Who, or what, is 'Barbelo'? The gnostic organizational chart of the heavenlies
is subject to great variation, not to mention gender confusion. Here is
one theory: "Great is the first aeon, male virginal Barbelo, the first
glory of the invisible Father, she who is called 'perfect.'" (The
Three Steles of Seth, p. 399, The Nag Hammadi Library.) This is a pagan
gnostic treatise without any Christian trappings. Irenaeus was aware of
Barbelo: "Some of them, then, set forth a certain Aeon who never grows
old, and exists in a virgin spirit: him they style Barbelos. They declare
that somewhere or other there exists a certain father who cannot be named,
and that he was desirous to reveal himself to this Barbelos...Barbelos,
glorying in these, and contemplating their greatness, and in conception
[thus formed], rejoicing in this greatness, generated light similar to
it. They declare that this was the beginning both of light and of the generation
of all things; and that the Father, beholding this light, anointed it with
his own benignity, that it might be rendered perfect. Moreover, they maintain
that this was Christ..." (Irenaeus, Against All Heresies, Book I,
Chapter 29:1). It is difficult to get a fix on the gender of this party:
"And Its Thought became operative and revealed herself. She stood
before It out of the splendor of the light...She is the perfect power,
the Barbelo, the perfect Aeon of glory." (The Secret Book of John,
The Other Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone, p. 54). Since the gnostic
pantheon is filled with fictitious gods, every gnostic author makes up
'Barbelo's' gender and attributes to suit himself. This is fiction-writing,
and the authors enjoy all the freedom that goes along with that genre.
There is another Barbelo, a mother goddess like the pagan goddess Isis:
"The first power, the glory of Barbelo, the perfect glory in the aeons,
the glory of the revelation, she glorified the virginal Spirit and it was
she who praised him, because thanks to him she had come forth. This is
the first thought, his image; she became the womb of everything for it
is she who is prior to them all..." (The Apocryphon of John, p. 107,
The Nag Hammadi Library).
"Three powers came forth from him; they are the Father, the Mother,
(and) the Son, from the living silence...The second ogdoad-power, the Mother,
the virginal Barbelon...who presides over the heaven...the uninterpretable
power, the ineffable Mother. She originated from herself; she came forth;
she agreed with the Father of the silent silence." (The Gospel of
the Egyptians, p. 209, The Nag Hammadi Library).
There is a text in the Nag Hammadi Library called 'Thunder, Perfect Mind,'
which is a hymn to the pagan goddess Isis:
"For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter...
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband,
and he is my offspring...
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.
...I am the one whose image is great in Egypt..." (The Thunder: Perfect
Mind, The Nag Hammadi Library, pp. 297-299).
This is outright denied by some of the gnostic boosters, but she "whose
image is great in Egypt" is Isis. Elaine Pagels denies it: "One
might expect that these texts would show the influence of archaic pagan
traditions of the Mother Goddess, but for the most part, their language
is specifically Christian, unmistakably related to a Jewish heritage."
(Elaine Pagels, 'The Gnostic Gospels,' p. 49). The Judeo-Christian heritage
for the mother goddess who married her brother (Osiris),-- she is "the
sister of my husband,"-- is nil; the party referenced is Isis.
All that, and 'Isis' counts four letters besides! Despite their half-hearted
denials, the gnostic boosters are after all wonderfully impressed with
Isis-worship: "In Greece and Asia Minor, women participated with men
in religious cults, especially the cults of the Great Mother and of the
Egyptian goddess Isis." (Elaine Pagels, 'The Gnostic Gospels,' p.
Where does gnosticism come from? Gnosticism is what happens when Isis-worshippers
hear the gospel of Jesus Christ...and keep on being Isis-worshippers.