epistles, they must acknowledge this, or lose Pauline Authorship. However, the sticking point is to prove that this group taught that Eve was made first.

Unfortunately, proving that point is a much harder task, since we have no Gnostic writtings fromt he first century. I am going to have to rely upon arguing that it is very very likely that the group did teach this point, then it's a matter of conjecture as to weather Paul was refutting it, but the reading is plausible. While I have to content myself with a mere Plausiblity argument, I think my view has three things going for it:

There is no need to prove that this group litterally said "Eve was made first." The pointis not so much that Paul has to be correcting their mistake in thinking Eve was chronologically first, but that they were mistaken about the nature of Adam and Eve and that's what Paul was correcting. The mistake, if it included chronological primacy or not, was to think that Eve was the Spiruitally mature enlightener of Adam, prior to the fall, and that she gave Adam life and woke him from death. Paul's correction is in terms of Adam's primacy in wisdom due to age. That is the reason he says Adam was made first, not that the other group necessariy said Eve was litterally made first. Paul wanted to make the point that one must learn before one can teach. Adam was made frist and knew the rules and it was his resposiblity to teach Eve. So Paul is refuring to the differences in knowledge not necessarily in chronology. Although it could be that too. It is likely that they did hold to the notion that Eve was made first chronologically. I will demonstrate this latter.

First Let's look at what we know with relative certianty.

(1)We know from The Book of Revelation chapter two that a female headed grop of heratics were rebuked by the author of that work, and that group lived in Thiratyra, which is Asia minor, the general region of Ephesus.

(Rev 2:18)And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet [are] like fine brass; (19) I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last [to be] more than the first. (20) Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (21) And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. (22) Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (23) And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

(2) We know that the beliefs of that group stack up to general Gnostic beleifs; including prohabilition on marriage and childbrith. That much can be gleaned from a reading of the Epsitle.

As I document on the frist page of my analysis, the scholarly consensus favors the thesis that the general area of Asia minor, including Ephesus, was beset by a large plethora of groups consisting of Gnostic and mystery cult tendencies. We know that they had a strong Jewish element as well. We can see, as I document, that the epistel itself includes the phrase "knowledge falsely so called, as a discription of the oppents of Paul and Timothy. Of cousre that phrase is the very source of the term "gnostic." We also know that much of the region was strongly embeaued with a Goddess worship tendency that manifested itself in many differrent female diety figures, and many sects and cults devoted not just to Artimus of the Ephesians, but many other Goddesses.

(3)We know that the letter was written to counter these influences in general.

So it is clear we should find Paul dealing with Gnostic views, and Female Supremacist views in Ephesus.

Dr. Ralph Wilson

Why was the Letter written? Since Paul's founding of the church, the Ephesian believers seems to have won many Gentiles to whom Paul's Letter is now directed. They were converts from a Hellenistic environment of mystery religions, magic, astrology, etc. They feared evil spirits and weren't sure about Christ's relationship to these forces. They also needed encouragement to adopt a lifestyle worthy of Christianity, free from drunkenness, sexual immorality, theft, and hatred. They also may have lacked respect for the Jewish heritage of their faith. Paul uses a number of words in Ephesus that would have been familiar to his Gentile Christian readers from their former religions -- head-body, fullness, mystery, age, ruler, etc. A century later this kind of terminology was used by full-blown Gnosticism. But Paul uses these words to demonstrate to his readers that Christ is far above and superior to any hierarchy of gods and spiritual beings -- that they are all lesser beings under Christ's feet. The language of Ephesians serves an apologetic function for the Church in a pluralistic society.

(4) We know that Supremacy of Eve was taught in the region.

We know from the works of Epiphanias (see orignial argument) that such a view emerged in the region and was reflected in the Gospel of Eve, meaning that in the eyes of the Ephesian Gnostics Eve was created prior to Adam. The only problem is, Epiphanius was writting in 310! How to prove that this view streached all the way back to the first century? That cannot be proven directly, but a good likelyhood that it did can be demonstrated. Be that as it may, it is unlikely that the view just sprang up with the writting of that one text. We can find it in second century. It is not an unreasonable assumption to think that some version of the idea circulated in the frist century.

The Primacy of Eve in ceration was so widespread among Gnsotic groups, it produced so many works portraying the event, and it was so centeral to the Gnostic concept of estoteric knowledge awakening conscouisness toward salvation (Eve is seen as the symbol of the awakened conscousness) that it is clear that the view could not have been a late view. Since it can be linked with some of the earliset soruces of God Gnsoticism in Persian dualism and the Sophia myth (Eve is linked to Sophia) it had to be present in the frist century. The rest of this essay will demonstrate the following major points:

Secondly, this is what we know, but now let's look at the evidence and see what it suggests as most likely, and from this we will know the logic of the assumptions for the argument.

I. Primacy of Eve can be taken back to second century.

(A) Profusion of Adam/Eve images date back to at least second centruy.

Lance S. Owens


An Introduction to Gnosticism and
The Nag Hammadi Library

What the "authentic truths of existence" affirmed by the Gnostics were will be briefly reviewed below. But a historical overview of the early Church might first be useful. In the initial decades of the Christian church--the period when we find first mention of "Gnostic" Christians--no orthodoxy, or single acceptable format of Christian thought, had yet been defined. During this first century of Christianity modern scholarship suggests Gnosticism was one of many currents sweeping the deep waters of the new religion. The ultimate course Christianity, and Western culture with it, would take was undecided at that early moment; Gnosticism was one of forces forming that destiny. ... For the Gnostics, revelation was the nature of Gnosis: and for all the visions vouchsafed them, they affirmed a certainty that God would yet reveal many great and wonderful things. Irritated by their profusion of "inspired texts" and myths--most particularly their penchant for amplifying the story of Adam and Eve, and of the spiritual creation which they viewed as preceding the material realization of creation15 -- Ireneaus complains in his classic second century refutation of Gnosticism, that every one of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability; for no one is deemed perfect [or, mature], who does not develop...some mighty fiction.16

The profusiopn of variations on the Adam and Eve stroy is so rife in Gnostic circles, so diverse as to be universal. This means it couldn't have just sprung up overnight, but had to be firmly planted in the very origins of Gnosticism.

(B) Profusion of Creation myth indicates belief was univrersal to gnosticism.

Images of Eden: Sacred apples or forbidden fruit?

Nancy Coker

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, April/May 1995. Copyright 1995 by
Theosophical University Press)

The Gnostics loved to play with the Genesis myth. The alternate versions of the creation of Adam and Eve always gave primacy to Eve in some say, either as life giver and enligthener of Adam, or as first created.

Gnostic sources at NH which give Eve primacy

Elaine Pagels, "Adam, Eve and the Serpent in Genesis 1-3," in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, 412. Other Nag Hammadi texts which include the Genesis creation account(s) are:

Gospel of Philip,

Exegesis on the Soul,

Hypostasis of the Archon,

Thunder: Perfect Mind,

Apocryphon of John

Apocalypse of Adam.

On the Origin of the world

and not NH but from Epiphanius
Gospel of Eve

This profusion of sources is just a tiny sliver of the Gnostic creation myth that one finds. not all texts speak of Adam and Eve directly, but clearly these ideas were central to Gnostic thinking. The spread nature of the view indicates that such views did not just spring up late from no prior currents, but had been spreading in different forms for a long time.

II.Sophia myth and primacy of Eve streaches back into the earliest strata of Gnostic lore.

(A) Adam and Eve core myths from earliest strata of Gnostic Thought.

(1) Tapping into the Oldest Roots

Myth of the creation and fall, of Adam and Eve are core myths to all Gnsioticism and permiate it from its earliest days. It is not hard to understand why the Adam and Eve myth was so centeral to the core of Gnostic thought, the symbolism of Eve as female principle was paramount, and that symbolism linked Eve as a symbol of Goddess Sophia, thus linking Gnostic worhsip to Goddess worship and drawing upon myriad historical and mythological currents skinking deep into Gnostic roots throughout the Fertile Cresent, Persia, India and perhaps beyond.

Another Eve:
A Case Study in the Earliest Manifestations of
Christian Esotericism

Laura Hobgood-Oster

Southwestern University

It has been claimed, and I agree, that "the wild profusion of gnostic myths can be traced to a single scriptural source: Genesis 1-3."[5] Stories of Adam and Eve fascinated Gnostic Christians, probably as a result of the myriad allegorical interpretations apparent in this pivotal and foundational myth. Such myths of origin explain more completely than any other mythological elements why creation is in its current, and in Gnosticism, dreadfully fallen and evil, state:

It is now a matter of understanding, intuiting, and reliving the original drama, the initial situation that provoked the rise, the establishment and the triumph of evil, an evil that has now acquired an ontological toughness and substance. . . Myth thus acquires the function of salvation. It describes the way of salvation, reminding the Gnostic of his [sic] true origins and showing him [sic] how to escape from the cosmos. But above all, like all myth, that of the Gnostics is essentially a story of origins; there lies the key of all that one thinks one possesses.[6]

(2) Adam and Eve myth stems from the roots of Gnostic thought itself.

content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 June 1998, last modified 26 December 2003

Kheper: transformation, evolution, metamoraphasis

"What was the genesis of Genesis -- what might the authors of Genesis have had in mind when they were writing? Historians have traced the wandering tribes of the Jews as they touched (and were touched by) many cultures. From piecing together stories from Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian sources, they have discovered legends of creation, the flood, the tower of Babel and others which indicate that the stories found in Genesis are only a tiny portion of the whole literature of the people living in those times. Depending on one's special area of expertise, one could speculate from many angles."

The myth was too basic and too rooted in all the historical sources of Gnostic thought to be a late invention.

(B) Understanding The Gnostic Account of the Fall and the Creation of the Material World.

(1) The Fall represents the existential dilemma of corpereal life

content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 June 1998, last modified 26 December 2003

Kheper: transformation, evolution, metamoraphasis

This is classical Gnostic conception of the Fall. The idea of the Fall is a well-known one, especially in the Christian tradition, where it has captured the imagination for centuries. But Gnostic, Manichaean, and Lurianic (Kabbalistic) Cosmologies differ from conventional religious Cosmology in that they holds that the Fall actually proceeded creation, and indeed was the very cause of it. Creation was originally not something planned and carried out in an orderly way by a kind of supernatural architect- scientist called "God", but rather the result of a kind of supernal Fall or Crisis from within the Divine Itself. This idea of the Fall means goes far beyond the Christian myth of Adam and Eve disobeying God. Although this myth is indeed charged with many meanings, it is unable to convey the cosmic significance of what is involved here, for it is limited to the human level.

According to this cosmology then, Sophia ("Wisdom") the youngest and brashest of the emanated divinities (or "Aeons"), tries to emulate the Fore-father, who alone has the true power of Creation, and as a result produces not a genuine creation but an "abortion", which, after a long series of transformations, became the Cosmos and the lower powers which rule it.

(2) Eve is Symoblic of Awakening Spiriutal conscousness.

Weather she is pictured as creating Adam, being created proir to Adam, or being created out of Adam's lifeless body, Eve represents the Spiritual Female princiel which is itself metahporical for enlightenment of conscousness..Eve transforms Adam's lifeless body into a living soul, she first emerges herself as the living embodyment of the Female principel, she then creates the life of the male. Thus she is both his daughter and his mother.

The Genesis Factor by Stephan A. Hoeller

The following article was published in Quest, September 1997. It is presented here with permission of the author.

Nowhere is Eve's superiority and numinous power more evident than in her role as Adam's awakener. Adam is in a deep sleep, from which Eve's liberating call arouses him. While the orthodox version has Eve physically emerge from Adam's body, the Gnostic rendering has the spiritual principle known as Eve emerging from the unconscious depths of the somnolent Adam. Before she thus emerges into liberating consciousness, Eve calls forth to the sleeping Adam in the following manner, as stated by the Gnostic Apocryphon of John:

I entered into the midst of the dungeon which is the prison of the body. And I spoke thus: "He who hears, let him arise from the deep sleep." And then he (Adam) wept and shed tears. After he wiped away his bitter tears he spoke, asking: "Who is it that calls my name, and whence has this hope come unto me, while I am in the chains of this prison?" And I spoke thus: "I am the Pronoia of the pure light; I am the thought of the undefiled spirit. . . . Arise and remember . . . and follow your root, which is I . . . and beware of the deep sleep."

Eve had to be primary in the thinking of the Ephesian Gnostics, she was a manifestation of sophia.

3 Eve is manifestation of Sophia

(Ibid) In another scripture from the same collection, entitled On the Origin of the World, we find further amplification of this theme. Here Eve whose mystical name is Zoe, meaning life, is shown as the daughter and messenger of the Divine Sophia, the feminine hypostasis of the supreme Godhead:

Sophia sent Zoe, her daughter, who is called "Eve," as an instructor in order that she might raise up Adam, in whom there is no spiritual soul so that those whom he could beget might also become vessels of light. When Eve saw her companion, who was so much like her, in his cast down condition she pitied him, and she exclaimed: "Adam, live! Rise up upon the earth!" Immediately her words produced a result for when Adam rose up, right away he opened his eyes. When he saw her, he said: "You will be called 'mother of the living', because you are the one who gave me life."

In the same scripture, the creator and his companions whisper to each other while Adam sleeps: "Let us teach him in his sleep as though she (Eve) came to be from his rib so that the woman will serve and he will be lord over her." The demeaning tale of Adam's rib is thus revealed as a propagandistic device intended to advance an attitude of male superiority. It goes without saying that such an attitude would have been more difficult among the Gnostics, who held that man was indebted to woman for bringing him to life and to consciousness.

Almost anyone today could declare that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. The third son is more difficult to name; he is Seth. The third son was provided by God as a replacement for the slain Abel, according to Genesis. He was sired rather late in life by Adam, for Adam is said to have been 130 years old at the time. The historian Josephus wrote that Seth was a very great man and that his descendants were the discoverers of many mysterious arts, including astrology. The descendants of Seth then inscribed the records of their occult discoveries, according to Josephus, on two pillars, one brick, the other stone, so that they might be preserved in times of future disasters.

In the treatise The Apocalypse of Adam, the Gnostics presented us with a scripture that tells not only of Seth (and his father) but of the future of the esoteric tradition of gnosis in ages to come. It begins:

The disclosure given by Adam to his son Seth in his seven hundredth year. And he said: "Listen to my words, my son Seth. When God created me out of the earth, along with Eve your mother, I went along with her in a glory which she had seen in the aeon from which she came forth. She taught me the word of Gnosis of the eternal God. And we resembled the great eternal angels, for we were higher than the God who created us."

After thus informing us once again of the spiritually superior status of Eve, the scripture goes on to recount how the creator turned against Adam and Eve, robbing them of their glory and their knowledge. Humans now served the creator "in fear and in slavery," so Adam stated. While previously immortal, Adam now knew that his days were numbered. Therefore, he said he now wanted to pass on what he knew to Seth and his descendants.

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The Religious A priori