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The Second Treatise of the Great Seth

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Treatise
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Greek
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Estimated Range of Dating: 190-230 A.D.

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Marvin Meyer writes, "The Second Discourse of Great Seth, traditionally entitled the 'Second Treatise (or Logos) of the Great Seth,' is a speech or message of Jesus about salvific knowledge and the true meaning of the crucifixion in the face of the theology of the emerging orthodox church. The title of the text, given entirely in Greek at the end of the document (deuteros logos tou megalou seth), calls the text the second logos, apparently in contrast to the first discourse, which may be referred to near the opening of the text: 'I have uttered a discourse for the glory of the Father . . .' (49,20-22). Apart from this inference, we know nothing more about a 'First Discourse of Great Seth.' In both instances the discourse may be a spoken word - here a spoken word that has been written down. If that interpretation is correct, this text consists of a second speech or message of great Seth. The title may also refer to the personified logos, the divine word, as in John 1 and many Gnostic texts. Great Seth, mentioned only in the title of the text, is a leading character in other Gnostic texts, especially Sethian texts, such as the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit. In Christian Sethian traditions the heavenly figure of Seth can come to expression in the person of Christ, who may conceivably be the incarnation of Seth. Thus, the Second Discourse of Great Seth may be understood to be the second speech or message delivered by Jesus, the manifestation of heavenly Seth." (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 473)

Birger A. Pearson writes, "In an extensive polemic, Christ refers to the world and the archons as 'laughingstocks.' Included among the laughingstocks are the heroes of the Old Testament, from Adam and the patriarchs to Moses, the prophets, and John the Baptist. Those who are ignorant and blind try to harm Christ and his followers (60,13 - 65,18). Addressing his perfect brethren, Christ exhorts them not to 'become female,' and encourages them to remain united in their gnosis because they are 'from a single spirit' (65,18-68,24)." (Ancient Gnosticism, p. 241)

Marvin Meyer writes, "What makes the crucifixion laughable [in Second Discourse of Great Seth 81,15-24] is the ignorance of the powers who think they can execute the real, living Jesus. The mention made of Simon in the text is reminiscent of the role of Simon the Cyrene in the New Testament (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26), where it is said that he carries the cross for Jesus, or it may call to mind the observations of Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.24.4) and Epiphanius (Panarion 24.3), who claim that according to the Gnostic teacher Basilides, Simon of Cyrene was crucified in place of Jesus. Yet in the Second Discourse of Great Seth Simon is never actually crucified, and Jesus says that it is 'their man' that the world rulers put to death - the physical body that the heavenly Savior borrowed. Further, the comment by Jesus in the Second Discourse, 'Though they punished me, I did not die in actuality (hen outajro) but only in appearance (hem petouoneh)' (55,16-19), may recall classic formulations of docetic views of the crucifixion and even the position of the Qur'an, which states in Sura 4 that the opponents of 'Isa - Jesus - did not kill him for sure, but 'he was made to resemble another for them' or 'they thought they did.'" (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 475)

Birger A. Pearson writes, "The tractate reflects a good deal of tension between the perfect addressed in it and other Christians who are blindly persecuting them. This implies a situation in which leaders of a growing catholic church are attempting to root out heresy, something that was happening in Alexandria, Egypt, during the episcopacy of Demetrius (189-232). So we can with considerable confidence assign the composition of our tractate to late second- or early third-century Alexandria. We know nothing of its author, but we can surmise that he was leader of a Gnostic conventicle in Alexandria." (Ancient Gnosticism, pp. 241-242)


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Kirby, Peter. "The Second Treatise of the Great Seth." Early Christian Writings. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/greatseth.html>.