"Jesus the Christ, amen" : (re)Christianizing the Apocryphon of John

King, Bradley Forrest
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With four surviving copies, the Apocryphon of John is the best attested of the forty-five unique texts discovered in the Nag Hammadi library, and it is also one of the collections longest and most comprehensive tractates. For these and other reasons, the Apocryphon of John is one of the most studied texts of the Nag Hammadi corpus. To date, most interest in the Apocryphon of John has focused on the text's relationship to "Gnosticism" and/or the early phases of its composition, for which there is virtually no evidence aside from Irenaeus’s description of the Barbeloites and Ophites in Adversus Haereses I.29--30. Despite the breadth and number of these studies, little attention has been paid to the text's redaction history and what it reveals about the evolving socio-religious circumstances through which the Apocryphon of John was transmitted. Indeed, the four surviving copies preserve evidence of at least two different versions--generally distinguished as the "long" and "short" recensions--that are dissimilar enough to raise serious questions about the degree to which they represent compatible socio-religious traditions. In this thesis, I demonstrate that many of these reading variants preserve evidence of the tractate's ongoing adoption and adaptation to the shifting religio-political and socio-historical contexts through which it was transmitted, and this is especially true with regard to the longer form of the texts, which is the product of a comprehensive rewriting program that reshaped much of tractate's contents. Paying close attention to shifts in the text's practical, ideological, and theological dimensions, I also argue that all surviving forms of the Apocryphon of John indicate that it was thoroughly embedded in the conversations and concerns of contemporaneous Christian culture(s) and that it continued to be shaped and reshaped along with the evolving Christian landscape until it was finally abandoned, most likely as a result of the episcopate's increasing control over previously independent monastic communities in the fifth-century.