Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Apocryphote of the Day: 2-3-09

"The passion which is a delight to them constrains the souls of those who are begotten in this place...and they turn away from the light, unable to pass by the ruler of darkness until they pay the last penny."

Testimony of Truth (Alexandrian gnostic text, second century)

Commentary: an interesting use of Matthew 5:25-26, "Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny." The ruler of darkness is the judge of the dead who shuts the soul up in the body (=the prison) unless the soul pays it debt for its sins. This is a doctrine and support text from Matthew is attributed by the church fathers to Carpocrates, the infamous libertine. But the Testimony of Truth is encratic or body-denying throughout the document.


Frank McCoy said...

"The Law commands (one) to take a husband (or) to take a wife, and to beget, to multiply like the sand of the sea. But passion which is a delight to them constrains the souls of those who are begotten in this place...And they show that they are assisting the world and they [turn] away from the light, who are unable [to pass by] the archon of [darkness] until they pay the last [penny."
Perhaps this reflects the interpretation of Mt 5:25-26 in terms of Middle Platonic Jewish thought.
Compare Philo (Deus, 111,113), "When this mind is cast into the prison of the passions, it finds in the eyes of the chief jailer a favour and grace which is more inglorious than dishonour....Now the overseer and warder and manager of them, the governor of the prison,is the concentration and congeries of all vices multitudinous and manifold, woven together into a single form, and to be pleasing to him is to suffer the greatest of penalties."
Again, Philo states (Her, 186), "We are meant to consecrate one half of it, the drachma, and pay it as a ransom four our own soul, which God who alone is truly free and a giver of freedom releases with a mighty hand from the cruel and bitter tyranny of passions and wrongdoings, if we supplicate him, sometimes too without our supplication."
Might not them, "pay the last penny" mean pay the "drachma" of supplication in full, to its last "penny" of worth, in order to, with God's help, escape from the prison of the passions and the chief jailer, the archon of darkness, who personifies the vices as a totality?

April DeConick said...

Frank, Yes!