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Authoritative Teaching

At a Glance
Treatise
Genre:
(2/5) **
Reliability of Dating:
(3/5) ***
Length of Text:
Greek
Original Language:
Ancient Translations:
Coptic
Modern Translations:

Estimated Range of Dating: 150-255 A.D.

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Information on Authoritative Teaching

This is Nag Hammadi codex VI, book 3. George W. MacRae writes (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, pp. 304-305):

Auth. Teach. contains no typical gnostic cosmogenic myth—unless it is alluded to in the passages now lost through some of the early lacunae—but it seems to presuppose a generally gnostic, i.e., anticosmic dualist, understanding of the fate of the soul in the material world. . . . Perhaps there is a clue, though a veiled one, to be sure, to its origin in the section 33,4-34,34, which contains a polemic against the senseless who are distinguished both from the "we" with whom the writer identifies and from the pagans, who are more or less excusable on grounds of ignorance. One is tempted to think of a Christian berating the Jews for their failure to heed the message which they have heard preached to them, but again there is no unambiguous allusion to either Christian or Jewish belief or practice. In its emphasis on the evil character of the material world, on the heavenly origin of the spiritual world, on the role of revealed knowledge as salvific, Auth. Teach. appears to be a gnostic work. But it lacks the tone of self-assurance and confidence, almost arrogance, which characterizes many unquestionably gnostic treatises. The soul is in perpetual danger of succumbing to the "adversary," or to the false attraction of the material, and consequently she must maintain a practised vigilance.

Douglas M. Parrott writes (op. cit., p. 305):

Since George W. MacRae wrote, attempts have been made to be more precise about the group responsible for the tractate. Some have argued that they were in fact Gnostics, who only expressed as much of the gnostic myth in the tractate as was needed. A fundamental difference may be seen between Gnostics and traditional Christians, it is argued, in 33,4-34,34, where gnostic "seekers" contrast themselves with the "senseless" faith-oriented Christians, who have "found" the way, in sterile creedal religion. Others believe that second-century Christian Middle Platonists produced the tractate. They find numerous echoes to passages in the New Testament. They also find the distinctive Middle Platonist doctrine of two souls (spiritual and rational). Neither of these basically antithetical positions is well enough supported in the text to warrant abandoning the cautious assessment expressed by MacRae.

There is very little to indicate a date, but there is nothing that rules out the period of the second century.


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