Sethian Gnostic

Brian Alt
Sethian gnostics – also referred to by scholars as "classic gnostics" or simply "the gnostics" – represent a sect within early Christianity that existed from the second through the fourth century CE. Most of what we know about this group derives from the discovery of the Nag Hammadi collection of Coptic manuscripts, which dates to around 350 CE, but this information is supplemented by various heresiological writings by early proto-orthodox theologians, most significantly Irenaeus, who wrote
more » ... nd 180 CE. The name Sethian is applied to the sect by modern scholars because of its self-identification with the biblical Seth, son of Adam. "Gnostics" comes from the Greek word gnōstikoi (roughly, "those who know"), which some scholars consider to be a label the Sethians applied to themselves. Social information about the Sethians must be inferred from the textual evidence, which contains a number of features used to characterize them: (1) a complex cosmogonic myth based in part on a creative revision of Genesis and Plato's Timaeus, (2) a strong sense of group identity and in-group language as the "seed (or offspring) of Seth," and (3) a ritual of baptism sometimes called a ritual of "five seals." Very little is known of the daily life or organizational structure of the Sethians. They shared with other Christians certain theological traditions, some scripture, and an ascetic lifestyle. Some features of the Sethian myth include: (1) an ineffable divine first principle called the Parent or Invisible Spirit; (2) a second principle called Barbelo; (3) a series of four luminaries, also called aeons or realms, named Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithai, and Eleleth; (4) the emanation of a number of additional aeons, the last of which is named Wisdom (Sophia in Greek); (5) a craftsman (dēmiourgos in Greek) named Ialdabaoth, who steals divine power from his mother (Wisdom) to create the visible cosmos based on intelligible paradigms while remaining ignorant of the divinities higher than him; (6) the creation of seven, twelve, and/or 365 [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0394971 fatcat:izwabpuebndq7cxkrka5zaywqy