The third tractate from Codex XI (45.1-69.20) of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY, is a “book” (68.21; cf. 69.17-18, where the plural is used) said to be written by a certain Allogenes (“stranger,” “one of another race”) for Messos (“middle one,” i.e., the one between the divine and the lower realms). The recipient of revelation, Allogenes is told to transcribe the book and preserve it on a mountain for the sake of posterity (68.16-25); he passes this revelatory work on to his disciple Messos, whom he describes as his “son,” so that he in turn may proclaim these truths to those who would hear (cf. the instructions of the heavenly being addressing Allogenes at 68.19-20: “those who will be worthy after you”). Allogenes is given its title as a subscript (69.20), and certainly must be related to the revelations of Allogenes and Messos mentioned by Porphyry in his Life of Plotinus 16 (cf. also Epiphanius, Panarion 39.5.1, 40.2.2, on “the books called Allogeneis”).
The tractate records the nature of the divine as revealed to Allogenes. Although a few lines are missing at the tops of many pages, the tractate apparently opens at 45.1 with the first of several speeches delivered to Allogenes by Youel, “she who is of all the glories” (50.19-20 ff.). In these revelatory speeches Youel explicates the character of the Triple Power and the aeon of Barbelo: the Triple Power truly exists, and is manifested in existence, life, and mind (49.26-38; cf. the Neoplatonic triad to on, zoe, nous), while the aeon of Barbelo is the divine First Thought, “possessing the patterns and the forms of those who truly exist” (51.14-16) and also correcting the defects of nature (51.28-32).
As in The Three Steles of Seth (Nag Hammadi Codex VII,. 5.126, 4-16 ff.), praises are offered (here, it seems, by Youel) to the heavenly glories (53.37-54.37ff.). Meanwhile, Allogenes is filled with goodness and light, and can even exclaim, “I became divine” (52.12-13). When Youel finally departs (57.24-27), Allogenes spends a full century preparing for further visions of the godhead, and he is not disappointed in his hopes. He is taken up in ecstasy to a marvelous holy place where heavenly powers explain how he may receive “a primary revelation of the Unknown One, the One whom, if you would know him, be ignorant of him” (59.28-32). With a profound silence and calm Allogenes ascends up through the Triple Power, from the blessedness of self-knowledge (cf. mind) to the eternal motion of vitality and the stillness of existence itself. In such a manner Allogenes attains to the Unknown One, who subsequently is described in utterly transcendent and paradoxical terms (61.25- 67.20).
Allogenes thus is a non-Christian Gnostic text with a strongly philosophical orientation. Using terms and perspectives characteristic of Neoplatonism, the tractate probably was composed, in Greek, during the late second or early third century.
- Robinson, J. M. “The Three Steles of Seth and the Gnostics of Plotinus,” pp. 132-42. In Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Gnosticism, ed. G. Widengren. Stockholm, 1977. Turner, J. D. “XI, 3: Allogenes.” In Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII and XIII, ed. C. W. Hedrick. Nag Hammadi Studies. Leiden, forthcoming.
- Wire, A. C.; J. D. Turner; and O. S. Wintermute. “Allogenes (XI,3).” In The Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed. J. M. Robinson. San Francisco, 1977.
MARVIN W. MEYER