The Nag Hammadi Library

When Adam perceived the likeness of his own foreknowledge, he begot the likeness of the Child of the Human; he called him Seth following the way of the generation in the aeons.

Likewise the Mother also sent down her Spirit in the likeness of the female being who is like her, as a counterpart to she who is in the Fullness, so that she might prepare a dwelling place for the aeons that were going to descend.

And they were made to drink water of forgetfulness by the Chief Ruler so that they would not know themselves (and would not know) where they had come from.

And the seed existed like this for while: providing assistance, so that when the Spirit descends from the holy aeons, it will correct (the seed) and heal it from the deficiency so that the entire Fullness might become holy and without deficiency.”

  • I said to the Savior, “Lord, will all the souls be delivered into the pure light”?He replied, saying to me, “These are great things that have arisen in your thinking. For it is difficult to disclose these things to any others except those who are from the immovable generation. Those upon whom the Spirit of the Life will descend and (with whom) it will be powerfully present, they will be saved and will become perfect. And they will become worthy of the great realms. And they will be purified in that place from all evil and the concerns of wickedness. Then they will not take care for anything except the imperishability alone, attending to it from this point on without anger or envy or jealousy or desire or greed of anything at all. For they are not restrained by anything except the reality of the flesh alone, which they bear while fervently awaiting the time when they will be visited by those who will receive (them). For such as these are worthy of the imperishable eternal life and the calling, enduring everything, bearing everything so that they might complete the contest and inherit eternal life.”I said to him, “Lord, will the souls of those upon whom the power of the Spirit of Life descended but who did not do these works be e[xcluded]?”He repli[ed, s]aying to me, “If [the] Spirit descends [up]on them, they will be saved in any case, and they will migrate. For the power will descend upon every human being— for without it, no one is able to stand upright. After they are born, then if the Spirit of Life increases and the power comes to strengthen that soul, it is not possible to lead it astray into the works of wickedness. But those upon whom the counterfeit spirit descends are drawn by it and they are led astray.”I said, “Lord, then when the souls of those leave their flesh, where will they got’He laughed and said to me, “The soul in which the power will become stronger than the despicable spirit— for this one (the soul) is powerful and it flees from evil— it will be saved by the visitation of the Incorruptible and it will be admitted into the repose of the aeons.

    I said, “Lord, then where will the souls be who do not know to whom their souls belong?”

    He said to me, “In those, the despicable spirit has proliferated by leading them astray. He burdens the soul and draws it into works of wickedness, and he casts it down into forgetfulness. After it comes forth, they hand it over to the authorities who came into being through the Ruler. And they bind it in chains and cast it into prison. And they consort with it until it awakens from forgetfulness and receives knowledge. And in this way, it is perfected and saved.”

    I said, “Lord, how does the soul become smaller and return back into the nature of its mother or the human?”

    Then he rejoiced when I asked this, and he said to me, “Truly you are blessed, for you have understood! That soul is made to follow another who has the Spirit of Life in it. It is saved by that (other) one. Then it is not cast into another flesh.”

    And I said, “Lord, what about those who understood and yet turned away? Where will their souls go?”

    Then he said to me, “They will be admitted into that place where the angels of poverty go, the place where repentance does not occur. And they will guard them until that day when those who have blasphemed against the Spirit will be tortured. And they will be punished with an eternal punishment.”

  • I said, “Lord, where did the despicable spirit come from?”Then he said to me, “(It all began when) the Mother-Father whose mercy is great, the Spirit who is holy in every respect, the compassionate, and who troubles herself with you, that is, the Epinoia of the luminous Pronoia awakened the seed of the perfect generation and its thinking and the eternal light of the Human. When the Chief Ruler knew that they surpassed him in excellence—for their thoughts were higher than his— he wanted to restrict their planning, for he was ignorant that they excelled him in thinking and that he would not be able to restrict them. He made a plan with his authorities, that is, his powers. Together they committed adultery with Sophia. And through them was begotten bitter Fate, which is the last of the counterfeit chains. And it is such that (it makes) each one different from every other. And it is painful and it oppresses that (soul) since the gods and angels and demons and all the generations have intermingled with it up to the present day. For from that Fate appeared every iniquity and injustice and blasphemy and the fetter of forgetfulness and ignorance and every harsh command and severe sins and great fears. And this is how they made the whole creation blind so that they might not know the God who is above them all. And because of the fetter of forgetfulness, their sins were hidden. For they were bound with measures and times and seasons—for it (Fate) was lord over them all.And he had regrets about everything which had come into being through him. Again he planned to bring a flood over the human creation.But the greatness of the light of Pronoia taught Noah. And he preached to the whole offspring, that is, the children of the humans. But those who were strangers to him did not listen to him. It is not like Moses said that they hid themselves in an ark, but they were hidden — not only Noah, but many other people from the immovable generation.They entered a place. They were hidden in a luminous cloud. And he understood his authority. And she who belongs to the light was with him for she illumined them, for he had brought darkness upon the whole earth.
  • And he created a plan with his powers. He sent his angels to the daughters of men so that they might take some of them for themselves, and they might raise a seed, to be a respite for them. And at first they were not successful, but when they did not succeed, they gathered together again and made another plan. They created a despicable spirit in the likeness of the Spirit who had descended so that through it they might pollute the souls.And the angels changed their own likenesses into the likeness of each one’s mate, filling them with the spirit of darkness, which they mixed with them and with wickedness.They brought gold, silver, a gift, and copper and iron and metal and every sort of thing belonging to these classes. And they beguiled the human beings who had followed them into great troubles by leading them astray into much error.They grew old without having enjoyment. They died without having found any truth and without having known the God of Truth. And thus the whole creation became enslaved forever, from the foundation of the world until now.And they took women; they begot children out of darkness according to the likeness of their spirit. And their hearts became closed and hardened by the hardening of the despicable spirit until now.
  • Therefore I, the perfect Pronoia of the All, changed into my seed. For I existed from the first, traveling on every road. For I am the wealth of the light. I am the remembrance of the fullness. I traveled into the vastness of the dark, and I persevered until I entered the midst of the prison. And the foundations of chaos quaked. And I hid myself from them because of their evil, and they did not recognize me.Again I returned for the second time and I traveled. I came forth into those who belong to the light, which is I, the remembrance of the Pronoia. I entered the midst of the dark and the inside of Hades, seeking to put my household in order. And the foundations of chaos quaked such that (it seemed) they would fall down upon those who dwell in the chaos and destroy them. And again I fled up to my luminous root so that they would not be destroyed before the time was right.Still for a third time, I who am the light that exists in the light and the remembrance of the Pronoia, I traveled in order to enter into the midst of the darkness and the inside ofHades. I filled my countenance with the light of the consummation of their aeon. And I entered the midst of their prison, which is the prison of the body. And I said, ‘Whoever hears, arise from lethargic sleep!’And he wept, shedding tears; heavy tears he wiped from himself. And he said, ‘Who is it who calls my name and from where does this hope come to me who am dwelling in the fetters of the prison?’ And I said, `I am the Pronoia of the pure light; I am the thought of the virginal Spirit, the one who raises you to the place of honor. Arise and remember that you are the one who has heard, and follow your root, which is I, the compassionate. Fortify yourself against the angels of poverty and the demons of chaos and all those who ensnare you, and be watchful of the lethargic sleep and the garment of the inside of Hades.’And I raised him up and sealed him with the light of the water with five seals so that death would not have power over him from this day on.
  • Behold, now I will go up to the perfect aeon. I have completed everything for you in your ears. I have told you ( John) all things so that you might write them down and give them in secret to your fellow spirits. For this is the mystery of the immoveable generation.” And the Savior gave these things to him so that he might write them down and keep them secure.
  • And he said to him, “Cursed be any one who should exchange these things for a gift, whether for food or drink or clothing or anything else of this kind.”

    And these things were given to him in a mystery. And immediately he disappeared before him. And he ( John) went to his fellow disciples. He related to them the things which the Savior had said to him.

    Jesus Christ Amen.

    The Secret Revelation according to John

    Based on the translation in: Michael Waldstein and Frederik Wisse,

    The Apocryphon of John: Synopsis of Nag Hammadi Codices II,1;III,1; And IV,1 With BG 8502,2 ,

    Brill Academic Pub, 1995


    The Apocryphon of John Collection


    (The Secret Revelation of John – The Secret Book of John)

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    The Secret Book of John

    (The Apocryphon of John)

    Translated by Stevan Davies

    This translation is presented in the Gnostic Society Library by exclusive permission of the author.

    All rights including right of electronic reproduction are reserved by the author.

    © 2005 Stevan Davies


    Notes by the Translator

    It has always seemed to me that the Secret Book of John evolved to be more difficult to read than it originally was. The Secret Book of John is a complex developmental mythology that has been made more complicated because, over the years, versions of it have been “improved” by several levels of scribal alteration. One set of levels is the evident addition of rather lengthy texts (a list of magical names, a dialogue on the soul, a providence hymn) to an original version that lacked them. Another set of levels is the addition by various scribes of what they intended to be useful comments, explanations, clarifications and supplementary details. The former processes continue to be added to the text when scholars such as myself add introductory paragraphs, or indeed whole book-length texts to introduce or comment on the Secret Book of John. The latter processes continue when scholars interrupt the flow of the text by adding subheadings (such as the section headings added here in Bold Italics) and notes intended to assist the reader’s understanding.

    I believe that readers will benefit from seeing the various individual elements constituting the text as separable units and so be relieved from thinking that somehow all of this material constitutes one originally coherent whole. To this end, in this version of my translation I use two formatting techniques to identify and separate-out several forms of

    material that seem to have been added at different times to the original. For more extensive textual additions I have arranged that the translation make use of different color fonts. There is one font color for the main body of the Secret Book of John (font color 1), another for the material I believe to have been added by a Christian editor who sought to present the text as a long dialogue between Jesus and John son of Zebedee (font color 2); this material occurs in two large blocks at the beginning and toward the end of the text and also in occasional dialogues imbedded throughout the last half of the text. Another font (font color 3) distinguishes a long list of demons’ names that are associated with specific body parts, a magical text apparently taken from an unknown source called the “Book of Zoroaster“. Another (font color 4) is used for the included dialogue about the soul. Finally a font (font color 5) designates the three part hymn spoken by God’s Providence (Pronoia).

    In addition to these different fonts, I have put in square brackets the occasional short passages, or sentences, or phrases that I believe were added to the text by scribes over the years, additions that were intended to make the text more understandable, or to identify elements of the text with aspects of the Christian religion. If you ask how I know which parts were added as comments and so forth, the answer is that I make informed guesses. That’s really what most scholarship comes down to… informed guesses.

    (Click here to purchase the print edition of The Secret Book of John, translated and

    annotated by Stevan Davies. Note that the print edition includes introductory material and

    an extensive line-by-line commentary on facing pages.)

    Visit the Apocryphon of John Collection for more information


    [The Teaching of the Savior]

    The Revelation of the Mysteries Hidden in Silence

    [Those Things that He Taught to John, His Disciple]


    One day John, the brother of James [these are the sons of Zebedee], was going up to the Temple. A Pharisee by the name of Arimanios came up to him and challenged him, asking: “Where is the teacher you used to follow?”

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    Methinks I am a conspiracy theorist. Art thou? Thou block, thou stone, thou worse than senseless thing, for whilst thou slept didst this become a badge of honor. Informed dissent shall always prevail, wherefore art thou worthy, or art thou this unwholesome fool in the group conformity experiment herein?