Successful Thesis Defense!

On October 6, 2012, my wife, Päivi Vähäkangas, successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, titled Rejection and Reception of Philosophy in the Letter of Eugnostos (NHC III,3 and V,1) and Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, at the Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki. The opponent was Prof. Nicole Kelley (Florida State University). Prof. Antti Marjanen from the University of Helsinki served as custos.

Päivi’s thesis focuses on two little-known early Christian texts: the Letter of Eugnostos, preserved in Coptic among the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, and the Recognitions attributed to Clement of Rome. Here is the thesis’ abstract (SOURCE):

Eugnostos and Recognitions represent diverging early Christian traditions. Eugnostos, a religious-philosophical treatise from the Nag Hammadi library, was born on Egyptian soil and read in Gnostic Christian circles. It describes the divine realm from the Primal God up to the completion of his emanations. Recognitions arose out of Syrian Jewish Christian speculations and shows an interest in earthly affairs: the missionary journeys of the apostles, the history of the early Church, the right teaching and praxis. What connects these writings is their concern with philosophy. Both sources contain an explicit refutation of philosophy and philosophers. They use similar arguments and a similar pattern: first they point out how philosophers have erred, and then they reveal what constitutes the source of the truth. Both consider knowledge gained in the right manner and from a proper source antithetical to philosophy. In presenting the concept of philosophy as something voluntarily adopted and maintained they simultaneously sketch an idea of religion in a similar way: becoming a Christian means adopting and maintaining a distinct way of life and a set of beliefs.

Eugnostos and Recognitions stress the correct teaching concerning God and the origin of the world. It is a crucial theme that dominates their theology. The interest Platonists showed in the distinction between the nature and functions of the first and the second principles was also reflected in Christian theology. Eugnostos stresses the importance of making a distinction between the absolute transcendent Primal God and his emanations that represent the beginning of multiplicity and the visible things. Recognitions also offers a philosophically oriented exposition of the distinction between the Father and the Son as regards their nature.

Another major theme in Eugnostos and Recognitions is salvation. The Platonic emphasis on saving knowledge also holds a special position in these writings. Salvation is connected with possessing the right kind of knowledge of God and the origin of the cosmos. The key position in the process of salvation belongs to the figure that originally brought the revelation to the ignorant/erring humankind and to those who faithfully transmit the correct teaching for future generations.


About Alin Suciu

I am a researcher at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. I write mostly on Coptic literature, Patristics, and apocryphal texts.
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6 Responses to Successful Thesis Defense!

  1. bulbul says:

    Onneksi olkoon!
    BTW, I’m sure you mean October 6th, unless, of course, the Letter of Eugnostos contains some arcane gnostic knowledge concerning time travel… (Hollywood screenplay alert!)

  2. Yavor Miltenov says:

    Great, Alin, congratulations!

  3. Congratulations to your wife!

  4. Päivi, I am so happy for you!

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