AN ancient Christian manuscript said to reveal secret teachings of Jesus made to his brother James has been unearthed.
Biblical scholars found the 1,600-year-old Ancient Greek manuscript at the Oxford University, showing how Jesus passed on to disciple James teachings of the heavenly realm and predictions for the future – including James’s own death.
The fragments come from 13 leather-bound vellum codices which had been buried in Egypt and found in 1945.
The documents detail the ‘First Apocalypse of James’ in which Jesus passes on knowledge of Heaven and future events to his brother, or possible step-brother, James, including the death of the younger sibling.
The documents were first discovered in Egypt 70 years ago. Called the Nag Hammadi Library, they are a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books.
The shock find earlier this year revealed several fifth or sixth century fragments of the Gnostic story of the First Apocalypse of James.
Gnosticism is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in the first and second century AD.
However, the documents were “forbidden” by early Christians as they would have had to have been added to the New Testament which was not permitted 1,600 years ago when the text was originally written.
Researchers believe that the text, with its neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllable, was likely used as a teaching piece to help young Egyptians learn Greek centuries ago.
Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his “Easter letter of 367” that defined the 27-book New Testament: “No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them.”
Study co-author Dr Geoffrey Smith, a scholar of Biblical Greek and Christian origins, said: “To say that we were excited once we realised what we had found is an understatement.
“We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us.
“The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’s life and ministry by allowing us access to conversations that purportedly took place between Jesus and James — secret teachings that allowed James to be a good teacher after Jesus’s death.”
Brent Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies, added: “The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts.”
The full translation of the The (First) Apocalypse of James by William R. Schoedel as available on The Nag Hammadi Library
It is the Lord who spoke with me: “See now the completion of my redemption. I have given you a sign of these things, James, my brother. For not without reason have I called you my brother, although you are not my brother materially. And I am not ignorant concerning you; so that when I give you a sign – know and hear.”
“Nothing existed except Him-who-is. He is unnameable and ineffable. I myself am also unnameable, from Him-who-is, just as I have been given a number of names – two from Him-who-is. And I, I am before you. Since you have asked concerning femaleness, femaleness existed, but femaleness was not first. And it prepared for itself powers and gods. But it did not exist when I came forth, since I am an image of Him-who-is. But I have brought forth the image of him so that the sons of Him-who-is might know what things are theirs and what things are alien (to them). Behold, I shall reveal to you everything of this mystery. For they will seize me the day after tomorrow. But my redemption will be near.”
James said, “Rabbi, you have said, ‘they will seize me.’ But I, what can I do?” He said to me, “Fear not, James. You too will they seize. But leave Jerusalem. For it is she who always gives the cup of bitterness to the sons of light. She is a dwelling place of a great number of archons. But your redemption will be preserved from them. So that you may understand who they are and what kinds they are, you will […]. And listen. They are not […] but archons […]. These twelve […] down […] archons […] upon his own hebdomad.”
James said, “Rabbi, are there then twelve hebdomads and not seven as there are in the scriptures?” The Lord said, “James, he who spoke concerning this scripture had a limited understanding. I, however, shall reveal to you what has come forth from him who has no number. I shall give a sign concerning their number. As for what has come forth from him who has no measure, I shall give a sign concerning their measure”
James said, “Rabbi, behold then, I have received their number. There are seventy-two measures!” The Lord said, “These are the seventy-two heavens, which are their subordinates. These are the powers of all their might; and they were established by them; and these are they who were distributed everywhere, existing under the authority of the twelve archons. The inferior power among them brought forth for itself angels and unnumbered hosts. Him-who-is, however, has been given […] on account of […] Him-who-is […] they are unnumbered. If you want to give them a number now, you will not be able to do so until you cast away from your blind thought, this bond of flesh which encircles you. And then you will reach Him-who-is. And you will no longer be James; rather you are the One-who-is. And all those who are unnumbered will all have been named.”
James said, “Rabbi, in what way shall I reach Him-who-is, since all these powers and these hosts are armed against me?” He said to me, “These powers are not armed against you specifically, but are armed against another. It is against me that they are armed. And they are armed with other powers. But they are armed against me in judgment. They did not give […] to me in it […] through them […]. In this place […] suffering, I shall […]. He will […] and I shall not rebuke them. But there shall be within me a silence and a hidden mystery. But I am fainthearted before their anger.”
James said, “Rabbi, if they arm themselves against you, then is there no blame?”You have come with knowledge,
that you might rebuke their forgetfulness.
You have come with recollection,
that you might rebuke their ignorance.
But I was concerned because of you.
For you descended into a great ignorance,
but you have not been defiled by anything in it.
For you descended into a great mindlessness,
and your recollection remained.
You walked in mud,
and your garments were not soiled,
and you have not been buried in their filth,
and you have not been caught.
And I was not like them, but I clothed myself with everything of theirs.
There is in me forgetfulness,
yet I remember things that are not theirs.
There is in me [….],
and I am in their […].
[…] knowledge […] not in their sufferings […]. But I have become afraid before them, since they rule. For what will they do? What will I be able to say? Or what word will I be able to say that I may escape them?”
The Lord said, “James, I praise your understanding and your fear. If you continue to be distressed, do not be concerned for anything else except your redemption. For behold, I shall complete this destiny upon this earth as I have said from the heavens. And I shall reveal to you your redemption.”
James said, “Rabbi, how, after these things, will you appear to us again? After they seize you, and you complete this destiny, you will go up to Him-who-is.” The Lord said, “James, after these things I shall reveal to you everything, not for your sake alone but for the sake of the unbelief of men, so that faith may exist in them. For a multitude will attain to faith and they will increase in […]. And after this I shall appear for a reproof to the archons. And I shall reveal to them that he cannot be seized. If they seize him, then he will overpower each of them. But now I shall go. Remember the things I have spoken and let them go up before you.” James said,”Lord, I shall hasten as you have said.” The Lord said farewell to him and fulfilled what was fitting.
When James heard of his suffering and was much distressed, they awaited the sign of his coming. And he came after several days. And James was walking upon the mountain which is called “Gaugelan”, with his disciples, who listened to him because they had been distressed, and he was […] a comforter, saying, “This is […] second […]” Then the crowd dispersed, but James remained […] prayer […], as was his custom.
And the Lord appeared to him. Then he stopped (his) prayer and embraced him. He kissed him, saying, “Rabbi, I have found you! I have heard of your sufferings, which you endured. And I have been much distressed. My compassion you know. Therefore, on reflection, I was wishing that I would not see this people. They must be judged for these things that they have done. For these things that they have done are contrary to what is fitting.”
The Lord said, “James, do not be concerned for me or for this people. I am he who was within me. Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed. And this people has done me no harm. But this (people) existed as a type of the archons, and it deserved to be destroyed through them. But […] the archons, […] who has […] but since it […] angry with […] The just […] is his servant. Therefore your name is “James the Just”. You see how you will become sober when you see me. And you stopped this prayer. Now since you are a just man of God, you have embraced me and kissed me. Truly I say to you that you have stirred up great anger and wrath against yourself. But (this has happened) so that these others might come to be.”
But James was timid (and) wept. And he was very distressed. And they both sat down upon a rock. The Lord said to him, “James, thus you will undergo these sufferings. But do not be sad. For the flesh is weak. It will receive what has been ordained for it. But as for you, do not be timid or afraid”. The Lord ceased.
Now when James heard these things, he wiped away the tears in his eyes and very bitter […] which is […]. The Lord said to him, “James, behold, I shall reveal to you your redemption. When you are seized, and you undergo these sufferings, a multitude will arm themselves against you that
‘[…] of alien things?’ You are to say to him, ‘They are not entirely alien, but they are from Achamoth, who is the female. And these she produced as she brought down the race from the Pre-existent One. So then they are not alien, but they are ours. They are indeed ours because she who is mistress of them is from the Pre-existent One. At the same time they are alien because the Pre-existent One did not have intercourse with her, when she produced them.’ When he also says to you, ‘Where will you go?’, you are to say to him, ‘To the place from which I have come, there shall I return.’ And if you say these things, you will escape their attacks.
“But when you come to these three detainers who take away souls by theft in that place […] these. You […] a vessel […] much more than […] of the one whom you […] for […] her root. You too will be sober […]. But I shall call upon the imperishable knowledge, which is Sophia who is in the Father (and) who is the mother of Achamoth. Achamoth had no father nor male consort, but she is female from a female. She produced you without a male, since she was alone (and) in ignorance as to what lives through her mother because she thought that she alone existed. But I shall cry out to her mother. And then they will fall into confusion (and) will blame their root and the race of their mother. But you will go up to what is yours […] you will […] the Pre-existent One.”
“They are a type of the twelve disciples and the twelve pairs, […] Achamoth, which is translated ‘Sophia’. And who I myself am, (and) who the imperishable Sophia (is) through whom you will be redeemed, and (who are) all the sons of Him-who-is – these things they have known and have hidden within them. You are to hide
James said, “I am satisfied […] and they are […] my soul. Yet another thing I ask of you: who are the seven women who have been your disciples? And behold all women bless you. I also am amazed how powerless vessels have become strong by a perception which is in them.” The Lord said, “You […] well […] a spirit of […], a spirit of thought, a spirit of counsel of a […], a spirit […] a spirit of knowledge […] of their fear. […] when we had passed through the breath of this archon who is named Adonaios […] him and […] he was ignorant […] when I came forth from him, he remembered that I am a son of his. He was gracious to me at that time as his son. And then, before appeared here,
James said, “Rabbi, […] I […] all together […] in them especially […].” The Lord said, “James, I praise you […] walk upon the earth […] the words while he […] on the […]. For cast away from you the cup which is bitterness. For some from […] set themselves against you. For you have begun to understand their roots from beginning to end. Cast away from yourself all lawlessness. And beware lest they envy you. When you speak these words of this perception, encourage these four: Salome and Mariam and Martha and Arsinoe […] since he takes some […] to me he is […] burnt offerings and […]. But I […] not in this way; but […] first-fruits of the […] upward […] so that the power of God might appear. The perishable has gone up to the imperishable and the female element has attained to this male element.”
James said, “Rabbi, into these three (things), then, has their […] been cast. For they have been reviled, and they have been persecuted […]. Behold […] everything […] from anyone […]. For you have received […] of knowledge. And […] that what is the […] go […] you will find […]. But I shall go forth and shall reveal that they believed in you, that they may be content with their blessing and salvation, and this revelation may come to pass.”
And he went at that time immediately and rebuked the twelve and cast out of them contentment concerning the way of knowledge […].
[…]. And the majority of them […] when they saw, the messenger took in […]. The others […] said, “[…] him from this earth. For he is not worthy of life.” These, then, were afraid. They arose, saying, “We have no part in this blood, for a just man will perish through injustice” James departed so that […] look […] for we […] him.