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Gospel of Philip

At a Glance
Gospel
Genre:
(2/5) **
Reliability of Dating:
(3/5) ***
Length of Text:
Greek
Original Language:
Ancient Translations:
Modern Translations:

Estimated Range of Dating: 180-250 A.D.

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Information on the Gospel of Philip

Wesley W. Isenberg writes (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 141):

Because of the contents, the eccentric arrangement, and the literary types exhibited, it is likely that The Gospel of Philip is a collection of excerpts mainly from a Christian Gnostic sacramental catechesis. It explains the significance of sacramental rites of initiation, the meaning of sacred names, especially names of Jesus, and provides paraenesis for the life of the initiated. It interprets Biblical passages, particularly from the book of Genesis, makes use of typology, both historical and sacramental, and, as catechists do, argues on the basis of analogy and parable. In these and other ways The Gospel of Philip resembles the orthodox catechisms from the second through fourth centuries.

Bentley Layton writes (The Gnostic Scriptures, p. 325):

The work called The Gospel According to Philip is a Valentinian anthology containing some one hundred short excerpts taken from various other works. None of the sources of these excerpts have been identified, and apparently they do not survive. To judge from their style and contents, they were sermons, treatises, or philosophical epistles (typical Valentinian genres), as well as collected aphorisms or short dialogues with comments. Only some of the sources can definitely be identified as Valentinian. Because of their brevity and the lack of context it is difficult to assign any of them to particular schools of Valentinian theology. On the other hand, nothing indicates that all come from one and the same branch of the Valentinian church. It is possible that some of the excerpts are by Valentinus himself. Others, however, refer to etymologies in Syriac, the Semitic language (a dialect of Aramaic) used in Edessa and western Mesopotamia; these must be the work of a Valentinian theologian of the East, writing in a bilingual milieu such as Edessa (see Map 5). Probably the language of composition of all the excerpts was Greek.

Hans-Martin Schenke writes (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, pp. 182-183): "the Coptic version of the Gos. Phil. which has come down to us in one copy must - as is the rule for Coptic literature - represent a translation from the Greek. Greek is probably also to be regarded as the original language in which the Gos. Phil. was composed. We can only estimate how much time lies between the composition of this Greek original and the emergence of our witnesses. The only fixed point at the other side, the terminus ante quem non, is the activity of the gnostic leader Valentinus (in Rome about 138-158), since the Gos. Phil. contains clearly Valentinian teachings, as will be shown in detail later. Since their character and the manner in which they appear seem to presuppose a certain development in the Valentian school, we may not remain too close to the time of Valentinus himself for the presumptive time of composition. But Isenberg's dating to the second half of the 3rd century may still lie about half a century too late. The older view, often expressed, which would have the Gos. Phil. composed even in the 2nd century may still be considerably more probable."

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Kirby, Peter. "Gospel of Philip." Early Christian Writings. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelphilip.html>.