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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.
In the seventh chapter, God’s messenger tells John how Sophia repented her creation of Yaldabaoth:
“When Yaldabaoth saw the creation which surrounded him and the multitude of the angels surrounding him who had came into being through him, he said to them, ‘I am a jealous God and no other god exists beside me.’ The arrogant one had inherited his power from Sophia, but he was ignorant, thinking that none but his mother existed, so he exalted himself over the multitude of the angels who he had created. But his proclamation made it clear to them that another God did exist. For if there were no other God, of whom would he be jealous?
Sophia began to wander. She realized her deficiency after the brightness of her light was diminished and she was dimmed, and knew it was because her partner had not been in agreement with her.”
“Lord, what do you mean ‘she wandered’?” John interrupted.
“Do not think it means as Moses said ‘upon the waters,'” said the angel of the Lord, smiling. “When Sophia saw that the shroud of darkness was not perfect, she then understood that her partner had not been in agreement with her. She repented the evil that had occurred due to the theft that her child had committed, weeping greatly. She was overcome with forgetfulness and the darkness of ignorance. She was ashamed. She did not dare to return to the higher realms, but she remained in motion. That movement was the wandering.
Her entreaty of repentance was heard and all the realms of the spirit praised her before the invisible virginal Spirit. The holy Spirit poured over her from all of the spiritual realms. Her partner did not come to her by himself, but through the spirit, in order to correct her deficiency. Even so, she was not given her own realm, but was placed above her child, to dwell in the Ninth heavenly realm until she corrected her deficiency.”
Yaldabaoth’s statement that he is a jealous god reflects the statement by Yahweh in the Torah. In Yahweh’s case, he was a local deity of the Jews and Israelites, and was jealous of worship give to other deities like the Canaanite god Baal. The author of the secret book has put the statement in the mouth of the demiurge, Yaldabaoth. This reflects the gnostic teaching that the god of the Jews and the Torah is an evil, inferior god. The “invisible virginal Spirit” and the Father it spawned (the partner of Barbelo) are those spoken of in the New Testament as the holy spirit and the father.
I’ve rendered “fullness” (Greek pleroma) as “realms of spirit”. Note that in the Gnostic cosmology, there are seven heavens in the material world, one for each of the planets. The eight heaven, the Ogdoad, the sphere of the stars, was said in Eleleth’s Revelation in the Apostasis of the Archons to be the lowest of the realms of spirit. In this book, Sophia is said to live in the ninth heaven, presumably the one above the Ogdoad, and it is implied that Yaldabaoth rules from the Ogdoad.
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