Among the ancient Gnostic manuscripts rediscovered in modern times, the Secret Book of John is one of the most important. It a sacred reservoir of Gnostic myth and revelation. It breathes with the life of vision that vitalized early Christianity, a life suppressed and then largely forgotten in later ages. A modern reading grants fundamental insights into the lost foundations of Christian tradition.
Here is the prolog:
One day, John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James, was going up to the Temple. A Pharisee by the name of Arimanios came up to him and challenged him.
“Where is the teacher you used to follow?” he asked.
“He has gone back to the place from which he came,” John replied.
“The Nazarene misled you all, told you lies, closed your hearts and turned you away from your ancestral traditions,” the Pharisee said.
When John heard these things, he turned away from the temple and went off to a deserted mountainous place. He was very unhappy.
“How was the Savior designated?” he asked himself. “Why did his Father send him into the world? Who is his Father? What kind of realm will we go to? For, although he told us, ‘This realm is modeled on the imperishable realm,’ he never taught us about the latter.”
While John was contemplating these things, the heavens suddenly opened and the whole of creation shone with a light from above, and the world quaked! He was afraid. A little child appeared before him in the light. He continued to look at him and the child became an old man. Then he changed again, becoming a young man. John didn’t understand what he was seeing, but the one figure had several forms in the light. These likenesses appeared each through the other, and the figure had three forms.
“John, why doubt?” the figure asked. “Why be afraid? Don’t you know this image?
Don’t be afraid. I am always with you all. I am the Father, the Mother, and the Son. I am incorruptible purity. I have come to teach you about what is, and what was, and what will be, in order for you to understand the invisible world, and the world that is visible, and perfect humans. Raise your head, understand my lessons, and share them with all others who have received the spirit, and who are from the unshakeable race of perfect humanity.”
This gospel takes place after the crucifixion. The unbelievers in the Jewish community make John doubt what Jesus taught. As he sits pondering, he receives a revelation. Even in the prolog of this book, there are some surprising things:
- John has a vision of the trinity in the form of a child, a old man, and a young man.
- His visitor reveals himself (herself) as the Father, the Mother (not the holy spirit), and the son.
- God has come to teach John about the invisible world (heaven).
- God tells him that there is a race of perfect humans who have received the holy spirit and whose faith is unshakable
Next Chapter: The Inexpressible One