T A O P A T T AThe Acts of Peter
and the Twelve Apostles
as a Non-Christian Ascetic Allegory and Hellenic Satire
having renounced all actions by the mind
dwells at ease in the City of Nine Gates,
neither working nor causing work to be done.
--- Bhagvad Gita 5:13
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
A number of discourses by Hermes, one of which being addressed to Ascepius, were to be found in the entire collection, and coincidentally, bound into the same book as our TAOPATTA. For further detailed information about the Nag Hammadi Library see this index page. For further background information on Asclepius, and other general comments about the Nag Hammadi codices, including a summary by Robert Lane Fox, and a statement of the general tendancy to view such writings as Gnostic, see this page.
Our position is that what appears on the surface to be a strange reading allegory about Jesus and the Apostles of the Christian ministry, is in fact a cleverly disguised satire of the failings of the Apostles of the Christian ministry in relation to the true gnosis (knowledge of this Pearl).
As far as I know, no other commentator on this text has identified as an integral element of the allegory the name of this city Nine Gates as the human body. This association not only is warranted, but has in fact ancient precedent in many traditions which describe the ascetic path, including its occurrence in the Bhagvad Gita (above).
From a higher - and perhaps the word here is more evolved - perspective we are able also to exchange ideas and concepts through words and actions that are understood by our mind, traditionally represented as being associated with head. We are thus constantly and always necessarily associated always with the body - this city of Nine Gates. Such is the state described in the Bhagvad Gita as the embodied soul.
It is our thesis that the author of TAOPATTA is alluding to an ancient allegory of the embodied soul. This should not be surprising. But what is surprising is the actions of the truly enlightened embodied soul -- the citizen of Nine Gates -- the enigmatic yet central character Lithargoel. His actions are specifically that of adept of the Healing Tradition, quite possibly that of Asclepius, which was prevalent at that time in ancient history.
Peter and the Apostles have nothing to do with this.
The major theme is the pathway of ascetic practice and the tradition associated thereto - the tradition of healing, of the physicians of Apollo and Asclepius.
Outline of the Method of Critical Analysis
The text is distilled by removing the pearl, the healer,
the name of the healer, and the poor of Habitation. We
are left with the external husk of the pearl shell.
Wisdom like a pearl may be a subtle acretion of substance over along period of time. Like a pearl diver seeking a pearl in the belly of a pearl shell, the diver must first pluck the pearl from its shell. We therefore have simply broken the entire tractate up into its constituent 142 sentences, and simply extracted those sentences which are related to the message of the Pearl, the description of the Road to the City of Nine Gates and the description of the practice of the travelling Healer or physician. These form a total of 28 sentences -- possibly themselves being two sets of 14 sentences.
Once this text is removed, what is left to be done?
Another three sets of fourteen sentences, are able to be discerned other than the actual Acts of the Apostles. These relate to the Name of the Healer and the question as to the real historical or traditional or fictional identity of this physician of bodies and souls, dispenser of wisdom. Separately there is this Pearl Man Lithargoel - the enigmatic citizen of Nine Gates -- a description of this person, provided by Peter. Finally there are the shared issues relating to the Endurance of Habitation, the city and its poor set in the midst of the sea.
Whoever authored this text (in the early fourth century CE) could string together invectives in satire which may have had the audience laughing at the ineptitude of the Christian apostles as hopeless examples of the ascetic path, and as hopelessly under-skilled physicians of the healing path. The parodies are consistent in their declamation of the Christian ministry to the rich. (The poor are remote and endure elsewhere).
We have then argued that surrounding this true knowledge (gnosis) are the layers of meaning by which the Name of the Healer, the person of Lithargoel and the Palm Leaf civilisation in povery in the midst of the sea --- the environment in which Lithargoel operates. These layers are removed to reveal the husk of the shell. The external acts of the apostles.
Notably, the author states that the apostles do not enter the city of Nine Gates. They tarry by the gate, and abstract. The satire is against the citizenship enjoyed by the apostles as compared to the citizship enjoyed by Lithargoel. The apostles are totally concerned with the external world. They do not enter the city. They do not visit the city inside its gates. At the end, Lithargoel tells them to judge the rich.
And yet, it will be said "But Lithargoel is clearly Jesus"!
My response to this assertion is to return to my research in the field of ancient history.
Thesis (1) - The New Testament Apocrypha (NTA) were authored as Greek satires after Nicaea 325 CE
Thesis (2) - The NTA were largely authored by the satirist Arius of Alexandria (a non-christian).