Apocalyptic and Sethian trajectories and Melchizedek speculations in late antique Egypt: The "Melchizedek Apocalypse" from Nag Hammadi (NHC IX, 1) as a test case

Title: Apocalyptic and Sethian trajectories and Melchizedek speculations in late antique Egypt: The "Melchizedek Apocalypse" from Nag Hammadi (NHC IX, 1) as a test case
Authors: Parton, Elizabeth A
Date: 2008
Abstract: The Melchizedek Apocalypse is a Coptic text, written in the late second or early third century CE, by a Sethian gnostic author, and discovered near Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Only one extant copy of the document has survived, preserved in the translation of the original Greek, in Codex IX of the Nag Hammadi collection. Melchizedek has significant codicological issues, with only 19 of the approximately 745 lines of the original document completely extant, and even with a great deal of effort and scholarly conjecture, only about 47% of the text is at all recoverable. Perhaps because of the state of the manuscript itself, the Melchizedek Apocalypse has been examined by only a few scholars, those tasked with the production of the critical editions, translations and commentaries on the text, Birger A. Pearson (English), Hans-Martin Schenke (German), Wolf-Peter Funk, Jean-Pierre Mahe (French), and Claudio Gianotto (French and Italian), in particular. The text presents Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of God Most High first seen in Genesis (14.18--20), as an apocalyptic and gnostic hero, assuming the authority of the character in order to present an understanding of the cosmos, reflective of both literary styles and their visions of this world and the next. The text is demonstrative of apocalyptic and gnostic conventions, as well as of the literary traditions surrounding Melchizedek speculation, and socio-historical elements having to do with its Egyptian milieu. In the present work I examine each of these designations on the way to establishing the literary and historical contexts of the text. Following the trajectory theory suggested by James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, through the examination of the Melchizedek Apocalypse and its literary and historical contexts I will place it within the various trajectories of Judaism, early Christianity and Sethian gnosticism, seeking to demonstrate the over-lapping nature of the literary and religious distinctions of the early centuries of the Common Era. In order to do so, I address the difficult issue of "gnosticism" as a viable categorization, beginning with the arguments of Michael A. Williams, Karen L. King and Carl B. Smith. As Melchizedek can be seen as a clear example of the diversity of forms within the religious traditions of Egypt in late antiquity, it acts as an ideal test case.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/29743
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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