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The Prayer of the Apostle Paul

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Estimated Range of Dating: 150-300 A.D.

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Information on the Prayer of the Apostle Paul

Birger A. Pearson writes, "This short prayer, inscribed on both sides of the front flyleaf of the codex, consists of three parts. In the first part (A, 1-14) the petitioner addresses the preexistent Father, through Jesus Christ, and prays for his return to the place whence he came. In the second part (A, 15-25) he prays for bodily health and spiritual illumination, and invokes the authority of 'the evangelist,' presumably Paul, the 'preacher of the Gospel.' In the third part (A,25-B,2) he prays for what no angelic eye has seen, no ruler ears have heard, and what has not entered the human heart (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9). The prayer concludes with a doxology (B,2-5). The title that is appended to the tractate, 'prayer of Paul the apostle,' is given in Greek, the original language of the prayer as a whole." (Ancient Gnosticism, p. 173)

On the allusions to phrases found in other literature, Madaleine Scopello comments, "The second part of the Prayer of the Apostle Paul invokes the divine as 'you who exist and preexisted.' These titles, with a philosophical flavor, appear quite often in Valentinian as well as Sethian Gnostic literature in reference to the highest God. The formula 'the name exalted above every name' derives from Philippians 2:9, as Dieter Mueller notes, the author of the Prayer shows a clear knowledge of the Psalms and the Pauline epistles. We concur with this line of interpretation, especially concerning the five titles given to Jesus Christ: Lord of lords, King of eternal realms (or aeons, ages), Son of Humanity, Spirit, Advocate (or Paraclete) of truth. The title 'Lord of lords' is also present in 1 Timothy 6:15 and Revelation 17:14; 19:16, each time in connection with the title 'King of kings,' 'King of the ages' appears as a title in Tobit 13:6-10, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Revelation 15:3. Although 'Son of Humanity' is very frequent in the New Testament and early Christian literature, 'Advocate of truth' seems to come from John 15:26 (cf. also, for 'Paraclete,' John 14:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1)."

(The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 16)

Bentley Layton makes some observations regarding the Valentinian claim to the apostle Paul: "Valentinian teachers claimed the apostle Paul as their theological ancestor, patron, and source of authority, maintaining that Valentinus had been instructed by a certain Theudas, who himself was said to have been a pupil of Paul. ... While authors of classic gnostic scripture wrote their revelations as pseudepigraphy, attributed to venerated religious heroes of the past or to spiritual beings (Adam, Seth, the spiritual Seth, John the apostle, Barbelo), Valentinian teachers almost always spoke on the authority of their school tradition. This 'apostolic tradition' (PtF 33.7.9, GPh 74:16f) or academic genealogy has an exact parallel in secular philosophical schools (and indeed in Jewish rabbinical traditions), whose leaders strengthened their own personal authority by producing lists of academic predecessors going back to some venerated teacher of the past, such as Socrates." (A Prayer of Paul the Apostle, p. 303)

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Kirby, Peter. "The Prayer of the Apostle Paul." Early Christian Writings. <>.