Two DeConick Blog Entries
- I haven't been reading blogs regularly lately, but I was browsing
April DeConick's this evening and came across two recent items
of personal interest. One was a short note of April 6th on the new
periodical "The Gnostic" that was the subject of some discussion
on our list recently. April's note can be accessed with the label:
Frankly, I'm disappointed and rather mystified that April didn't
mention my article. Perhaps it falls under the category of what
she calls "other articles of interest", but I would have appreciated
a more specific mention, since she knows who I am. Ah, well ...
The second item I found interesting was her mention of the
gematria-value of 'Abrasax' (viz., 365), in two blog entries -
April 7th and 8th - which can be accessed with the label:
What's interesting to me about this is that 365 is also the sum of
the 14 factors of 210, viz., the four prime factors (other than one)
2, 3, 5, 7, and the 10 composite factors 6, 10, 14, 15, 21, 30, 35,
42, 70, and 105 (a "factor" of a number n being a number other
than 1 and n itself that evenly divides n.) I'm inclined to think that
the originators of Coptic Thomas would have been familiar with the
made-up name 'Abraxas'. What's intriguing, I think, is that if they
did, what would they likely have made of its numeric connection
with the sum of the factors of the holy name?
> I'm inclined to think that the originators of Coptic Thomas wouldHaving given my own question some thought, I'd like to propose
> have been familiar with the made-up name 'Abraxas'. What's
> intriguing, I think, is that if they did, what would they likely have
> made of its numeric connection with the sum of the factors of
> the holy name?
a tentative answer to it. Briefly put, it's that Abrasax/Abraxas was
associated with fate, and that Jesus (IS) came to break the bonds
of fate. Or so it says in the Apocryphon of John, a work with which
the originators of Coptic Thomas were intimately familiar.
Now admittedly, the name Abrasax doesn't appear in ApocJn.
The word translated 'fate' there is '$IMARMEN2' ('Simarmenh',
according to Don's transliteration, I believe). I've so far been
unable to determine if this was a Greek or Coptic word. The
point is, however, that Abrasax was associated with fate.
Here is some of what April DeConick wrote recently:
"Abrasax is the astral lord who rules the celestial spheres...
He would be the one most powerful in controlling your fate. ...
he is a "demon" in the sense that he is a capricious very powerful
power in the skies who controls your fate, ruling the entire universe."
In the system of Basilides, there were 365 heavens, and so the
character Abrasax, the numeric value of whose name was 365,
was designated as the ruler of the heavens. I believe that the
originators of ApocJn were familiar with Basilides' system, altho
they had their own. Still, in their own, fate was a huge force to
In ApocJn, there are three references to "fate" - all in a single
paragraph on p.121 of NHL. The passage actually starts at the
bottom of p.120, however, where John asks Jesus, "Where
did the counterfeit spirit come from?" According to the story
that follows, the Chief Ruler (a bad guy in the whole story) came
to recognize that the "offspring of the perfect race" (apparently
Sethians) were greater than him in their thinking. Naturally (being
a jealous god), "he wanted to seize their thought":
"He [the Chief Ruler] made a plan with his authorities, which are
his powers, and they committed adultery with Sophia [Wisdom]
and bitter *fate* was begotten through them, which is the last of
the changeable bonds. ... And it is harder and stronger than she
with whom the gods united [Sophia?] and the angels and the
demons and all the generations until this day. For from that *fate*
came forth every sin and injustice and blasphemy and the chain
of forgetfulness and ignorance and every severe command and
serious sins and great fears. [!] And thus the whole of creation
was made blind in order that they may not know God who is
above all of them. And because of the chain of forgetfulness,
their sins were hidden. For they are bound with measures and
times and moments, since it (fate) is lord over everything."
Obviously, this is a very strong statement about the role of fate.
Although it isn't itself the "counterfeit spirit", everything bad in
both conventional and gnostic thinking is credited to it. And it's
that that's ultimately responsible for the "prison" that Jesus
comes to help folks break out of. Or so the story goes.
If the _gematria-value_ of 'IS' and 'Abraxas' had been the same,
the general rules of gematria would have demanded that they be
considered either the same or complementary to each other.
But that isn't the case here. Altho the g-value of 'Abraxas' is 365,
it's not the g-value of 'IS' that's 365, but rather the sum of the
factors of it's g-value. That provides a rationale for its being
related to 'Abraxas', but in an opposing way. Thus, as I suggest,
'IS' was likely seen by the Copts in question as the divine force
that opposed fate, and sought to break the bonds represented
in the Basilidean system as the 365 heavens of Abrasax/Abraxas.
Mt. Clemens, MI
- One last note on this subject before we move on. In the blog
entry cited earlier, DeConick wrote as follows:
"In Greek numerology each letter is associated with a number."
My comment on this statement was as follows:
"It was the number-system itself, not numerology per se.
... Hebrew had a very similar number-system .... Thus,
both supported similar numerologies, or gematrias."
I understand numerology as "1. divination by numbers [or]
2. the study of the occult meaning of numbers" (OAD).
Given this definition, I don't think there's any question but that
numerology is possible whether or not the numerologist's own
language happens to use its alphabet to represent numbers.
Greek and Hebrew did have such a system, however, and it's a
short step from that to gematria (which has to do with calculating
numeric values for names and words).
Now I assume that A.D. simply made a mistake in wording
her statement. That's not uncommon when one is writing
rather hastily. What I wonder about, though, is whether students
of biblical studies are as well-versed in the number-systems of
Greek and Hebrew as they are in the languages. I would hope so,
but not having been so trained myself, I have no personal knowledge
to draw on to answer that question. I get the impression, however,
that biblical scholars aren't too keen to discuss issues that might
involve numerology or numerical symbolism. I could be wrong, of
course, but if that is the case, then I think there's a danger there of
what might be called 'covert reverse anachronism', i.e., a failure to
"inject" or take account of something that was important to folks in
the time and place under study (because it isn't important in our
day and age?) In particular, if we ignore the Greek and Hebrew
number-systems and the gematria that followed almost inexorably
from them, we're missing a lot, IMO.