the apocalypse of adam

The Apocalypse of Adam is an early gnostic apocalyptic document. There is no specific Christian themes, as opposed to Judaism. This may be, in fact, Jewish Gnosticism. The text is dated early, during the rise of Christianity and contains a brief account of the history of the world from creation to some sort of apocalypse.

The text fashions itself to have been quoting Adam. Familiar gnostic themes are present in the text. A strong gnostic belief was that the physical world was a less perfect emanation from an ideal. Many Gnostic groups believed that in order for the physical world to exist, several layers of emanations had to occur. In this fashion, Gnostics attempted to distance the physical world from God. The physical world was seen as evil, and Gnostics wanted thick buffers between it and God. After all, if the physical world was created directly by God then the brokenness would have to resemble Him. These emanations were called aeons:

When God had created me out of the earth, along with Eve, your mother, I went about with her in a glory which she had seen in the aeon from which we had come forth. She taught me a word of knowledge of the eternal God.

In this text, both the emanations are present and the secret Gnosticism. Another strong gnostic theme is “knowledge”. To the Gnostic, there is a secret knowledge the understanding of which would move the hearer towards the divine. With this “knowledge” people could return to higher levels of being, reversing the emanations (in a way).

Then God, the ruler of the aeons and the powers, divided us in wrath. Then we became two aeons. And the glory in our heart(s) left us, me and your mother Eve, along with the first knowledge that breathed within us… After those days, the eternal knowledge of the God of truth withdrew from me and your mother Eve.

This text shows a dividing of an aeon. The result is that the secret knowledge is lost. Every aeon was a further departure from God. The breaking action seems to be sex. To the Platonists (of which gnostics were a subgroup), sex and physical pleasure was seen as base, something to be rejected. Sex would bind someone to the earth and not allow them to return to “the One” (the Platonistic term for god):

Then the God who created us, created a son from himself and Eve, your mother. I knew sweet desire for your mother, for […] in the thought of my […] I knew a sweet desire for your mother. Then the vigor of our eternal knowledge was destroyed in us, and weakness pursued us. Therefore the days of our life became few. For I knew that I had come under the authority of death.

Sex was seen as the “original sin”, a view echoed by Augustine a couple hundred years later. The text goes on to describe a prophecy of what is to come. The speaker, Adam, describes the flood of Noah which destroys all those who have fallen from the knowledge. Noah and his family create a pure race of Gnostics, but soon intermingle with a new breed of aeon (new men which had not descended from Noah):

They will say to Sakla, “What is the power of these men who stood in your presence, who were taken from the seed of Ham and Japheth, who will number four hundred men? They have been received into another aeonfrom which they had come forth, and they have overturned all the glory of your power and the dominion of your hand. For the seed of Noah through his sons has done all your will, and (so have) all the powers in the aeons over which your might rules, while both those men and the ones who are sojourners in their glory have not done your will. But they have turned (aside) your whole throng.”

After this, the text describes a persecution against the pure race, a deliverance of most, and a leaving of a few to keep on earth “fruit-bearing trees”. After this is done, a being called the illuminator (assumedly a being that proclaims the secret knowledge) preaches to men, and those men are then persecuted by the lesser aeons. The kingdoms wonder from whence the illuminator came and all offer their competing theories. A notable theme is a virgin birth, likely to be stressed because virgin births do not involve sex.

The next line sums up Gnosticism very succinctly:

Then the peoples will cry out with a great voice, saying, “Blessed is the soul of those men because they have known God with a knowledge of the truth! They shall live forever, because they have not been corrupted by their desire, along with the angels, nor have they accomplished the works of the powers, but they have stood in his presence in a knowledge of God like light that has come forth from fire and blood.

Eternal life, gnostic knowledge, hatred of desire, and returning to the One in light.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Augustine, Gnostics, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to the apocalypse of adam

  1. james says:

    a tad simplistic but a very cogent explanation in terms of the usual preconceptions

  2. Tom Torbeyns says:

    Not bad. I would like to have one big list showing that Original Sin comes straight out of gnosticism.

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