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Second Treatise of the Great Seth

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Title: Second Treatise of the Great Seth  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter, Sethian texts, Docetism, Apocalyptic literature, Simon of Cyrene
Collection: Apocalyptic Literature, Sethian Texts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Second Treatise of the Great Seth

Second Treatise of the Great Seth is an apocryphal Gnostic writing discovered in the Codex VII of the Nag Hammadi codices and dates to around the third century. The author is unknown, and the Seth referenced in the title appears nowhere in the text. Instead Seth is thought to reference the third son of Adam and Eve to whom gnosis was first revealed, according to some gnostics. The author appears to belong to a group of gnostics who maintain that Jesus Christ was not crucified on the cross. Instead the text says that Simon of Cyrene was mistaken for Jesus and crucified in his place. Jesus is described as standing by and "laughing at their ignorance."

Those who believe Jesus to have died on the cross are said to believe in "a doctrine of a dead man." All those without gnosis - including those who had what would become orthodox beliefs, as well as the figures of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, the prophets, and Moses - are all referred to as a "laughingstock." The text shows the derision which the gnostics felt towards those who did not realize their supposed "truth"; that the biblical text was false (in at least certain important respects) and that the God of the Jews was not the true God. Only the gnostics have access to the "truth".

The Treatise of the Great Seth is written from the first-person perspective of "Jesus".

Some Gnostics believed Jesus was not a man but a docetistic spirit, and therefore could not die. From the translation by Roger A. Bullard and Joseph A. Gibbons:

For my death, which they think happened, (happened) to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death... It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I[t] was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns... And I was laughing at their ignorance.
— (Jesus as purported narrator)

At the beginning of the book, "Jesus" states:

I visited a bodily dwelling. I cast out the one who was in it previously, and I went in.[1]

This statement indicates that "Jesus" inhabited a human body that had previously belonged to someone else, which meant the body was not his own.

"The Christ" also explains that the being that created the world is not the One True God. "Jesus" instead proclaims:

Though we mastered his doctrine in this way, he lives in conceit, and he does not agree with our Father. And thus through our friendship we prevailed over his doctrine, since he is arrogant in conceit and does not agree with our Father. For he was a laughingstock with (his) judgment and false prophesy.[2]

This demonstrates the gnostic view that the God of the Hebrew Bible was not the One True God, but rather an inferior being called the Demiurge, which was created by Sophia.

"The Christ" also makes statements claiming that Adam, Moses, and John the Baptist were all also "laughingstocks". He says:

Neither he nor those before him, from Adam to Moses and John the Baptist, none of them knew me or my brethren. For a doctrine of angels is what arose from them, to keep dietary rules and bitter slavery. They never knew truth nor will they know it, for there is a great deception upon their soul...[3]

"The Christ" says these prominent figures were "laughingstocks" because they believed that the Demiurge was the One True God, and did not know the "Truth".

See also


  1. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Scriptures. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 82–86. 
  2. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Scriptures. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 82–86. 
  3. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Scriptures. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 82–86. 

External links

  • The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Translation by Roger A. Bullard and Joseph A. Gibbons, The Nag Hammadi Library
  • Ancient Heretical Literature
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