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The Secret Book of John (Apocryphon of John)[1] is a second-century AD Sethian Gnostic text of secret teachings. It describes Jesus Christ reappearing after his Ascension and giving secret knowledge (gnosis) to the apostle John. This book is reputed to bear this revelation.

Contents

Overview

The opening words of the Secret Book of John are "The teaching of the saviour, and the revelation of the mysteries and the things hidden in silence, even these things which he taught John, his disciple." The author John is immediately specified as "John, the brother of James — who are the sons of Zebedee." One of the two distinct surviving versions is thought to be the original, of which the other was a lengthy embellishment. The later version is also so restructured that, although both versions have the same themes, few words and verses are had in common.

Many Christians in the second century CE hoped to receive a transcendent personal revelation such as Paul was able to report to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) or that John experienced on the isle of Patmos, which inspired his Revelation[2]. As Acts narrates what happened after the time Jesus ascended to heaven, so the Apocryphon of John begins at the same point but relates how Christ reappeared to John.

The remainder of the book is a vision of spiritual realms and of the prior history of spiritual humanity.

History

A book called the Apocryphon of John was referred to by Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses, written about 185 CE, among the writings that teachers in second-century Christian communities were producing, "an indescribable number of secret and illegitimate writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish people, who are ignorant of the true scriptures" [3] — scriptures which Irenaeus himself was establishing as no more and no less than four, the "Fourfold gospel" that his authority helped make the canonical four. Among the writings he quotes from, in order to expose and refute them, include the Gospel of Truth, Gospel of Judas, and this secret book of John.[4]

Little more was known of this text until 1945, when a cache of thirteen papyrus codices (bound books) that had been hidden away in the fourth century, was fortuitously discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. The Apocryphon of John was among the texts, in three Coptic versions translated from the Greek. Two of the versions are very similar and represent one manuscript tradition; they incorporate a lengthy excerpt from a certain Book of Zoroaster appended to the Apocryphon (as chapters 15:29 – 19:8f) A shorter version of the Apocryphon found at Nag Hammadi does not contain the interpolation and represents another manuscript tradition. Still another version of this short edition of the text was discovered in an ancient Coptic Codex acquired by Dr. Carl Reinhardt in Cairo in 1896. This manuscript (identified as the "Berlin Gnostic Codex" or BG 8502) was used along with the three versions found at Nag Hammadi to produce the translations now available. The fact that four manuscript "editions" of this text survived -- two "long" versions and two "short" versions -- suggests how important this text was in early gnostic Christian circles. It should also be noted that in the three Nag Hammadi codices where the Apocryphon of John appears, the text in each case is the first text of the collection.

Influence

The Apocryphon, set in the framing device of a revelation delivered by the resurrected Christ to John the son of Zebedee, contains some of the most extensive detailing of classic dualistic Gnostic mythology that has survived; as one of the principal texts of the Nag Hammadi library, it is an essential text of study for anyone interested in Gnosticism. Frederick Wisse, who translated it, asserts that "The Apocryphon of John was still used in the eighth century by the Audians of Mesopotamia" (Wisse p 104).

The Apocryphon of John has become the central text for studying the gnostic tradition of Antiquity. The creation mythology it details has been the object of study of such writers as Carl Jung and Eric Voegelin.

References in popular culture

Tori Amos drew on the Gnostic mythology described in the Apocryphon of John in her album, The Beekeeper.

Notes

  1. ^ "Apocrypha" literally means "secret writings".
  2. ^ Pagels 2003:97 and bibliography at note 69
  3. ^ Adversus Haereses 1.20.1.
  4. ^ Pagels 2003:96 etc.

External links

Sources

  • Davies, Stevan, . Secret Book of John: The Gnostic Gospel, Annotated and Explained ISBN 1-59473-082-2
  • Logan, Alastair H. B. 1996. Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy. Based on the Apocryphon of John.
  • Pagels, Elaine, 2003. Beyond Belief.
  • Wisse, Frederick. The Nag Hammadi Library in English.
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Gnosticism

This article is part of a series on Gnosticism
History of Gnosticism
Early Gnosticism
Syrian-Egyptic Gnosticism
Gnosticism in modern times
Proto-Gnostics
Philo
Simon Magus
Cerinthus
Valentinus
Basilides
Gnostic texts
Gnostic Gospels
Nag Hammadi library
Codex Tchacos
Askew Codex
Bruce Codex
Gnosticism and the New Testament
Related articles
Gnosis
Neoplatonism and Gnosticism
Mandaeism
Manichaeism
Bosnian Church
Esoteric Christianity
Jnana

Gnosticism Portal
 v • d • e 

The Secret Book of John (Apocryphon of John)[1] is a second-century AD Sethian Gnostic text of secret teachings. It describes Jesus Christ appearing and giving secret knowledge (gnosis) to the apostle John. The author describes this having occurred after Jesus "has gone back to the place from which he came". This book is reputed to bear this revelation.

Contents

Overview

The opening words of the Secret Book of John are "The teaching of the saviour, and the revelation of the mysteries and the things hidden in silence, even these things which he taught John, his disciple." The author John is immediately specified as "John, the brother of James — who are the sons of Zebedee." There are four separate surviving manuscripts of "The Secret Book of John". Three of these were found the Nag Hammadi codices in 1945, while the fourth was found independently 50 years earlier from another site in Egypt. All four versions date to the fourth century. Three of these appear to be independently produced Coptic translations of an original Greek text. Two of the four are similar enough that they probably represent copies of a single source.

Many Christians in the second century CE hoped to receive a transcendent personal revelation such as Paul was able to report to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) or that John experienced on the isle of Patmos, which inspired his Revelation[2]. As Acts narrates what happened after the time Jesus ascended to heaven, so the Apocryphon of John begins at the same point but relates how Christ reappeared to John.

The remainder of the book is a vision of spiritual realms and of the prior history of spiritual humanity.

History

A book called the Apocryphon of John was referred to by Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses, written about 185 CE, among the writings that teachers in second-century Christian communities were producing, "an indescribable number of secret and illegitimate writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish people, who are ignorant of the true scriptures" [3] — scriptures which Irenaeus himself was establishing as no more and no less than four, the "Fourfold gospel" that his authority helped make the canonical four. Among the writings he quotes from, in order to expose and refute them, include the Gospel of Truth, Gospel of Judas, and this secret book of John.[4]

Little more was known of this text until 1945, when a cache of thirteen papyrus codices (bound books) that had been hidden away in the fourth century, was fortuitously discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. The Apocryphon of John was among the texts, in three Coptic versions translated from the Greek. Two of the versions are very similar and represent one manuscript tradition; they incorporate a lengthy excerpt from a certain Book of Zoroaster appended to the Apocryphon (as chapters 15:29 – 19:8f) A shorter version of the Apocryphon found at Nag Hammadi does not contain the interpolation and represents another manuscript tradition. Still another version of this short edition of the text was discovered in an ancient Coptic Codex acquired by Dr. Carl Reinhardt in Cairo in 1896. This manuscript (identified as the "Berlin Gnostic Codex" or BG 8502) was used along with the three versions found at Nag Hammadi to produce the translations now available. The fact that four manuscript "editions" of this text survived—two "long" versions and two "short" versions—suggests how important this text was in early gnostic Christian circles. It should also be noted that in the three Nag Hammadi codices where the Apocryphon of John appears, the text in each case is the first text of the collection.

Influence

The Apocryphon, set in the framing device of a revelation delivered by the resurrected Christ to John the son of Zebedee, contains some of the most extensive detailing of classic dualistic Gnostic mythology that has survived; as one of the principal texts of the Nag Hammadi library, it is an essential text of study for anyone interested in Gnosticism. Frederick Wisse, who translated it, asserts that "The Apocryphon of John was still used in the eighth century by the Audians of Mesopotamia" (Wisse p 104).

The Apocryphon of John has become the central text for studying the gnostic tradition of Antiquity. The creation mythology it details has been the object of study of such writers as Carl Jung and Eric Voegelin.

References in popular culture

Tori Amos drew on the Gnostic mythology described in the Apocryphon of John in her album, The Beekeeper.

Notes

  1. ^ "Apocrypha" literally means "secret writings".
  2. ^ Pagels 2003:97 and bibliography at note 69
  3. ^ Adversus Haereses 1.20.1.
  4. ^ Pagels 2003:96 etc.

External links

Sources

  • Davies, Stevan, . Secret Book of John: The Gnostic Gospel, Annotated and Explained ISBN 1-59473-082-2
  • Logan, Alastair H. B. 1996. Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy. Based on the Apocryphon of John.
  • Pagels, Elaine, 2003. Beyond Belief.
  • Wisse, Frederick. The Nag Hammadi Library in English.

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