The central text in the Nag Hammadi Library collection can be seen as “The Gospel of Thomas,” also known as “The Secret Sayings of the Living Jesus.” It is central because its contents are passages made from what Jesus said. Without having “what Jesus said” there could be no epistemology for Christianity as a philosophy.

Of great concern to students of the NHL is how “Thomas” as scripture is used as an instrument. There are clues in 1st century history. There were Jewish rules for interpretation.

The Seven Rules of Hillel on interpreting scripture existed long before Rabbi Hillel (60 BCE – 20 CE?), but he was the first known person to write them down. The rules are so old we see them used in the Old Testament. Because Hillel was a known teacher at the time of Jesus, it is logical that these Sethian Jews, familiar with the teaching of Levites would know the Seven Rules.


Hillel was a Sanhedrin Priest who shared his duties in regard to Law with another Priest names Shammai. The Sanhedrin was the lower system of lawmakers active in the Jewish Temple.

The Seven Rules of Hillel:

(1) Chol v’chomer – argument from lesser to greater (or greater to lesser) “If this …. then how much more so…”

(2) Gezeirah shavah – argument by analogy — comparing similar words in different passages.

(3) Binyan av – a foundational passage serves to interpretate other passages.

(4) Kelal ufrat – a general summary statement is followed by an explanatory, more specific statement.

(5) Sh’enei ketuvim – standard from two passages – a decision where two laws that seem to contradict are settled by another verse which resolves the conflict.

(6) Ke yotzei bo mimakom acher – “like it says elsewhere” – explanation of a word in one text is clarified by use of same word in an unrelated text.

(7) Davar halameid mi’inyano – definition from context of total passage.

Hillel concentrated on interpreting the Spirit of the Law, while Shammai followed the letter of the Law, both according to scripture. Clearly, Jesus departed from the letter of the law in concern to matters like circumcision, redeption, salvation, and spirituality.
According to the anti-Gnostics, circa 180 A.D., the primary texts for earlier Sethians were a now extinct version of the “Gospel of Matthew,” an early version of “The Gospel of Thomas,” “The Gospel of the Egyptians,” and “The Apocryphon of John.” This small group of early Christian works constitute a core collection added with the other Sethian-Valentinian works of the HHL. (Hippolytus, Ref. 5, also see Gaffney, “Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes”)
Some modern scholars contend that “The Gospel of Thomas,” is not Gnostic, and not related to the Nag Hammadi works. I contend that if you do not understand the basic principles of the Sethian epistemology, the Aeonology, you will not realize the Thomas gospel is a Sethian text and a related work. This is because the Thomas Gospel in the NHL was redacted so no Sethian Specific words were used in the Coptic text. This fact can be shown with a passage preserved by Hippolytus.

works he reveals Thomas saying 4, which can be compared to the Coptic version below. The comparison reveals that the Hippolytus’ version uses the Sethian Specific term “Aeon.”

“The one who seeks me will find me in children from seven years of age and onwards. For there, hiding in the Fourteenth Aeon, I am revealed.” (Hippolytus, Ref. 5.7.20, GThom L-4)

“The old man will not hesitate to ask a little child of seven days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will be last, and they will become a single people.” (Coptic Thomas, L-4)

The Nag Hammadi collection represent authors who understood Hillel’s rule No. 6, ” …the explanation of a word in one text is clarified by use of same word in an unrelated text.” And, similar words in related passages are the basis for drawing analogies.
The one Sethian Specific term that relates the Sethian-Valentinian works to the same epistemology is the word Aeon. If the Nag Hammadi authors followed Hillel in regard to what Aeon means, then Simon Magus, Dositheos, Jesus, Basilides, and Valentinians understood the same concept. I define the term Aeon as:
Aeon: The term refers to emanations (spirit or pneuma) from the Pleroma, or the energy of thought entering man’s mind, like from the demiurge as an Aeon-Monad. All human emotions enter our minds as Aeon emanations. Aeons are formed from tripartite unions of a Monad, Duad, and Triad. Aeons as emanations are one-half of a duality, and Aeon sequences like Hebdomads and Ogdoads are made of other Aeon-Monads which can form a matrix. This is like the Evil Trinity, or Sacred Tetrad. Aeon names are given mathematical, literal, and gematric tripartite values. Aeon names usually represent titles for whole fields of study. The emanation process in Sethianism is based upon the early Sethian Father, Mother, and Son, Ogdoad trinity, giving Jesus the power of divinity as the Monad. This method is based upon the concept of three roads meeting to form one road, and when four roads come together, it forms one point. Aeons are constructed from Monads aligned with the algorithm of the Trivium Method. All Aeon emanations like triads, tetrads, hebdomads, and ogdoads work based upon the same tripartite algorithm: (1st Premise/Monad A=C) (2nd Supporting Premise/Duad A=B = B=C) (Synthesis/Triad of A=B=C) = 1. (Logos) (SGG, 2015)
The use of the term Aeon is in almost every work of the NHL collection. If the term Aeon is not used, other elements of the Aeonology are. The underlying philosophy of the Sethians and Valentinians is their Aeonology. The study of the affect of Aeons on people was called “Kinetikos.” I’m sure any NHL author from 1st or 2nd century Gnostic Christianity would have understood the following terms…

The Sethian-Valentinian Lexicon:

(Abrasax, Adonaios, Aeons, Aphredon, Archons, Armedon, Armozel, Astraphaios, Autogenes, Barbelo, Bridal Chamber, Davithai, (Domedon) Doxomedon, Demiurge, Echamoth (Achamoth), Eleleth, Ennoia, Iao/Jeu, Gamaliel, Garment, Hebdomad, Kaliptos, Logos, Marsanes, Mirotheos, Monad, Ogdoad, Oriel, Pistis, Pleroma, Protennoia, Protophanes, Sabaoth, Saklas, Sophia, Totalities, Yaldabaoth, Youel)

List of Works and number of parallels to the S-V Lexicon:

“The Gospel of the Egyptians” * (23 parallels to the above lexicon)

“Books of Jeu (Iao)” (19)

“The Apocryphon of John” * (18)

“Trimorophic Protennoia” (17)

“Zostrianos” (17)

“The Second Treatise of the Great Seth” (12)

“Allogenes” (10)

“The Pistis Sophia” * (9)

“Melchizedek” (8)

“On the Origin of the World” (8)

“Hypostasis of the Archons” (8)

“The Three Steles of Seth” (7)

“Marsanes” (6)

“The First Apocalypse of James” (5)

“The Gospel of Philip”* (5)

“The Gospel of Thomas” * (3)

“The Gospel of Mary” * (1)

(*) Indicates works known by Hippolytus or Irenaeus around 180 A.D.

Outside of Hillel’s box of rules are the “Gospel of Thomas” parables. The interpretation of Christian parables is explained by Clement…
“Wherefore the holy mysteries of the prophecies are veiled in the parables preserved for chosen men, selected to knowledge in consequence of their faith; for the style of the Scriptures is parabolic. Wherefore also the Lord, who was not of the world, came as one who was of the world to men. For He was clothed with all virtue; and it was His aim to lead man, the foster-child of the world, up to the objects of intellect, and to the most essential truths by knowledge, from one world to another. Wherefore also He employed metaphorical description; for such is the parable, a narration based on some subject which is not the principal subject, but similar to the principal subject, and leading him who understands to what is the true and principal thing; or, as some say, a mode of speech presenting with vigor, by means of other circumstances, what is the principal subject.” (”Stromata,” Bk. VI, et sec.)
Several passages from different sources like Clement and Theodotus state that Jesus only spoke in parables to the masses. He taught his closest followers in private. This appears to be the case, and links the study of the Aeonology to the historical Jesus.
Tom Saunders