The "Gospel of Philip(pus)" belongs to the apocryphal scriptures - which were not included in the biblical canon around 400 and which were a factor in the Early Christianity. According to our research it was not correct, to look at this "Gospel" altogether as some Gnostic writing, only because it mentions Gnostic ideas. Indeed it is not a bare composition of any quotes (anthology) - as one reads in literature (Schneemelcher****), but an ancient paper for discussions - a missing category. So the author of this "Gospel" had to mention one-sided ideas of different schools, for explaining his view of Christianity beyond that ideas (as the texts of Ways of Christ do). Dependent from the people he wanted to reach, such an early Christian paper could include very special topics and focal points, which did not belong to the main contents of Christianity. This does not change the fact, that it contains important traditions of Early Christianity too, which are not so clearly explained in the other Christian scriptures.
Excerpts of an important place:
- for instance on one hand 23a... : "Some ... wish to rise in the flesh. They do not know, that it is those who wear the flesh, who are naked; and those who (free themselves from the flesh and) unclothe themselves, are not naked; (concerning the term "naked" compare the genesis with the Paradise story.)
Flesh and blood shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. (see 1 Co 15:50). What is this which will not inherit? This which is on us. But what is this, too, which will inherit? It is that (flesh) which belongs to Jesus and his blood. Because of this he said: 'He who shall not eat my flesh and drink my blood, has no life in him. (Jn 6:53) ... What is it? His flesh is (or symbolizes) the word (logos) and his blood is the Holy Spirit. He who has received these has food and he has drink and clothing."
- and on the other hand 23c - 24: "I find fault with the others too, who say that the flesh will not rise. *) ... You say, 'the spirit in the flesh will rise' or 'This light in the flesh will rise'. But this too is a matter which is in the flesh, for whatever you say, you say nothing outside the flesh. So it is necessary to rise in the flesh, since everything exists in it.
In this world those who who put on garments are better than the garments. In the kingdom of heaven the garments (the Holy Spirit...) are better than those who have to put them on."
If one would name differentiated teachings of that level - (similar to 1 Corinthians 15:53 ) "Gnostic", one would water down that term, that it could mean everything and nothing. Or one would have to introduct the term "the Apostles' gnosis" at least for parts of that scrolls. (Haack discerned this new term from "Gnosticism"). Questions, which came up more than 1800 years ago, are questions with which many seeking Christians are still concerned.
"...He (Jesus) appeared to the great as the great, and to the small as
small. He appeared to the angels as angel and to men as man, ... . When he
appeared to his disciples in glory on the mountain, he ... became great, after
he made his disciples great, that they might be able to see him in his
Here the manifold nature of Jesus is showed, and the human qualities of Jesus are not denied; so it is ascribed to the human disciples too, that they could be lifted up to that "greatness".
It is indeed possible, that the so named
"Philippus-tradition" - including some more scriptures too - is based
on teachings of Philippus, the disciple of Jesus Christ. According to the
oriental tradition, he was given North Africa and Etiopia as his mission area.
The disciples had different viewpoints, which complement each other. But
there was also a deacon Philippus. The text known today **) belongs to the
Scrolls found in the 20th century in Naq Hammadi, there written immediately
after the important "St. Thomas' Gospel" (a collection of sayings of Jesus, widespread in early Christianity).
The people who collected and possibly worked on the scrolls of Naq Hammadi, may have been similar to the community of Qumran; however, Qumran was connected intensively with Jewish traditions, and Naq Hammadi arose in the context of the development of the Coptic (egyptian) Christianity, and was very open for topics which are looked at as "Gnostic"***) today.
It is quite understandable, that the collectors of the biblical canon (Hieronymus) had problems with many old scriptures; they looked at it as "mixed", with questionable authenticity. It must have been meant well in most cases. Nevertheless, it was not very helpful to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and to ignore these scriptures - and so its important places too - for centuries. One can study them, without dealing with them as binding doctrines of faith (so also Luther said, - as far as he knew already some Apocryphals - they are only "good to read..."). There are places in such Apocryphals, which may give deeper insights, if studied additionally to similar places of the Bible. Just this experience can be a criterion for its genuineness (traditional research would not accept that criterion.) A source, which is not genuine, or which would lie consciously, would result more probably in confusion or depression. For Jesus the heart is valid too, not only the intellectual knowledge.
*) Here "Philippus" criticized people with Gnostic concepts, which often invalidated the body.
**) This is probably not that (falsified?) "Gospel of Philippus", which Fathers of the Church attacked. The only paragraph which they handed down, does not occur in today's Gospel of Philippus.
***) Classical Gnostic teachings, from Greek gnosis = Recognition, deal with releasing the lightful soul from the forces of matter, and from suppressing negative spirits of the hereafter. Christ was looked at as a pure being of light, like an Angel, who could not die at all. In contrary to that concept, the Gospel of Philippus, (and for instance the "Gospel of the truth") accepts that Jesus was also a human being (20) who was crucified; although it contains - similar to Jesus in John 4 - the rhetorical figure, that the resurrection is (or must be prepared) before death. (21; but: 72c).
****) Literature with the text of
the Gospel of Philippus and other Apocrypha of the New Testament.:
a.) Classical science: Wilhelm Schneemelcher, "Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, Band I Evangelien" (German)
b.) More popular: "The Naq Hammadi Library", James M. Robinson, Harper San Francisco.
Used short quotes from the Bible and apocryphals - based on different translations - are additions to the
main text (see the Homepage
However, such characteristic places cannot fully replace the accompanying study or meditation of whole chapters of the Gospel(s), or the parts of the Revelation. For this purpose a Bible or any good New Testament edition is recommended.