Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Harvesting instances of Gnosis

I have been collecting instances of Gnosis, the word itself rather than what it refers to. Have you ever wondered how many times the Greek word "Gnosis" appears (with some context, and not in duplicate texts) in the Coptic Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi? 134 times. And that is with clear evidence showing that it was a word that was translated into Coptic. In duplicate texts it is found translated in one version and not in another.

What is much more interesting than a mere quantity is examining the usage in the surviving contexts. To which has been added instances in other texts such as the Pistis Sophia, the Bruce Codex, and so on. With the Greek Hermetica thrown in. Well over two hundred instances all together. Yes, it is a task only a scholar would do, and probably only a Graduate Student. Yet it should make for an interesting part of my monograph on Gnosis. And I can't be accused of not being exhaustive, or exhausted.


Anonymous said...

As a comparison, how many times does the word "gnosis" appear in the greek Bible NT. Also which books are most "gnostic" going by word count?

Troy W. Pierce said...

The technique gets complicated when applied to texts in Greek, due to the wider range of word-forms and the fact that it is a natural part of the Greek language. There isn't the phenomenon of a translator leaving the word untranslated. (There is also much more left untranslated by both the Coptic and recent English translators that is of interest in the NHL.)

So, the short answer is that I'm still working on the NT. Yet my initial findings from the text are that the story told of a gulf between early Christianity and Gnosticism is, to be frank, a polemical lie that the text clearly doesn't support.

It is quite straight-forward to read the NT in Greek from a Gnostic point of view. Much of it makes more sense that way, and there is very little that may contradict such a reading that hasn't already been shown to be a later change made to the texts.

As far as the times "gnosis" appears untranslated in various texts in the NHL, that is somewhat a function of text length and condition. Some text also contain no untranslated instances. Some texts, like On the Origin of the World (15) and the Apocalypse of Adam (15) mention the "tree of gnosis" quite a few times. The Zostrianos with 31 instances, is by far the word count winner.

Troy W. Pierce said...

Perhaps I should have added that including Coptic texts outside of the NHL, the Pistis Sophia seems to win with 42. (Yes, 42) I say "seems to" because I don't currently have the Coptic version to verify this number.