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By Delmer M. Brown

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The Apocalypse of Adam is thus reminiscent not only of earlier apocalypses, but also of the sort of writing one finds in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (for this revelation is Adam’s legacy to his son); yet the reader does not actually hear the conversation between Adam and his heavenly interlocutors. Rather, what is heard is a summing-up of its content for Seth, so that the body of the apocalypse reads almost like a treatise (with a lengthy hymnic insertion). The same is not true of the writing called Zostrianos (NHC VIII, 1 ), however, in which the speaker directly relates his question-and-answer dialogues with ‘the angel of the knowledge of eternal light’ (and others).

To this treatise on biblical exegesis there has been joined another form of the ethical catechesis that opens the Didache (see below). 15 Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 richard a. norris, jr. The term ‘gospel’ eventually came, in early Christianity, to identify works of widely differing sorts. The Valentinian Gospel of Truth appears to be a sermon or treatise. The Gospel of Thomas is an anthology of sayings of Jesus. The Gospel of Philip is also an anthology, but of gnostic reflections on the Christian life.

How is the transition to written texts to be evaluated? (4) Do peculiarities of language, rhetoric or genre set these texts apart? Or are they typical of the time and circumstances from which they emerged? (5) How are these texts to be read? Is it enough to evaluate them as historical documents, relating them to the historical circumstances in which they were generated and the literary culture to which they originally belonged? Some of these questions will be considered in Part I B, but it is an illusion to think that a description of the literature can be offered without essaying some answers.

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