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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 eight chapter, God’s messenger tells John how Yaldabaoth created man:
“The divine human exists, as does his child,” said a voice from the highest heavenly realm.
The chief Archon, Yaldabaoth, heard it. He thought that it was the voice of his mother. He did not understand where it had come from: the holy and perfect Mother-Father, Barbelo, the perfect Pronoia, who is the image of the invisible creator of the universe, in whom the universe came into being. The divine human Adamas revealed to the Archons an image of himself in male form.
The entire realm of the Yaldabaoth trembled and the foundations of the abyss quaked. The waters of the material realm where lit from below with the image that had been revealed. When the Exousai and the Yaldabaoth stared at the surface of the water, they saw light shining up from below and, by that light, they saw the image of Adamas upon the water.
“Come, let us create a human according to this image and in our likeness so that his image may illuminate us,” Yaldaboath said to the Exousai who dwelt with him. “We will call him Adam in order that the power of his name may also give us light.”
The Archons created Adam’s soul, each of them using the power he had been given to supply a characteristic of the form in the image that they had seen. The first Archon, Athoth, created bone. The second one, Eloaiou, created sinew. The third, Astaphaios, created flesh. The fourth, Yao, created marrow. The fifth, Sabaoth, created blood. The sixth, Adonin, added skin. The seventh, Sabbede, created hair.
Their angels stood before them. They received the seven substances of the soul created by the Archons, created harmony among the parts, and created the limbs in their proper combination. They created the entire body, and it was joined together by the multitude of angels. Together, they created a being that looked like the divine human, but it lay inactive, because neither the seven Archons nor the 360 angels who had forged the individual parts were able to awaken it.
Some minor details about this bizarre story:
- Yaldabaoth is spelled Yaltabaoth in the this chapter
- The term Exousai is used interchangeably with Archon
- I’ve replaced Yaldabaoth’s names for the Archons with their true names
In the longer form of the book (found in two of the four manuscripts that are known), there is a long list of the angels who created the individual parts of Adam. According to Stevan Davies, it is a list of demons’ names that are associated with specific body parts, a magical text taken from an unknown source called the “Book of Zoroaster“. The lacunae in the text […] indicate words or phrases that are missing in both manuscripts.
Eteraphaope Abron created the head. Megiggesstroeth created the brain. Asterechmen, the right eye. Thaspomocham, the left eye. Yeronumos, the right ear. Bissoum, the left ear. Akiopeim, the nose. Banen Ephroum, the lips. Amen, the front teeth. Ibikan, the molars. Basiliasdeme, the tonsils. Achcha, the uvula. Adaban, the neck. Chaaman, the vertebrae. Dearcho, the throat. Tebar, the right shoulder. N[…], the left shoulder. Mniarchon, the right elbow. […], the left elbow. Abitrion, the right underarm. Evanthen, the left underarm. Krys, the right hand. Beluia, the left hand. Treneu, the fingers of the right hand. Balbel, the fingers of the left hand. Kriman, the fingernails. Astrops, the right breast. Barroph, the left breast. Baoum, the right shoulder joint. Ararim, the left shoulder joint. Areche, the belly. Phthave, the navel. Senaphim, the abdomen. Arachethopi, the right ribs. Zabedo, the left ribs. Barias, the right hip. Phnouth, the left hip. Abenlenarchei, the marrow. Chnoumeninorin, the bones. Gesole, the stomach. Agromauma, the heart. Bano, the lungs. Sostrapal, the liver. Anesimalar, the spleen. Thopithro, the intestines. Biblo, the kidneys. Roeror, the sinews. Taphreo, the spine of the body. lpouspoboba, the veins. Bineborin, the arteries. Aatoimenpsephei, the breath which is in all the parts. Entholleia, all the flesh. Bedouk, the right buttock. Arabeei, the left buttock. […], the penis. Eilo, the testicles. Sorma, the genitals. Gorma Kaiochlabar, the right thigh. Nebrith, the left thigh. Pserem, the muscle over the kidney on the right side. Asaklas, the muscle over the left kidney. Ormaoth, the right knee. Emenun, the left knee. Knyx, the right shin. Tupelon, the left shin. Achiel, the right ankle. Phneme, the left ankle. Phiouthrom, the right foot. Boabel, its toes. Trachoun, the left foot. Phikna, its toes. Miamai, the toenails. Labernioum, […].
This list goes on. For more, see the full text.
Next Chapter: Adam’s Awakening