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"Within limitless realms dwells incorruptibility." : an exploration of the figure of Sophia in The Hypostasis of the Archons. O'Farrell, Aoife


This dissertation looks at the Sophia narrative in the Gnostic text The Hypostasis of the Archons. The figure of Sophia has long been considered an integral figure in Gnostic cosmology but one who is consistently identified as a fallen entity. I shall argue that the figure of Sophia is not a fallen figure in this tractate but rather conforms to the dual tradition of the entity found in the Valentinian tradition, whereby Wisdom is split into higher and lower forms. This allows for a higher, unblemished manifestation of the figure and a lower incarnation of the aeon that retains the fallen characteristics of the narrative. In this case Eve functions as the lower manifestation of Wisdom and Sophia can be viewed as the higher manifestation of the aeon. My approach to the subject of Sophia in The Hypostasis of the Archons incorporates social scientific criticism and textual analysis. The main body of my argument utilizes the work of Ingvild Gilhus: 1985, Elaine Pagels: 1988, and Deirdre Good: 1987, who concur that the figure of Sophia in The Hypostasis ofthe Archons represents a unique portrayal of the traditional entity and one which can be viewed as an ‘unfallen’ figure. The social scientific segment of this dissertation employs theory developed from cultural anthropology, specifically the work of Bruce Malina:200 1 and Mary Douglas: 1966. This line of reasoning posits that if the Pleroma is analyzed as a community of beings that Sophia adheres to the purity laws of the Pleroma and is thus, in this context not a fallen or ostracized figure. In conducting this study of The Hypostasis of the Archons I hope to highlight to unique nature of the figure of Wisdom in the tractate and suggest that the text shows elements of the dual tradition of Sophia found in Valentinian theology

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