Saturday, 2 May 2015

Kristine Rosland: Households and Gender in the Apocryphon of John

The Apocryphon of John exists in four Coptic Manuscripts dated to 4-6th Century.  These four attest two versions, the short (found in Nag Hammadi Codex III and Codex Berolinensis 8502) and the long (in Nag Hammadi Codices II and IV). All have been discovered in Egypt.
The Apocryphon of John describes the divine world as a household. The relations within the divine are described in household terms, and the understanding of the fall of Sophia depends on her place in the divine household. In the created world there are also households; Adam, Eve and Seth are the father, mother and son in the ideal human household. Karen King has demonstrated that the short and long version understand gender roles differently; the short version takes the subordination of female to male in marriage to be against the will of God.  In this paper I will demonstrate that the difference in the understanding of gender does not apply just to humans. Barbelo, the divine Mother, seems to be acting contrary to proper gender roles when she produces the Son in the short version.
I will compare the two versions’ different understanding of the status of a wife in light of what we know about the Roman household ideal, and what we know of women in Egypt. Do the different ideals expressed by the long and short version respectively reveal different evaluations of a social praxis that is somewhat removed from the ideals of the Roman family?

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