The Nag Hammadi Library

(6 lines fragmentary)

… until I reveal myself to all my fellow brethren, and until I gather together all my fellow

brethren within my eternal kingdom. And I proclaimed to them the ineffable Five Seals in order that I might abide in them and they also might abide in me.

As for me, I put on Jesus. I bore him from the cursed wood, and established him in the dwelling places of his Father. And those who watch over their dwelling places did not

recognize me. For I, I am unrestrainable, together with my seed; and my seed, which is mine, I shall place into the holy Light within an incomprehensible Silence. Amen.

The Discourse of the Appearance: Three Trimorphic Protennoia, in Three Parts

A Sacred Scripture written by the Father with perfect Knowledge

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


The Nag Hammadi Library

The Tripartite Tractate


Translated by Harold W. Attridge and Dieter Mueller

Part I

  1. Introduction

    As for what we can say about the things which are exalted, what is fitting is that we begin with the Father, who is the root of the Totality, the one from whom we have received grace to speak about him.

  2. The Father

    He existed before anything other than himself came into being. The Father is a single one, like a number, for he is the first one and the one who is only himself. Yet he is not like a solitary individual. Otherwise, how could he be a father? For whenever there is a “father,” the name “son” follows. But the single one, who alone is the Father, is like a root, with tree, branches and fruit. It is said of him that he is a father in the proper sense, since he is inimitable and immutable. Because of this, he is single in the proper sense, and is a god, because no one is a god for him nor is anyone a father to him. For he is unbegotten, and there is no other who begot him, nor another who created him. For whoever is someone’s father or his creator, he, too, has a father and creator. It is certainly possible for him to be father and creator of the one who came into being from him and the one whom he created, for he is not a father in the proper sense, nor a god, because he has someone who begot him and who created him. It is, then, only the Father and God in the proper sense that no one else begot. As for the Totalities, he is the one who begot them and created them. He is without beginning and without end.

    Not only is he without end – He is immortal for this reason, that he is unbegotten – but he is also invariable in his eternal existence, in his identity, in that by which he is established, and in that by which he is great. Neither will he remove himself from that by which he is, nor will anyone else force him to produce an end which he has not ever desired. He has not had anyone who initiated his own existence. Thus, he is himself unchanged, and no one else can remove him from his existence and his identity, that in which he is, and his greatness, so that he cannot be grasped; nor is it possible for anyone else to change him into a different form, or to reduce him, or alter him or diminish him, –

    since this is so in the fullest sense of the truth – who is the unalterable, immutable one, with immutability clothing him.

    Not only is he the one called “without a beginning” and “without an end,” because he is unbegotten and immortal; but just as he has no beginning and no end as he is, he is unattainable in his greatness, inscrutable in his wisdom, incomprehensible in his power, and unfathomable in his sweetness.

    In the proper sense, he alone – the good, the unbegotten Father, and the complete perfect one – is the one filled with all his offspring, and with every virtue, and with everything of value. And he has more, that is, lack of any malice, in order that it may be discovered that whoever has anything is indebted to him, because he gives it, being himself unreachable and unwearied by that which he gives, since he is wealthy in the gifts which he bestows, and at rest in the favors which he grants.

    He is of such a kind and form and great magnitude that no one else has been with him from the beginning; nor is there a place in which he is, or from which he has come forth, or into which he will go; nor is there a primordial form, which he uses as a model as he works; nor is there any difficulty which accompanies him in what he does; nor is there any material which is at his disposal, from which <he> creates what he creates; nor any substance within him from which he begets what he begets; nor a co-worker with him, working with him on the things at which he works. To say anything of this sort is ignorant. Rather, (one should speak of him) as good, faultless, perfect, complete, being himself the Totality.

    Not one of the names which are conceived or spoken, seen or grasped – not one of them applies to him, even though they are exceedingly glorious, magnifying and honored. However, it is possible to utter these names for his glory and honor, in accordance with the capacity of each of those who give him glory. Yet as for him, in his own existence, being and form, it is impossible for mind to conceive him, nor can any speech convey him, nor can any eye see him, nor can any body grasp him, because of his inscrutable greatness, and his incomprehensible depth, and his immeasurable height, and his illimitable will. This is the nature of the unbegotten one, which does not touch anything else; nor is it joined (to anything) in the manner of something which is limited. Rather, he possesses this constitution, without having a face or a form, things which are understood through perception, whence also comes (the epithet) “the incomprehensible. If he is incomprehensible, then it follows that he is unknowable, that he is the one who is inconceivable by any thought, invisible by any thing, ineffable by any word, untouchable by any hand. He alone is the one who knows himself as he is, along with his form and his greatness and his magnitude. And since he has the ability to conceive of himself, to see himself, to name himself, to comprehend himself, he alone is the one who is his own mind, his own eye, his own mouth, his own form, and he is what he thinks, what he sees, what he speaks, what he grasps, himself, the one who is inconceivable, ineffable, incomprehensible, immutable, while sustaining, joyous, true, delightful, and restful is that which he conceives, that which he sees, that about which he speaks, that which he has as

    thought. He transcends all wisdom, and is above all intellect, and is above all glory, and is above all beauty, and all sweetness, and all greatness, and any depth and any height.

    If this one, who is unknowable in his nature, to whom pertain all the greatnesses which I already mentioned – if, out of the abundance of his sweetness, he wishes to grant knowledge, so that he might be known, he has the ability to do so. He has his Power, which is his will. Now, however, in silence he himself holds back, he who is the great one, who is the cause of bringing the Totalities into their eternal being.

    It is in the proper sense that he begets himself as ineffable, since he alone is self-begotten, since he conceives of himself, and since he knows himself as he is. What is worthy of his admiration and glory and honor and praise, he produces because of the boundlessness of his greatness, and the unsearchability of his wisdom, and the immeasurability of his power, and his untasteable sweetness. He is the one who projects himself thus, as generation, having glory and honor marvelous and lovely; the one who glorifies himself, who marvels, <who> honors, who also loves; the one who has a Son, who subsists in him, who is silent concerning him, who is the ineffable one in the ineffable one, the invisible one, the incomprehensible one, the inconceivable one in the inconceivable one. Thus, he exists in him forever. The Father, in the way we mentioned earlier, in an unbegotten way, is the one in whom he knows himself, who begot him having a thought, which is the thought of him, that is, the perception of him, which is the […] of his constitution forever. That is, however, in the proper sense, the silence and the wisdom and the grace, if it is designated properly in this way.

  3. The Son and the Church

    Just as the Father exists in the proper sense, the one before whom there was no one else, and the one apart from whom there is no other unbegotten one, so too the Son exists in the proper sense, the one before whom there was no other, and after whom no other son exists. Therefore, he is a firstborn and an only Son, “firstborn” because no one exists before him and “only Son” because no one is after him. Furthermore, he has his fruit, that which is unknowable because of its surpassing greatness. Yet he wanted it to be known, because of the riches of his sweetness. And he revealed the unexplainable power, and he combined with it the great abundance of his generosity.

    Not only did the Son exist from the beginning, but the Church, too, existed from the beginning. Now, he who thinks that the discovery that the Son is an only son opposes the statement (about the Church) because of the mysterious quality of the matter, it is not so. For just as the Father is a unity, and has revealed himself as Father for him alone, so too the Son was found to be a brother to himself alone, in virtue of the fact that he is unbegotten and without beginning. He wonders at himself, along with the Father, and he gives him(self) glory and honor and love. Furthermore, he too is the one whom he conceives of as Son, in accordance with the dispositions: “without beginning” and “without end.” Thus is the matter something which is fixed. Being innumerable and illimitable, his offspring are indivisible. Those which exist have come forth from the Son and the Father like kisses, because of the multitude of some who kiss one another with a

    good, insatiable thought, the kiss being a unity, although it involves many kisses. This is to say, it is the Church consisting of many men that existed before the aeons, which is called, in the proper sense, “the aeons of the aeons.” This is the nature of the holy imperishable spirits, upon which the Son rests, since it is his essence, just as the Father rests upon the Son.

  4. Aeonic Emanations

    […] the Church exists in the dispositions and properties in which the Father and the Son exist, as I have said from the start. Therefore, it subsists in the procreations of innumerable aeons. Also in an uncountable way they too beget, by the properties and the dispositions in which it (the Church) exists. For these comprise its association which they form toward one another and toward those who have come forth from them toward the Son, for whose glory they exist. Therefore, it is not possible for mind to conceive of him – He was the perfection of that place – nor can speech express them, for they are ineffable and unnameable and inconceivable. They alone have the ability to name themselves and to conceive of themselves. For they have not been rooted in these places.

    Those of that place are ineffable, (and) innumerable in the system which is both the manner and the size, the joy, the gladness of the unbegotten, nameless, unnameable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible one. It is the fullness of paternity, so that his abundance is a begetting […] of the aeons.

    They were forever in thought, for the Father was like a thought and a place for them. When their generations had been established, the one who is completely in control wished to lay hold of and to bring forth that which was deficient in the […] and he brought forth those […] him. But since he is as he is, he is a spring, which is not diminished by the water which abundantly flows from it. While they were in the Father’s thought, that is, in the hidden depth, the depth knew them, but they were unable to know the depth in which they were; nor was it possible for them to know themselves, nor for

    them to know anything else. That is, they were with the Father; they did not exist for

    themselves. Rather, they only had existence in the manner of a seed, so that it has been discovered that they existed like a fetus. Like the word he begot them, subsisting spermatically, and the ones whom he was to beget had not yet come into being from him. The one who first thought of them, the Father, – not only so that they might exist for him, but also that they might exist for themselves as well, that they might then exist in his

    thought as mental substance and that they might exist for themselves too, – sowed a

    thought like a spermatic seed. Now, in order that they might know what exists for them, he graciously granted the initial form, while in order that they might recognize who is the Father who exists for them, he gave them the name “Father” by means of a voice proclaiming to them that what exists, exists through that name, which they have by virtue of the fact that they came into being, because the exaltation, which has escaped their notice, is in the name.

    The infant, while in the form of a fetus has enough for itself, before ever seeing the one who sowed it. Therefore, they had the sole task of searching for him, realizing that he

    exists, ever wishing to find out what exists. Since, however, the perfect Father is good, just as he did not hear them at all so that they would exist (only) in his thought, but rather granted that they, too, might come into being, so also will he give them grace to know what exists, that is, the one who knows himself eternally, […] form to know what exists, just as people are begotten in this place: when they are born, they are in the light, so that they see those who have begotten them.

    The Father brought forth everything, like a little child, like a drop from a spring, like a blossom from a vine, like a flower, like a <planting> […], in need of gaining nourishment and growth and faultlessness. He withheld it for a time. He who had thought of it from the very beginning, possessed it from the very beginning, and saw it, but he closed it off to those who first came from him. (He did this,) not out of envy, but in order that the aeons might not receive their faultlessness from the very beginning and might not exalt

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