The gospel of the Egyptians.

A lost Egyptian gospel from century I or II.


Attributed author(s).
Anonymous Egyptian heretic(s).

Text(s) available.
On site (present page in Greek or Latin, English).
Early Christian Writings: Gospel of the Egyptians (English only).

Useful links.
Gospel of the Egyptians at Early Christian Writings.
Gospels and apocrypha in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

One of our many sources for primitive Christianity.

This gospel is known only from patristic quotations. The fathers who quote from it consider it one and all to be heretical. It bears points of resemblance to the gospel of Thomas and to the so-called second epistle, or homily, of Clement.

Clement of Alexandria.

Late century II.

From Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 3.6:

Τη Σαλωμη ο κυριος πυνθανομενη· Μεχρι ποτε θανατος ισχυσει, ουχ ως κακου του βιου οντος και της κτισεως πονηρας· Μεχρις αν, ειπεν, υμεις αι γυναικες τικτετε· αλλ ως την ακολουθιαν την φυσικην διδασκων. γενεσαι γαρ παντως επεται και φθορα.

Salome inquired: Until when will death be strong? The Lord said, not as if life were bad or the creation evil, but [rather] as teaching the natural sequence: As long as you women give birth. For in all ways birth is followed by corruption.

From Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 3.9:

Οι δε αντιτασσομενοι τη κτισει του θεου δια της ευφημου εγκρατειας κακεινα λεγουσι τα προς Σαλωμην ειρημενα, ων προτερον εμνησθημεν· φερεται δε, οιμαι, εν τω κατ Αιγυπτιους ευαγγελιω. φασι γαρ οτι αυτος ειπεν ο σωτηρ· Ηλθον καταλυσαι τα εργα της θηλειας. θηλειας μεν της επιθυμιας, εργα δε γεννησιν και φθοραν.

But those who order themselves against the creation of God on account of the euphemism of Encratism also say those things that were said to Salome, of which we first made mention. And it is extant, I suppose, in the gospel according to the Egyptians. For they say that the savior himself said: I came to abolish the works of the female. What are of the female are desires, but the works are birth and corruption.

A bit further on in the same passage Clement writes:

Οθεν εικοτως, περι συντελειας μηνυσατος του λογου, η Σαλωμη φησι· Μεχρι τινος οι ανθρωποι αποθανουνται; ανθρωπον δε καλει η γραφη διχως, τον τι φαινομενον και την ψυχην· παλιν τε αυ τον σωζομενον και τον μη. και θανατος ψυχης η αμαρτια λεγεται. διο και παρατετηρημενως αποκρινεται ο κυριος· Μεχρις αν τικτωσιν αι γυναικες, τουτεστι μεχρις αν αι επιθυμιαι ενεργωσι.

Whence reasonably, after the word had told about the consummation, Salome says: Until when will men die? But the scripture calls him man in two ways, the one that is apparent and the soul, and again that being saved and that not being saved. And sin is said to be the death of the soul. And in keeping with this the Lord answers: As long as women give birth, that is, as long as desires are at work.

Then, a little later again, he writes:

Τι δε ουχι και τα εξης των προς Σαλωμην ειρημενων επιφερουσιν οι παντα μαλλον η τω κατα την αληθιαν ευαγγελικω στοιχησαντες κανονι; φαμενης γαρ αυτης· Καλως ουν εποιησα μη τεκουσα, ως ου δεοντως της γενεσεως παραλαμβανομενης, αμειβεται λεγων ο κυριος· Πασαν φαγε βοτανην, την δε πικριαν εχουσαν μη φαγης.

But those who [prefer] all things rather than to conform to the evangelical rule according to the truth, why do they not quote the things that follow those said to Salome? For when she says: I did well, then, in not giving birth, as if not accepting childbirth as fitting, the Lord responds saying: Eat every plant, but do not eat the one that has bitterness.

From Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 3.13:

Δια τουτο τοι ο Κασσιανος φησι· Πυνθανομενης της Σαλωμης ποτε γνωσθησεται τα περι ων ηρετο, εφη ο κυριος· Οταν το της αισχυνης ενδυμα πατησητε, και οταν γενηται τα δυο εν, και το αρρεν μετα της θηλειας, ουτε αρρεν ουτε θηλυ. πρωτον μεν ουν εν τοις παραδιδομενοις ημιν τετταρσιν ευαγγελιοις ουκ εχομεν το ρητον, αλλ εν τω κατ Αιγυπτιους.

On account of this Cassianus says: When Salome inquired when the things about which she had asked would be known, the Lord said: When you have trampled the garment of shame, and when the two become one, and the male with the female, neither male nor female. First, then, we do not have this word in the four gospels delivered to us, but in that according to the Egyptians.

This quotation bears a striking resemblance to 2 Clement 12.2:

Επερωτηθεις γαρ αυτος ο κυριος υπο τινος ποτε ηξει αυτου η βασιλεια, ειπεν· Οταν εσται τα δυο εν, και το εξω ως το εσω, και το αρσεν μετα της θηλειας, ουτε αρσεν ουτε θηλυ.

For, when the Lord was asked by someone when his kingdom would come, he said: When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.

From Clement of Alexandria, Excerpts from Theodotus 67:

Και οταν ο σωτηρ προς Σαλωμην λεγη· Μεχρι τοτε ειναι θανατον αχρις αν αι γυναικες τικτωσιν, ου την γενεσιν κακιζων ελεγεν, αναγκαιων ουσαν δια την σωτηριαν των πιστευοντων.

And when the savior says to Salome: There shall be death as long as women give birth, he did not say this to make childbirth bad, it being one of the things necessary on account of the salvation of those who believe.

Hippolytus.

Early century III.

From Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 5.7.8b-9a:

Ειναι δε φασι την ψυχην δυσευρετον πανυ και δυσκατανοητον· ου γαρ μενει επι σχηματος ουδε μορφης της αυτης παντοτε, ουδε παθους ενος, ινα τις αυτην η τυπω ειπη η ουσια καταληψεται.

And they say that the soul is unfindable and unknowable; for it remains neither upon the same scheme or form always nor in one passive [state], that one might speak of it by a type or comprehend it in being.

Τας δε εξαλλαγας ταυτας τας ποικιλας εν τω επιγραφομενω κατ Αιγυπτιους ευαγγελιω κειμενας εχουσιν. απορουσιν ουν, καθαπερ οι αλλοι παντες των εθνων ανθρωποι, ποτερον ποτε εκ του προοντος εστιν, εκ του αυτογενους, η εκ του εκκεχυμενου χαους.

But they have these various changes set down in the gospel inscribed according to the Egyptians. They are therefore in doubt, just as all the other men of the gentiles, whether it is at all from the pre-being, from the self-born, or from the poured-out chaos.

Origen.

Early century III.

From Origen, Homily on Luke 1.1:

Ecclesia quator habet evangelia, haeresis plurima, e quibus quoddam scribitur secundum Aegyptios, aliud iuxta duodecim apostolos. ausus fuit et Basilides scribere evangelium et suo illud nomine titulare.

The church has four gospels, heresy many, from among which a certain one is written according to the Egyptians, another according to the twelve apostles. Even Basilides dared to write a gospel and to entitle it by his own name.

Epiphanius.

Late century IV.

From Epiphanius, Panarion 62:

Την δε πασαν αυτων πλανην, και την πλανης αυτων δυναμιν, εχουσιν εξ αποκρυφων τινων, μαλιστα απο του καλουμενου Αιγυπτιου ευαγγιλιου, ω τινες το ονομα επεθεντο τουτο. εν αυτω γαρ πολλα τοιαυτα ως εν παραβυστω μυστηριωδως εκ προσωπου του σωτηρος αναφερεται, ως αυτου δηλουτος τοις μαθηταις τον αυτον ειναι πατερα, τον αυτον ειναι υιον, τον αυτον ειναι αγιον πνευμα.

But their whole deception, and the whole power of their deception, they have from certain apocryphal [writings], especially from the gospel called Egyptian, upon which some place this name. For in it many such things are quoted mysteriously, as if in a corner, as if from the person of the savior, such as when he makes clear to the disciples that he himself is the father, that he himself is the son, and that he himself is the holy spirit.