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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School Theology and Religious Studies PhD Programme PhD ceremonies Graduations 2007

01-03-'07 | L.K. van Os

Baptism in the Bridal Chamber: The Gospel of Philip as a Valentinian Baptism Instruction

In 1945, in the south of Egypt near the village of Nag Hammadi, an Egyptian farmer happened upon a set of Gnostic manuscripts and gospels from the first four centuries AD. These Nag Hammadi texts have been translated and studied by researchers all over the world since the 1950s. Bas van Os translated and analysed one of these manuscripts, the Gospel of Philip. This text probably dates from around the year 200 AD, over a hundred years after the New Testament gospels. Gnosticism was an early Christian movement. Gnostics had a different image of God than other Christians: they believed that there was a higher God than the anthropomorphic Old Testament creator-God. Traces of this highest God had been captured in Creation as a divine spark in each human being, a divine self that could be set free through knowledge (gnosis) and return to its divine origin. The American author Dan Brown based his novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (2003) on the idea that the Church had concealed this spiritual secret from the people for centuries. Van Os started his research in response to conclusions drawn by Martha Lee Turner, according to whom the Gospel of Philip consisted of a collection of separate texts that showed little thematic or logical coherence. Van Os, however, states that the gospel can indeed be interpreted as a thematic unit, in the form of notes for twelve discussions with people undergoing a Gnostic initiation ritual. The content of these discussions indicates that the persons being baptized were mainly ‘ordinary’ Christians. While the outward initiation ritual comprised baptism, anointment and the Eucharist, the mystical aspect concerned unification with the divine in the ‘bridal chamber’. Jesus Christ descended from the sphere of the highest God to free people from Creation through Gnosis and rituals and reunite them with their divine origin. The relationship between Jesus and Mary symbolises the unification of the divine with the soul in the bridal chamber.

Date and time

1 March 2007, 1.15 p.m.

PhD student

L.K. van Os

PhD thesis

Baptism in the Bridal Chamber: The Gospel of Philip as a Valentinian Baptism Instruction


Prof. G.P. Luttikhuizen and Prof. A.P. Bos (VU)

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