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The Gospel of

the Egyptians

The Gospel of the Egyptians is another Gospel that has been lost since the early centuries of Christianity. The only access we have to it is in the quotations of an early church father, the late second-century Clement of Alexandria, who at one point identifies one of his non-canonical quotations of the words of Jesus as having come from this book (fragment 5). Most of Clement’s quotations of the Gospel involve conversations between Jesus and a woman named Salome, mentioned in the New Testament as one of the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb (Mark 15:40; 16:1). Eventually Salome became a prominent figure in some circles of Chris­ tianity, including those that produced this Gospel according to the Egyptians, where her questions and comments lead to important sayings of Jesus. These sayings embody ascetic concerns, in which the desires of the flesh and sexual activity are condemned as being opposed to the will of God. In particular, the Gospel appears originally to have condemned the practices of marriage and procreation. In a number of instances Clement himself interprets these sayings; it is sometimes difficult to know, however, whether Clement’s interpretations represent the views of the Gospel’s anonymous author, or are instead Clement’s own attempts to make sense of the Gospel in light of his own views. At least one of the sayings stresses a Gnostic notion that the revelation of God will be complete when people trample on the “shameful garment” (� the human body?) and all things are restored to their ultimate unity— including male and female, which will no longer be differentiated but made one (fragment 5). Similar notions can be found in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, also used in Egypt (see Gospel of Thomas 22, 37, 114). Some scholars maintain that the Gospel was named “according to the Egyptians” to differentiate it from another Gospel used in Egypt, the Gospel “according to the Hebrews”—the latter in use among Jewish-Christians and the former, therefore, among Gentile Christians. Others find it more likely Translation by Bart D. Ehrman based on the Greek text found in Egbert Schlarb and Dieter Lu¨hrmann, Fragmente apocryph gewordener Evangelien in griechischer und lateinischer Sprache (Marburg: N. G. Elwert, 2000) 29–31.


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