The Authentikos Logos is an account, didactic in character, of the history of the soul. It forms the third tractate of Codex VI of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY. According to the tractate, “When the spiritual soul was cast into the body, it became a brother to lust and hatred and envy, and it became a material soul” (23.13ff). In this way the soul’s misadventures began. She bore, without a partner, children who are called adoptive, for they had no father. She sank into prostitution, for she chose for herself a spirit of prostitution who dragged her into a brothel. This spirit of prostitution (24.8-10) brought her vice, and the soul abandoned all modesty. She also gave herself up to drunkenness (24.14-16), and she forgot her heavenly brothers and her father, for she was deceived by pleasure. Renouncing knowledge, she fell into bestiality (24.20-22).
But because of her divine origin the soul was not entirely separated from the world above. The dwellers in the Pleroma (22.20-22) saw her; she gazed at them in the invisible Logos. Her heavenly bridegroom, seeing her in distress, secretly brought her food and a balm with saving power. This food and this balm were the Logos. Through this, the soul saw and recognized “her kinsman and learned about her root in order that she might cling to her branch from which she first came forth, in order that she might receive what was hers and renounce matter” (22.29-34). Once the soul perceived the vanity of worldly things, she launched out in the search for God, although this search was exhausting (35.3-5).
She abandoned the passions, having understood their evil (31.19- 28). She freed herself from them, adopting a new mode of conduct (31.29-30). Thus, wearing her true clothing, she adorned herself in a bridal robe and hastened to her bridegroom. In the nuptial chamber, located in the East, she joined the bridegroom and fed herself at a banquet with immortal food (35.8-24).
The Authentikos Logos is more didactic than philosophical (Ménard, 1977). Taking as his starting point the story of the soul, the author communicates several teachings. The Gnostics, like the soul, will have to renounce passions and devote themselves to the search for God. This search will be difficult because of many hidden traps which the enemy puts in their way: “For this reason, then, we do not sleep nor do we forget the nets that are spread out in hiding, lying in wait for us to catch us. For if we are caught in a single net, it will suck us down into its mouth while the water flows over us, striking our face.
And we will be taken down into the dragnet, and we will not be able to come up from it. The adversary spies on us, lying in wait for us like a fisherman, wishing to seize us, rejoicing that he might swallow us. For he places many foods before our eyes, [things] which belong to this world so that he may seize us with his hidden poison and bring us out of freedom and take us in slavery” (29.3-30.20). The metaphors with which the Gnostic author enriches his writing all belong to the syncretistic world of the Hellenistic period (Ménard, 1977, p. 3); the fisherman, wine, drunkenness, the good shepherd, chaff, and wheat are some examples.
The Valentinian myth of the fall of the Sophia (wisdom) recurs, in simplified form, in the Authentikos Logos in the history of the spiritual soul, prostituting herself in the lower world before joining her heavenly bridegroom. The themes of the bridegroom, the bridal chamber, true clothing, and rest in the nuptial chamber justify comparison of the Authentikos Logos with the EXEGESIS ON THE SOUL and the GOSPEL OF PHILIP from the Nag Hammadi Library.
- MacRae, G. W. “The Authoritative Teaching.” In Nag Hammadi Codices V, 2-5 and VI, ed. D. M. Parrott. Nag Hammadi Studies 11. Leiden, 1979.
- Menard, J. E. L’Authentikos Logos. Bibliothèque copte de Nag Hammadi, section Textes 2. Quebec, 1977.
- Scopello, M. “Un Rituel idéal d’intronisation dans trois textes gnostiques de Nag Hammadi.” In Nag Hammadi and Gnosis, ed. 14. McL. Wilson. Nag Hammadi Studies 14. Leiden, 1978.