Preliminary Thoughts on ApJohn and TriProt

I believe ApJohn was written with GosJohn in mind, as was TriProt, and in some respects it could have represented a retort on what the far right (the proto-orthodox) was teaching. Whether or not the treatise is meant to be read literally, or if it is an allegory (extended metaphor,) does not necessarily seem to matter as it does portray Christ delivering the message to John, and it dovetails with many of the Chapters and Verses in GosJohn (and sections of GosMark as we shall see.) ApJohn and TriProt both utilize mythology to express concepts, in addition to traditional Christian tenets, and we know that such mythos traditionally serves to teach lessons. Furthermore, we’re in the Land of the Spirit.

In the text, Barbelo/Pronoia represents to us the conceptual and anthropological qualities of the Father, thus his mirror image. However, regarding the Wisdom concept, or Sophia—in the twelfth Aeon (or somehow the thirteenth if you’re a Valentinian)—is the emanation from which the initial rupture occurred due to Sophia’s wanton behavior, a breach that created matter in theory, Yaltabaoth (and his subsequent Archons,) and this Universe or Realm (I hesitate to call it an aeon, even with a small ‘a.’ TriProt correctly refers to Aeons in the Pleroma with a capital ‘A.’) As Alastair Logan of The University of Exeter states in his book Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy, p. 123: “The Apocryphon has Sophia produce her conception through the wantonness, or through her watchfulness, or through her invincible power.” 

Incidentally, Sophia is identified with Epinoia in both ApJohn and the TriProt. The two are related, but not one-in-the-same. Epinoia is one of the highest spiritual concepts in the Pleroma, and the term is Greek. Some of the better translations include Direct Revelation, Divine Insight, and Divine Inspiration.

The Valentinians would have it that since Sophia represents Wisdom, she could not have helped herself from instigating the impossible regarding the Father. The Sethians have it quite differently in their Apocryphon. As mentioned, some call her act wanton, some (such as TriProt) call it innocent. The key is that she did not have her consort’s consent, let alone the invisible Spirit’s, in seeking out The Father. Thus, in ApJohn she’s stuck in this Realm’s Ninth Heaven, for lack of a better term, one that was created for her within both the texts of ApJohn & TriProt (and note the Ninth is not in the Pleroma.) Epinoia, not Sophia, asked Yaltabaoth for it to be created in the latter work:

“Now when the Epinoia of the Light realized that he (Yaltabaoth) had begged him (the Light) for another order, even though he was lower than she, she said, “Give me another order, so that you may become for me a dwelling place, lest I dwell in disorder forever.” And the order of the entire house of glory was agreed upon her word. A blessing was brought for her and the higher order released it to her.”

Thus, TriProt further elaborates on the creation of ApJohn’s 9th by explicitly stating this order was granted to Epinoia; by virtue of their identification with one another, Sophia accompanied the emanation. Ironically, Sophia was Epinoia’s custodian! Furthermore, as Harvard’s Karen King states in her book The Secret Revelation of John (SecJohn,) on p. 233: “The wisdom of the lower world is folly. Just as The Secret Revelation of John satirizes Genesis by exposing the creator as an arrogant, theriomorphic pretender [as we shall see in the next Section,] so it takes equal pleasure in parodying Jewish wisdom tradition by portraying Divine Wisdom [Sophia] as an ignorant and foolish female.”

As Alastair Logan goes on to say in Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy, there is much confusion, even within the text of the Apocryphon:

“Now the combination in the ‘Ophite’ system of Sophia’s continuing revelatory/redemptive activity which is yet incomplete, with the decisive eschatological revelatory/redemptive descent of Christ, seems to find an echo–if a confused one–in the Apocryphon with its plethora of redeeming figures and final Pronoia hymn. Thus not only do we hear of the Mother-Father or Pronoia in a redeeming capacity, but also of the Holy Spirit, Zoe ‘the Mother of the living,’ the Epinoia of light, Christ, and even Sophia, in that she has to correct her own deficiency. But textual evidence suggests that plethora may conceal an earlier, simpler picture in that the Holy Spirit, the Epinoia of light, and Zoe appear to ultimately be one and the same figure, originally to be equated with Sophia, as Janssens has claimed.”

However, I’d add that even this discussion could be partially incorrect, depending on the redaction, in that the Apocryphon explicitly equates the Holy Spirit with Pronoia, though this could have been added in a later recension. Continuing in Mr. Logan’s work:

  • “The characteristic ambivalence over Sophia is well expressed, as we saw, in the confusion over the existence and descent of her consort; the earlier myth has no need of this, but the figure is added both through Valentinian influence and to ease the paradox by representing the erring Sophia as entirely passive. And the figure/figures of the Epinoia/Zoe/Holy Spirit are similarly presented in terms of Sophia’s helper, better half, or consort. Not surprisingly we find various interpretations of this basic ambivalence in texts we would see as dependent on the Apocryphon. Thus Trimorphic Protennoia stresses the more passive aspect of both figures in that it identifies the Epinoia of light with the guileless Sophia who descends, produces Ialdabaoth, and then begs to be elevated.
  • Thus it may be that the ‘Ophite’ picture of Sophia as responsible for initial and continuing revelation/redemption, yet ultimately requiring the decisive redemptive Christ event, finds an echo in earlier versions of the Apocryphon, which later, under the influence of a Pronoia-Epinoia scheme developed round Barbelo, demoted Sophia to a more passive figure, and replaced her with a more active one (Epinoia/Zoe/Holy Spirit.)”

Some rather lurid works refer to Sophia as Pronoia’s lower half, but I’d like to explore two possibilities:

  1. Did her wanton act represent independent action, one that was later accepted by the Father & The Totalities (i.e. the Pleroma?)
  2. Was the seed of this act deliberate, foreknown, and expected?

In other words, as a good Valentinian might say, was Error pre-generated thought by the Father or was it systematic malfunction? I don’t agree with their ultimate reasoning that since she’s Wisdom, she could not help it.

One way to approach the base-level issue is with Christ’s Illuminators. Armozel, to me, represents structure, with his Grace, Truth, and Form. Though a solid base is important, to me Daveithai’s Aeons might in fact be the highest ideals overall: Understanding, Love, and Idea. Perhaps he’s sandwiched in at Position III for camouflage purposes. Armozel could in fact solidify this entire conceptualization, Oroiael could represent the natural transition between Armozel and Daveithai with his Conception (Pronoia in some versions,) Perception, and Memory. Eleleth, the fourth and last, very well could represent the ultimate goal in one’s spiritual quest with his Aeons of Perfection, Peace, and Wisdom. As we will see in the Direct Revelations at the end of this work, the spiritual concepts shift somewhat among the Illuminators, though preliminarily a true luminary should ascertain that those included in Daveithai are what it’s all about at the base level. Wisdom (Sophia) was the last Aeon of the group, the twelfth, and you might recall that this is where the rupture occurred. Perhaps the Aeon was too far out from the Father in the Pleroma, though that seems to be suspect as all are divine. I’ll quickly mention that there’s one Pleroma in ApJohn & the TriProt (let alone GosJohn,) and this was a quite egregious error included toward the end of GosTruth: there are not multiple Pleromas. This line of thought is clearly associated with the Valentinians, not the Sethians.

At this point, I will take a moment to mention how in my opinion GosTruth was an initial Valentinian attempt to trinitize ApJohn, and the language included therein does support many of the concepts. As we shall see, parts of the text are very well presented. Moreover, the Tripartite Tractate (TriTrac) was a desperate, and much later, attempt to trinitize the Apocryphon, most likely written well past Irenaeus’ Against Heresies—and most likely as a response. The Valentinians went through mental gymnastics in order to rewrite this most important treatise. Even ApJohn was redacted after the copy Irenaeus likely used when composing Book I, Ch 29 & 30, but there’s a difference between a redaction and a rewrite. The Sethian The Hypostasis of the Archons offers yet another perspective, and though several of the details have been shifted, it’s true to the spirit of the Apocryphon. The same goes for On the Origin of the World; it’s not as cohesively related, though it is stronger than many of the Valentinian works. For example, in this treatise Sophia is in the 6th ‘Heaven’ of this Realm, or ‘ogdoad,’ not the 9th as in ApJohn.

The anthropological/anthropomorphic principles included in the likes of ApJohn are, more or less, focused on the human race by definition. I don’t want to unduly bore the reader with discussion about other potential alien races as there are plenty of sources one can reference. However, I will stress that these elements apply across the different races across the world, hence often times scholars make the connection of Original Christianity’s close relation with Buddhism, Taoism, Orthodox Christianity, and the general category of mystery religions. In essence, Original Christianity is a fusion of all, plus the addition of some of the tenets of Greek Philosophy, Jewish Wisdom Traditions, and Astrology. As Rice University’s April DeConick has pointed out, even elements of Roman Mysticism can apply—the Hermetics, the Mithraic mysteries. The Egyptian’s Atum provides another such example.

ApJohn’s discussion of Christ has him first and foremost a spark that was the only begotten Spirit of The Father & Barbelo. GosJohn equates Christ with Logos in the Prologue. Others would include Autogenes—a process in my opinion, not a thing. More on this later. Additionally, one must keep in mind that opposed to the Archons’ Fate, the Immovable Race is subject to Divine Providence, or Pronoia him/herself. Universal energy still exists, but Providence trumps fate.