The Nag Hammadi Library

fire, the third is by water. Just as the phoenix appears as a witness concerning the angels,

so the case of the water hydri in Egypt, which has been a witness to those going down into the baptism of a true man. The two bulls in Egypt possess a mystery, the sun and the moon, being a witness to Sabaoth: namely, that over them Sophia received the universe; from the day that she made the sun and the moon, she put a seal upon her heaven, unto eternity.

And the worm that has been born out of the phoenix is a human being as well. It is written (Ps 91:13 LXX) concerning it, “the just man will blossom like a phoenix”. And the phoenix first appears in a living state, and dies, and rises again, being a sign of what has become apparent at the consummation of the age. It was only in Egypt that these great signs appeared – nowhere else – as an indication that it is like God’s Paradise.

Let us return to the aforementioned rulers, so that we may offer some explanation of

them. Now, when the seven rulers were cast down from their heavens onto the earth, they made for themselves angels, numerous, demonic, to serve them. And the latter instructed mankind in many kinds of error and magic and potions and worship of idols and spilling of blood and altars and temples and sacrifices and libations to all the spirits of the earth, having their coworker fate, who came into existence by the concord between the gods of injustice and justice.

And thus when the world had come into being, it distractedly erred at all times. For all men upon earth worshiped the spirits (demons) from the creation to the consummation – both the angels of righteousness and the men of unrighteousness. Thus did the world come to exist in distraction, in ignorance, and in a stupor. They all erred, until the appearance of the true man.

Let this suffice so far as the matter goes. Now we shall proceed to consideration of our world, so that we may accurately finish the description of its structure and management. Then it will become obvious how belief in the unseen realm, which has been apparent from creation down to the consummation of the age, was discovered.

I come, therefore, to the main points regarding the immortal man: I shall speak of all the beings that belong to him, explaining how they happen to be here.

When a multitude of human beings had come into existence, through the parentage of the Adam who had been fashioned, and out of matter, and when the world had already become full, the rulers were master over it – that is, they kept it restrained by ignorance. For what reason? For the following: since the immortal father knows that a deficiency of truth came into being amongst the eternal realms and their universe, when he wished to bring to naught the rulers of perdition through the creatures they had modelled, he sent your likenesses down into the world of perdition, namely, the blessed little innocent spirits. They are not alien to knowledge. For all knowledge is vested in one angel who appeared before them; he is not without power in the company of the father. And <he> gave them knowledge. Whenever they appear in the world of perdition, immediately and first of all they reveal the pattern of imperishability as a condemnation of the rulers and their forces. Thus when the blessed beings appeared in forms modelled by authorities, they were envied. And out of envy the authorities mixed their seed with them, in hopes of polluting them. They could not. Then when the blessed beings appeared in luminous form, they appeared in various ways. And each one of them, starting out in his land, revealed his (kind of) knowledge to the visible church constituted of the modelled forms of perdition. It (viz., the church) was found to contain all kinds of seed, because of the seed of the authorities that had mixed with it.

Then the Savior created […] of them all – and the spirits of these are manifestly superior, being blessed and varying in election – and also (he created) many other beings, which have no king and are superior to everyone that was before them. Consequently, four races exist. There are three that belong to the kings of the eighth heaven. But the fourth race is kingless and perfect, being the highest of all. For these shall enter the holy place of their father. And they will gain rest in repose and eternal, unspeakable glory and unending joy. Moreover, they are kings within the mortal domain, in that they are immortal. They will condemn the gods of chaos and their forces.

Now the Word that is superior to all beings was sent for this purpose alone: that he might proclaim the unknown. He said, “There is nothing hidden that is not apparent, and what has not been recognized will be recognized.” And these were sent to make known what is hidden, and the seven authorities of chaos and their impiety. And thus they were condemned to death.

So when all the perfect appeared in the forms modelled by the rulers, and when they revealed the incomparable truth, they put to shame all the wisdom of the gods. And their fate was found to be a condemnation. And their force dried up. Their lordship was dissolved. Their forethought became emptiness, along with their glory.

Before the consummation of the age, the whole place will shake with great thundering. Then the rulers will be sad, […] their death. The angels will mourn for their mankind, and the demons will weep over their seasons, and their mankind will wail and scream at their death. Then the age will begin, and they will be disturbed. Their kings will be intoxicated

with the fiery sword, and they will wage war against one another, so that the earth is intoxicated with bloodshed. And the seas will be disturbed by those wars. Then the sun will become dark, and the moon will cause its light to cease. The stars of the sky will cancel their circuits. And a great clap of thunder will come out of a great force that is above all the forces of chaos, where the firmament of the woman is situated. Having created the first product, she will put away the wise fire of intelligence and clothe herself with witless wrath. Then she will pursue the gods of chaos, whom she created along with the prime parent. She will cast them down into the abyss. They will be obliterated because of their wickedness. For they will come to be like volcanoes and consume one another until they perish at the hand of the prime parent. When he has destroyed them, he will turn against himself and destroy himself until he ceases to exist.

And their heavens will fall one upon the next and their forces will be consumed by fire. Their eternal realms, too, will be overturned. And his heaven will fall and break in two. His […] will fall down upon the […] support them; they will fall into the abyss, and the abyss will be overturned.

The light will […] the darkness and obliterate it: it will be like something that has never been. And the product to which the darkness had been posterior will dissolve. And the deficiency will be plucked out by the root (and thrown) down into the darkness. And the light will withdraw up to its root. And the glory of the unbegotten will appear. And it will fill all the eternal realm.

When the prophecy and the account of those that are king becomes known and is fulfilled by those who are called perfect, those who – in contrast – have not become perfect in the unbegotten father will receive their glory in their realms and in the kingdoms of the immortals: but they will never enter the kingless realm. For everyone must go to the place from which he has come. Indeed, by his acts and his knowledge, each person will make his (own) nature known.

Selection made from James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990.


The Nag Hammadi Library

The Paraphrase Of Shem


Translated by Frederik Wisse

[The] paraphrase which was about the unbegotten Spirit.

What Derdekea< s> revealed to me, Shem, 5 according to the will of the Majesty. My thought which was in my body snatched me away from my race. It took me up to the top of the world, 10 which is close to the light that shone upon the whole area there. I saw no earthly likeness, but there was light. And my thought separated 15 from the body of darkness as though in sleep.

I heard a voice saying to me, Shem, since you are from an unmixed power 20 and you are the first being upon the earth, hear and understand what I shall say to you first concerning the great powers who were in existence in the beginning, before 25 I appeared. There was Light and Darkness and there was Spirit between them. Since your root fell into forgetfulness – he who was 30 the unbegotten Spirit – I reveal to you the truth about the powers. The Light was thought full of hearing and word. They were 35 united into one form. And the Darkness was 2 wind in waters. He possessed the mind wrapped in a chaotic fire. And the Spirit between them 5 was a gentle, humble light. These are the three roots. They reigned each in themselves, alone. And they covered each other, each one with 10 its power.

But the Light, since he possessed a great power, knew the abasement of the Darkness and his disorder, namely that the root was not straight. 15 But the crookedness of the Darkness was lack of perception, namely (the illusion that) there is no one above him. And as long as he was able to bear up under his evil, he was covered with the water. And he 20 stirred. And the Spirit was frightened by the sound. He lifted himself up to his station. And he saw a great, dark water. And he was nauseated. And 25 the thought of the Spirit stared down; he saw the infinite Light. But he was overlooked by the putrid root. And by the will of the great Light 30 the dark water separated. And the Darkness came up wrapped in vile ignorance, and (this was) in order that the mind might separate from him because he prided 35 himself in it.

And when he stirred, 3 the light of the Spirit appeared to him. When he saw it he was astonished. He did not know that another Power was above him. And when he 5 saw that his likeness was dark compared with the Spirit, he felt hurt. And in his pain he lifted up to the height of the members of Darkness his mind which 10 was the eye of the bitterness of evil. He caused his mind to take shape in a member of the regions of the Spirit, thinking

that, by staring (down) at his evil, he would be able 15 to equal the Spirit. But he was not able. For he wanted to do an impossible thing, and it did not take place. But in order that the mind of Darkness, which 20 is the eye of the bitterness of evil, might not be destroyed, since he was made partially similar, he arose and shone with a fiery light upon all of Ha- des, so that 25 the equality to the faultless Light might become apparent. For the Spirit made use of every form of Darkness because he appeared in his majesty. 30

And the exalted, infinite Light appeared, for he was very joyful.

He wished to reveal himself to the Spirit. And the likeness 35 of the exalted Light appeared to the unbegotten Spirit. 4 appeared. [I] am the son of the incorruptible, infinite Light. appeared in the likeness 5 of the Spirit, for am the ray of the universal Light. And his appearance to me (was) in order that the mind of Darkness might not remain in

Hades. 10 For the Darkness made himself like his mind in a part of the members. When ,

(O) Shem, appeared in it (i.e. the likeness), in order that the Darkness might become dark to himself, 15 according to the will of the Majesty – in order that the Darkness might become free from every aspect of the power which he possessed – the mind drew the chaotic fire, with which 20 it was covered, from the midst of the Darkness and the water. And from the Darkness the water became a cloud. and from the cloud the womb took shape. 25 The chaotic fire which was a deviation went there.

And when the Darkness saw it (i.e. the womb) he became unchaste and when he had aroused 30 the water, he rubbed the womb. His mind dissolved down to the depths of Nature. It mingled with the power of the bitterness of Darkness. And 35 her (i.e. the womb’s) eye ruptured at the wickedness in order that she might not again bring forth the mind. For it was 5 a seed of Nature from the dark root.

And when Nature had taken to herself the mind by means of the dark power, 5 every likeness took shape in her. And when the Darkness had acquired the likeness of the mind, it resembled the Spirit. For Nature rose up to expel it; 10 she was powerless against it, since she did not have a form from the Darkness. For she brought it forth in the cloud. And the cloud shone. A mind appeared in 15 it like a frightful, harmful fire. It (i.e. the mind) collided against the unbegotten Spirit

since it possessed a likeness from him. In order that 20 Nature might become empty of the chaotic fire, then immediately Nature was divided into four parts. They became clouds which varied 25 in their appearance. They were called Hymen, Afterbirth, Power, (and) Water. And the Hymen and the Afterbirth and the Power were 30 chaotic fires. And it (i.e. the mind) was drawn from the midst of the Darkness and the water – since the mind was in the midst of Nature

and the dark power – 35 in order that the harmful waters might not cling to it. 6 Because of this Nature was divided, according to my will, in order that the mind may return to its power which the 5 dark root, which was mixed with it (i.e. the mind), had taken from it. And he (i.e. the dark root) appeared in the womb. And at the division of Nature he

separated from the dark power 10 which he possessed from the mind. It (i.e. the mind) went into the midst of the power – this was the middle region of Nature.

And the Spirit of light, when the mind 15 burdened him, was astonished. And the force of his Astonishment cast off the burden. And it (i.e. the burden) returned to its heat. It put on the light of the Spirit. 20 And when Nature moved away from the power of the light of

the Spirit, the burden returned. And the Astonishment (of the) light cast off the burden. It stuck 25 to the cloud of the Hymen. And all the clouds of Darkness cried out, they who had separated from Hades, because of the alien Power. He is the Spirit of light who has come 30 in them. And by the will of the Majesty the Spirit gazed up at the infinite Light,

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