Plato's Republic at
Nag Hammadi c.350 CE

Comparing the Gnostic with the Original

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Comparing Plato' Republic in the Nag Hammadi coptic to the Original Greek

NHC 6.5 - Extract from Plato's Republic (Coptic) Plato's Republic - the Original Greek
Section (1)

Since we have come to this point in a discussion, let us again take up the first things that were said to us.

And we will find that he says, 'Good is he who has been done injustice completely. He is glorified justly.' Is not this how he was reproached?"

"This is certainly the fitting way!"

And I said, "Now then, we have spoken because he said that he who does injustice and he who does justice each has a force."

''How then?"

"He said, 'An image that has no likeness is the rationality of soul,' so that he who said these things will understand.

He [...] or not?

[588a] And now that we have come to this point in the argument, [588b] let us take up again the statement with which we began and that has brought us to this pass.

It was, I believe, averred that injustice is profitable to the completely unjust man who is reputed just. Was not that the proposition?”

“Yes, that.”

“Let us, then, reason with its proponent now that we have agreed on the essential nature of injustice and just conduct.”

“How?” he said.

“By fashioning in our discourse a symbolic image of the soul, that the maintainer of that proposition may see precisely what it is that he was saying.”

[588c] “What sort of an image?” he said.

Summary (1): Nothing substantial to report; looks essentially the same ...
Section (2)

We [...] is for me. But all [...] who told them [...] ruler, these now have become natural creatures - even Chimaera and Cerberus and all the rest that were mentioned. They all came down and they cast off forms and images. And they all became a single image.

It was said, 'Work now!'

One of those natures that the ancient fables tell of,” said I, “as that of the Chimaera or Scylla or Cerberus, and the numerous other examples that are told of many forms grown together in one.”

“Yes, they do tell of them.

Summary (2): The monsters of Plato's ancient fables "have now become natural creatures", and are loose in the Republic presented in the Nag Hammadi version. Once they existed as many fabulous monsters in tales, but now they have become a single monster. Yes, they were the subject of tales in Plato. But in the Coptic these monsters (now a single monster) lived in the empire, and it was commanded to work in the empire. Things were grim.
Section (3)

Certainly it is a single image that became the image of a complex beast with many heads. Some days indeed it is like the image of a wild beast. Then it is able to cast off the first image. And all these hard and difficult forms emanate from it with effort, since these are formed now with arrogance.

And also all the rest that are like them are formed now through the word. For now it is a single image.

“Mould, then, a single shape of a manifold and many-headed beast that has a ring of heads of tame and wild beasts and can change them and cause to spring forth from itself all such growths.

[588d] “It is the task of a cunning artist,” he said, “but nevertheless, since speech is more plastic than wax and other such media, assume that it has been so fashioned.

Summary (3)The theoretical allegory of a many-headed monster is fashioned in Plato's Republic. But in the Coptic republic a complex many-headed monster appeared as a single image. On some days, in the NHC Republic, the monster is out of control. The NHC monsters were created via the word, and through arrogance.
Section (4)

For the image of the lion is the one thing and the image of the man is another. [...] single [...] is the [...] of [...] join. And this [...] much more complex than the first. And the second is small."

"It has been formed."

“Then fashion one other form of a lion and one of a man and let the first be far the largest and the second second in size.

That is easier,” he said, “and is done.

Summary (4): much the same ...
Section (5)

"Now then, join them to each other and make them a single one - for they are three - so that they grow together, and all are in a single image outside of the image of the man just like him who is unable to see the things inside him.

But what is outside only is what he sees.

And it is apparent what creature his image is in and that he was formed in a human image.

Join the three in one, then, so as in some sort to grow together.”

“They are so united,” he said.

“Then mould about them outside the likeness of one, that of the man, so that to anyone who is unable [588e] to look within but who can see only the external sheath it appears to be one living creature, the man.”

“The sheath is made fast about him,” he said.

Summary (5): much the same; man is a composite creature. See Plato's Allegory of the cave.
Section (6)

"And I spoke to him who said that there is profit in the doing of injustice for the man. He who does injustice truly does not profit nor does he benefit.

But what is profitable for him is this: that he cast down every image of the evil beast and trample them along with the images of the lion.

But the man is in weakness in this regard. And all the things that he does are weak. As a result he is drawn to the place where he spends time with them. [...]. And he [...] to him in[...]. But he brings about [...] enmity [...]. And with strife they devour each other among themselves.

Yes, all these things he said to everyone who praises the doing of injustice."

“Let us, then say to the speaker who avers that it pays this man to be unjust, and that to do justice is not for his advantage,

that he is affirming nothing else than that it profits him to feast and make strong the multifarious beast and the lion and all that pertains to the lion,

[589a] but to starve the man and so enfeeble him that he can be pulled about whithersoever either of the others drag him, and not to familiarize or reconcile with one another the two creatures but suffer them to bite and fight and devour one another.”

“Yes,” he said, “that is precisely what the panegyrist of injustice will be found to say.

Summary (6): It has been noted that But what is profitable for him is this: that he cast down every image of the evil beast and trample them along with the images of the lion. is a mistranslation of the original Plato.
Section (7)

"Then is it not profitable for him who speaks justly?"

"And if he does these things and speaks in them, within the man they take hold firmly.

Therefore especially he strives to take care of them and he nourishes them just like the farmer nourishes his produce daily. And the wild beasts keep it from growing."

“And on the other hand he who says that justice is the more profitable affirms that all our actions and words should tend to give the man within us [589b] complete domination over the entire man

and make him take charge of the many-headed beast

--like a farmer who cherishes and trains the cultivated plants but checks the growth of the wild--and he will make an ally of the lion's nature, and caring for all the beasts alike will first make them friendly to one another and to himself, and so foster their growth.

Summary (7): Plato describes the perfect farmer in the natural scene who (1) fosters the growth of cultivated plants, (2) checks the growth of the wild plants, (3) makes an ally of all the beasts by caring for them, (4) promoting friendship and (5) fostering growth. The coptic presents a stark and simpler reality. The Coptic describes a farmer who (1) is striving to take care of the farm on a daily basis, but (2) is unable to check the growth of the wild monster on a daily basis.

Translated by James Brashler, James M. Robinson, ed.,
The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition.
HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 translated by Paul Shorey.
Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1969.