Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gospel of Philip: Geography and Places

Disclaimer: The quotes of the Gospel of Philip do not imply any approval of the material's accuracy or helpfulness. The quotes are shown so that readers can judge for themselves about the quality of the material.

The Gospel of Philip presents an interesting puzzle when it comes to geography and place names. What if the author mentions a place name -- something that the readers know is a place name -- but the author speaks of it as something else:
The apostles who were before us had these names for him: "Jesus, the Nazorean, Messiah", that is, "Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ". The last name is "Christ", the first is "Jesus", that in the middle is "the Nazarene". "Messiah" has two meanings, both "the Christ" and "the measured". "Jesus" in Hebrew is "the redemption". "Nazara" is "the Truth". "The Nazarene" then, is "the Truth". "Christ" [...] has been measured. "The Nazarene" and "Jesus" are they who have been measured. (from the Gospel of Philip)
Nazareth, where Jesus lived in his early years, was a small town. It had no great reputation. From what we see here, it's possible that the author of the Gospel of Philip did not realize that "Nazarene" meant someone from a place called Nazareth.

Or again, what if the author mentions a specific place -- like the Temple in Jerusalem -- but speaks of it as several separate buildings:
There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The one facing the west was called "The Holy". Another, facing south, was called "The Holy of the Holy". The third, facing east, was called "The Holy of the Holies", the place where only the high priest enters. Baptism is "the Holy" building. Redemption is the "Holy of the Holy". "The Holy of the Holies" is the bridal chamber.
The reader may well think that the Gospel of Philip's author had no direct knowledge of the place.

So with those introductory cautions, here are the places mentioned in the Gospel of Philip -- regardless of whether I'm convinced that the author of that gospel was aware that they were places or had correct knowledge about them:
  • Paradise (as a place where Adam was, not merely in a symbolic sense)
  • person referred to as Nazarene / Nazorean
  • person referred to as Magdalene
  • dye works / workshop of Levi
  • people referred to as Roman
  • people referred to as Greek
  • Jerusalem
  • three buildings for sacrifice: Holy, Holy of Holy, Holy of Holies
  • Jordan

Like most of the "alternative gospels", the Gospel of Philip makes no attempt to present a biography of Jesus. Unlike some other Gnostic gospels, the Gospel of Philip does not completely skip geography and the physical world, though location does play a relatively small part. The lack of knowledge of the Second Temple shows us that the author of the Gospel of Philip was probably not a Jew of the Second Temple era, and was probably not getting his information from anyone who was a Jew of the Second Temple era. We may also gather that the author was unfamiliar with Nazareth, or with the history of anyone who had lived in Nazareth.

Follow the link for an English translation of the Gospel of Philip.

No comments: