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Pistis Sophia has been preserved in a single Coptic MS., a quarto of 346 pages, written in the Thebaic dialect. This "Askew Codex" was purchased by the British Museum (now British Library) in 1795 from Anthony Askew. It has no general title, and begins without any inscription, but is divided into four sections or books, of which the second, third, and fourth, bear separate titles. The second is inscribed secundus tomos pisteos sofias (p. 126, ed. Schwartze) [second tome of the Pistis Sophia], the third and fourth Meros teuchon soteros[in English?] (pp. 252 and 357). The two first of these sections or books treat, for the most part, of the Pistis Sophia (pp. 43-181). The fourth book, which is defective, presents a simpler and older form of Gnostic doctrine, and was the work perhaps of a different author. It describes Jesus as, immediately after his resurrection, making himself known as the Redeemer to his disciples, and instructing them in the mysteries. The three first books relate, on the other hand, how Jesus gives the disciples a course of instruction for eleven years subsequent to his resurrection, and then ascends to heaven, whence, after completing his redeeming work, he returns to them once more and gives them the last and highest teachings concerning the supersensuous world, the middle kingdom, the under-world, and about the fates of the Pistis Sophia, and of individual human souls. In the fourth book, Jesus is described as standing, after his resurrection, at an altar on the shore of the ocean, surrounded by disciples, men and women, clothed in white linen raiment. At his command, retire to his left hand, towards the west, the Aeons, the sphaira, the Archontes, with their dynameis, and the whole world. Jesus and his disciples then take their place in medio topo aerino, on the way of the midst (via medii) underneath the sphaira. He proceeds to instruct them concerning the significance and operation of the Archontes of the way of the midst, their binding by Jeu, and the tortures to which sinful souls are exposed from the five evil Archontes in the regions of the air, and also concerning the deliverance of the souls out of their power by the planetary spirits. At the prayer of the disciples that he would save them from those torments, Jesus takes them to a mountain in Galilee, while the Archontes return to their former place. Jesus bids them bring fire and branches of trees, and then, amid mystic prayers, offers the Eucharist (the mysterion aletheias baptismatos) for their atonement. Here follows in the text a lacuna of several pages. But it is evident that meanwhile Jesus has betaken himself with his disciples into the lower world, and there depicts to them the various fates of souls after death, their torments in Orcus, their palingenesiai,[in English?] and also the conditions under which souls which have found the mysteries and done their penance, will be raised into the thesauros luminis.[in English?] Until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945, the Askew Codex was one of three codices that contained almost all of the Gnostic writings that had survived the suppression of such literature both in East and West, the other two codices being the Bruce Codex and the Berlin Codex. Aside from these primary sources, everything written about Gnosticism before the Nag Hammadi library became available is based on quotes, characterizations, and caricatures in the writings of the enemies of Gnosticism. The purpose of these heresiological writings was polemical, presenting Gnostic teachings as absurd, bizarre, and self-serving, and as an aberrant heresy from a proto-orthodox and orthodox Christian standpoint.
originally posted by: Szarah
a reply to: Parazurvan
I read this book when I first gave up on mainstream Christianity. It inspired me to start reading more scripture and although I am not a Christian anymore I still like Christ.
The Gnostic Gospels gave me what I was looking for. Christ without Christianity.