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Pistis Sophia archons and discloses the content of a complex


baptismal ritual accompanied with magical
ZLATKO PLEŠE
incantations and involving fire, vine branches,
loaves, wine, and water.
A late compilation of Christian Gnostic Pistis Sophia has been unfavorably portrayed
teaching (third to fourth centuries CE), Pistis as “a dull romance of the heavenly powers” and
Sophia is the title assigned to the content of “an ‘old man’ Gnosticism,” primarily because
a fifth-century Coptic codex named after its of its numerous redundancies, obscure allu-
first owner, A. Askew (Codex Askewianus), sions, and doctrinal inconsistencies. The text
acquired by the British Museum in 1785 does, however, provide a wealth of information
(Ms. Add. 5114). The manuscript text consists about the Gnostic attitudes toward magic and
of four parts, the first three of which seem to astrology, a unique Gnostic hymnal, and
constitute a separate work originally entitled a detailed description of Gnostic cosmology –
The Rolls of the Savior. The present title is a multiple-tiered structure in whose middle
a modern conjecture based on the heading of region, among manifold cosmic layers, dwells
the second part, The Second Book of the Pistis the thirteenth realm of the repentant heroine
Sophia, which is a later scribal addition. All Pistis Sophia.
four parts are written in the question-and-
answer format (erôtapokriseis) – a collection REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS
of the dialogues between the risen Jesus and
his disciples, most notably Mary Magdalene, Kragerud, A. (1967) Die Hymnen der Pistis Sophia.
which took place after eleven years of his Oslo.
postresurrection teaching. Lattke, M. (1979–98) Die Oden Salomos in ihrer
Books 1 and 2, through chapter 82, contain Bedeutung für Neues Testament und Gnosis, esp.
vol. 1: 207–25. Freiburg.
Jesus’ report on his victorious ascent through
Orbe, A. (1976) Cristologı́a gnóstica, 2 vols.
hostile planetary and zodiacal spheres and his Madrid.
rescuing of the fallen Pistis Sophia, the person- Schmidt, C., ed. (1925) Pistis Sophia, neu hrsg. mit
ified cosmic soul, from the material realm Einleitung nebst griechischem und koptischem
(Chaos), followed by her hymns of gratitude Wort- und Namenregister. Copenhagen.
(“repentances”), each interpreted by the disci- Schmidt, C., ed. (1978) Pistis Sophia, trans.
ples citing passages from the biblical psalms V. MacDermot. Leiden.
and the Odes of Solomon. The rest of Book 2 Schmidt, C. (1981) Koptisch-gnostische Schriften 1.
(83–101) gives a detailed account of various Die Pistis Sophia. Die beiden Bücher des Jeû.
types of souls and their diversified fate. Book 3 Unbekannt altgnostisches Werk, ed. W. Till and
is a collection of questions and answers on the H.-M. Schenke. Berlin.
Tardieu, M. and J.-D. Dubois (1986)
value of renouncing the material world, the
Introduction à la littérature gnostique, vol. 1:
destructive role of the “counterfeit spirit,” and 65–82. Paris.
the outer celestial darkness and its twelve Vliet, J. van der (2005) “Fate, magic and astrology in
places of punishment. The final book, which Pistis Sophia, chaps 15–21.” In A. Hilhorst and
opens with Jesus’ magical invocation of the G. H. van Kooten, eds., The wisdom of Egypt:
Father in the wake of his resurrection, dis- Jewish, Early Christian, and Gnostic essays in
cusses the negative influence of the celestial honour of G. P. Luttikhuizen: Leiden.

The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, First Edition. Edited by Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine,
and Sabine R. Huebner, print pages 5338–5339.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah05152