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  • The Providence Monologue in the Apocryphon of John and the Johannine Prologue
  • Michael Waldstein (bio)

John's relation to the Gnostics has been a subject of intense debate ever since Bultmann proposed that John used a Gnostic revelation discourse source to express his "pointed anti-Gnostic theology."1 The Nag Hammadi texts have put this debate on a more solid historical basis. It had been commonly assumed on the basis of heresiological reports that John was a favorite text of Christian Gnostics. Nag Hammadi evidence now suggests otherwise. John's role in the clearly Christian-Gnostic Nag Hammadi texts is marginal.2 All the more tantalizing are the points of contact between John and some of the non-Christian or only marginally Christian texts grouped together as Sethian, particularly the contacts between the Johannine Prologue and the Trimorphic Protennoia (NHC XIII, 1). Scholars have proposed opposed hypotheses to explain these contacts: the Prologue depends on the Trimorphic Protennoia [End Page 369] or on one of its sources;3 the Trimorphic Protennoia depends on the Prologue.4

At the end of the longer version of the Apocryphon of John one finds a brief poetic Monologue of personified Providence (πρόν οια) which resembles the Prologue both in style and content.5 Its relation to the Trimorphic [End Page 370] Protennoia is even closer. It appears to be the literary Vorlage on the basis of which the Trimorphic Protennoia was written.6 Although the Providence Monologue is thus relevant to the debate surrounding the Johannine Prologue, no detailed analysis of it has been published yet.7 Such an analysis is what the present article intends to supply. Section one of the article analyzes the Monologue's structure and meaning; section two turns to its composition history and insertion into the Apocryphon of John; section three, to its history of religions setting; and the conclusion, section four, to its relation to the Johannine Prologue.

The Providence Monologue, the article concludes, is a non-Christian text rooted in Hellenistic-Jewish wisdom speculations which it recasts in recognizably Gnostic fashion.8 It has no direct literary connections with the Johannine Prologue. Nevertheless it can contribute to the understanding of the Prologue. It can provide a benchmark for addressing an issue formulated by George MacRae, S.J., [End Page 371] . . . (T)he root problem in identifying the background of the Fourth Gospel is the fact that the Jewish wisdom tradition can be used to account for much of what some interpreters regard as Gnostic. The real issue then becomes: is the Fourth Gospel an independent development from the wisdom tradition or part of a larger movement of speculation in which Gnosticism also interprets wisdom? I suggest that this remains the central issue in Johannine studies. . . .9

  1. The Providence Monologue10

  2. 1. I, therefore, the perfect Providence (πρόν οια) of the All, took form11 in my seed (σπέρμα), for (γάρ) I existed first, going on every road.

  3. 2. For (γάρ) I am the richness of the light; I am the remembrance of the pleroma (πλήρωμα).

  4. 3. And (δέ) I went12 into the realm of darkness, and I endured () till I entered the middle of the prison.

  5. 4. And the foundations of chaos (χά ος) shook.

  6. 5. And I hid myself from them because of their wickedness (κακία), and they did not recognize me.

  7. 6. Again (πάλιν) I returned, for the second time, and I went about.

  8. 7. I came13 forth from those who belong to the light, which is I, the remembrance of the Providence (πρόν οια).

  9. 8. I entered into the midst of darkness and the inside of Hades, since I was seeking (to accomplish) my task ().

  10. 9. And the foundations of chaos (χά ος) shook, [End Page 372] that they might fall down upon those who are in chaos (χά ος) and might destroy them.

  11. 10. And again I14 ran up to my root of light lest they be destroyed before the time.

  12. 11. Still () for a third time I went

  13. 12. —I am the light which exists in the light, I am the remembrance of the Providence (πρόν οια)—

  14. 13. that I might enter into the midst of darkness and the inside of Hades, and I filled15 my face with the light of the completion (συντέλεια) of their aeon ().

  15. 14. And I entered...


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pp. 369-402
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