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Pistis Sophia

(Gk.). The name of Coptic texts dating from the third century CE; the surviving manuscript is in Greek and was translated into English by the theosophist G. R. S. MEAD, first and partly in 1886 and later, 1921, this being a more complete version. The manuscript includes two works which are an important source of Gnostic teachings that are contained in the Codex Askewianus, lodged in the British Museum, and so called because the manuscript was purchased in 1785 from the library of Anthony Askew. The title “Pistis Sophia” is a combination of two Greek words usually translated as “Faith” and “Wisdom.” Helena P. BLAVATSKY however disagreed with the rendering of “Pistis” as “Faith,” preferring “Intuitional Knowledge” (CW XIII:5-6).

In the first work which probably predates the second by perhaps half a century, Jesus describes the punishment incurred by sinners. In the second work Jesus, in the 12th year after his resurrection, teaches the disciples about the “fall” and the restoration of “Pistis Sophia” which is the lowest being in God’s spiritual hierarchy. The text is also unique in devotional literature containing as it does Gnostic interpretations of Old Testament Psalms, many synoptic sayings and five odes of Solomon.

There is a detailed commentary by Blavatsky on Mead’s version in H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. XIII, p. 7 et. seq. which presents a theosophical viewpoint. Blavatsky considered the Pistis Sofia to be, of all the surviving Gnostic texts, the noblest of them all (CW X:403).


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