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Procreative Imagery and Cosmology in On the Origin of the World
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

On the Origin of the World (henceforth: Orig. World), one of the long lost Christian texts that were unearthed 1945 in Nag Hammadi, presents a fascinating retelling of the creation narrative in Genesis 1-3. One of the most striking departures from the “prooftext” is the manner in which the world and its plants and animals are conceived. Instead of the ex nihilo creation of the Hebrew Bible, Orig. World uses the imagery of procreative activities – conception and birth – to illustrate how the cosmos and its inhabitants came into existence.

As Ismo Dunderberg points out in the introduction to his recent book Gnostic Morality Revisited, these early Christian cosmogonies aimed not only to provide a colorful story, but also to impart paraenetic teachings concerning everyday matters.[1] Could there be a particular reason why the mythmaker(s) of Orig. World replace the pseudo-procreative creations of the Hebrew bible with more explicit sexual imagery? And if so, what is the purpose of this creative exegesis? How does the cosmogony, the creation myth, relate to the cosmology, the understanding and evaluation of the created world?

In this essay, it is argued that the procreative imagery in Orig. World has close parallels in the discourses of other early Christian teachers, who employed biological symbols in order to dispel the hypnotic hold of corporeal beauty. Worldly beauty, while not negative in itself, could provide a distraction and distance the believer from God. The procreative imagery in Orig. World, I suggest, has a similar function: through graphic depictions of bodily fluids, the mythmaker(s) of Orig. World wanted to remind its readers that the beauty of nature (as well as the worldly creations) was transitory and destined for destruction, as is the case for all things created through natural means.

Furthermore, I suggest that Orig. World uses the sexual appetite of the gods and angels of the cosmos to provide the reader with an antitype that the believer must outshine through the practice of self-restraint and moderation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 62 p.
National Category
Religious Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-275013OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-275013DiVA: diva2:898312
Subject / course
New Testament Exegesis
Educational program
Master Programme in Theology and Religious Studies
2016-01-26, 15:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-01-28 Created: 2016-01-27 Last updated: 2016-01-28Bibliographically approved

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