Religious Questions

Secret Gospel of John
(Apocryphon of John)

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Translated by Marvin Meyer

The teaching of the savior, and the revelation of the mysteries and the things hidden in silence, things he
taught his student John.


One day when John the brother of James, the sons of Zebedee, went up to the temple, it happened that a
Pharisee named Arimanios came up to him and said to him, Where is your teacher, whom you followed?

I said to him, He has returned to the place from which he came.

The Pharisee said to me, This Nazarene has deceived you badly, filled your ears with lies, closed your
minds, and turned you from the traditions of your parents.

When I, John, heard this, I turned away from the temple and went to a mountainous and barren place. I
was distressed within, and I said,

How was the savior selected?

Why was he sent into the world by his father?

Who is his father who sent him?

To what kind of eternal realm shall we go?

And what was he saying when he told us,
This eternal realm to which you will go is modeled
after the incorruptible realm,
but he did not teach us what kind of realm that one is?

At the moment I was thinking about this, look, the heavens opened, all creation under heaven lit up, and
the world shook. I was afraid, and look, I saw within the light a child standing by me. As I was staring, it
seemed to be an elderly person. Again it changed its appearance to be a youth. Not that there were several
figures before me. Rather, there was a figure with several forms within the light. These forms appeared
through each other, and the figure had three forms.

The figure said to me, John, John, why are you doubting? Why are you afraid? Are you not familiar with
this figure? Then do not be fainthearted. I am with you always. I am the father, I am the mother, I am the
child. I am the incorruptible and the undefiled one. Now I have come to teach you what is, what was, and
what is to come, that you may understand what is invisible and what is visible; and to teach you about the
unshakable race of perfect humankind. So now, lift up your head that you may understand the things I
shall tell you today, and that you may relate them to your spiritual friends, who are from the unshakable
race of perfect humankind.


I asked if I might understand this, and it said to me, The One is a sovereign that has nothing over it. It is
god and father of all, the invisible one that is over all, that is incorruptible, that is pure light at which no
eye can gaze.

The One is the invisible spirit. We should not think of it as a god or like a god. For it is greater than a
god, because it has nothing over it and no lord above it. It does not exist within anything inferior to it,
since everything exists within it alone. It is eternal, since it does not need anything. For it is absolutely
complete. It has never lacked anything in order to be completed by it. Rather, it is always absolutely
complete in light. The One is

illimitable, since there is nothing before it to limit it,
unfathomable, since there is nothing before it to fathom it,
immeasurable, since there was nothing before it to measure it,
invisible, since nothing has seen it,
eternal, since it exists eternally,
unutterable, since nothing could comprehend it to utter it,
unnamable, since there is nothing before it to give it a name.

The One is the immeasurable light, pure, holy, immaculate. The One is unutterable and is perfect in
incorruptibility. Not that it is part of perfection or blessedness or divinity: it is much greater.

The One is not corporeal and is not incorporeal.

The One is not large and is not small.

It is impossible to say,

“How much is it?
What kind is it?”

For no one can understand it.

The One is not among the things that exist, but it is much greater. Not that it is greater. Rather, as it is in
itself, it is not a part of the eternal realms or of time. For whatever is part of a realm was once prepared by
another. Time was not allotted to it, since it receives nothing from anyone: what would be received would
be on loan. The one who is first does not need to receive anything from another. Such a one beholds itself
in its light.

The One is majestic and has an immeasurable purity.

The One is a realm that gives a realm, life that gives life, a blessed one that gives blessedness, knowledge
that gives knowledge, a good one that gives goodness, mercy that gives mercy and redemption, grace that
gives grace.

Not as if the One possesses all this. Rather, it is that the One gives immeasurable and incomprehensible

What shall I tell you about it? Its eternal realm is incorruptible, at peace, dwelling in silence, at rest, before

It is the head of all realms, and it sustains them through its goodness.

We would not know what is ineffable, we would not understand what is immeasurable, were it not for
what has come from the father. This is the one who has told these things to us alone.


Now, this father is the One who beholds himself in the light surrounding him, which is the spring of living
water, and provides all the realms. He reflects on his image everywhere, sees it in the spring of the spirit,
and becomes enamored of his luminous water, for his image is in the spring of pure luminous water
surrounding him.

The father’s thought became a reality, and she who appeared in the presence of the father in shining light
came forth. She is the first power who preceded everything and came forth from the father’s mind as the
forethought of all. Her light shines like the father’s light; she, the perfect power, is the image of the perfect
and invisible virgin spirit.

She, the first power, the glory of Barbelo, the perfect glory among the realms, the glory of revelation, she
glorified and praised the virgin spirit, for because of the spirit she had come forth.

She is the first thought, the image of the spirit. She became the universal womb, for she precedes

the mother-father,
the first human,
the holy spirit,
the triple male,
the triple power,
the androgynous one with three names,
the eternal realm among the invisible beings,
the first to come forth.

Barbelo asked the invisible virgin spirit to give her foreknowledge, and the spirit consented. When the
spirit consented, foreknowledge appeared and stood by forethought. This is the one who came from the
thought of the invisible virgin spirit. Foreknowledge glorified the spirit and the spirit’s perfect power,
Barbelo, for because of her, foreknowledge had come into being.

She asked again to be given incorruptibility, and the spirit consented. When the spirit consented,
incorruptibility appeared and stood by thought and foreknowledge. Incorruptibility glorified the invisible
one and Barbelo. Because of her they had come into being.

Barbelo asked to be given life eternal, and the invisible spirit consented. When the spirit consented, life
eternal appeared, and they stood together and glorified the invisible spirit and Barbelo. Because of her they
had come into being.

She asked again to be given truth, and the invisible spirit consented. Truth appeared, and they stood
together and glorified the good invisible spirit and its Barbelo. Because of her they had come into being.

This is the father’s realm of five. It is:

the first human, the image of the invisible spirit, that is, forethought, which is Barbelo, and thought,
along with foreknowledge,
life eternal,

This is the androgynous realm of five, which is the realm of ten, which is the father.


The father gazed into Barbelo, with the pure light surrounding the invisible spirit, and its radiance. Barbelo
conceived from it, and it produced a spark of light similar to the blessed light but not as great. This was
the only child of the mother-father that had come forth, its only offspring, the only child of the father, the
pure light. The invisible virgin spirit rejoiced over the light that was produced, that came forth first from
the first power of the spirit’s forethought, who is Barbelo. The spirit anointed it with its own goodness
until it was perfect, with no lack of goodness, since it was anointed with the goodness of the invisible spirit.
The child stood in the presence of the spirit as the spirit anointed the child. When the child received this
from the spirit, at once it glorified the holy spirit and perfect forethought. Because of her it had come

The child asked to be given mind as a companion to work with, and the spirit consented. When the
invisible spirit consented, mind appeared and stood by the anointed, and glorified the spirit and Barbelo.

All these beings came into existence in silence.

Mind wished to create something by means of the word of the invisible spirit. Its will became a reality and
appeared, with mind and the light, glorifying it. Word followed will. For the anointed, the self-conceived
god, created everything by the word. Life eternal, will, mind, and foreknowledge stood together and
glorified the invisible spirit and Barbelo, for because of her they had come into being.

The holy spirit brought the self-conceived divine child of itself and Barbelo to perfection, so that the child
might stand before the great, invisible virgin spirit as the self-conceived god, the anointed, who honored the
spirit with loud acclaim. The child came forth through forethought. The invisible virgin spirit set the true,
self-conceived god over everything, and caused all authority and the truth within to be subject to it, so that
the child might understand everything, the one called by a name greater than every name, for that name will
be told to those who are worthy of it.


Now, from the light, which is the anointed, and from incorruptibility, by the grace of the spirit, the four
luminaries that derive from the self-conceived god gazed out in order to stand before it. The three beings


The four powers are:


Grace dwells in the eternal realm of the luminary Harmozel, who is the first angel. There are three other
realms with this eternal realm:


The second luminary is Oroiael, who has been appointed over the second eternal realm. There are three
other realms with it:


The third luminary is Daveithai, who has been appointed over the third eternal realm. There are three other
realms with it:


The fourth eternal realm has been set up for the fourth luminary, Eleleth. There are three other realms with


These are the four luminaries that stand before the self-conceived god; these are the twelve eternal realms
that stand before the child of the great self-conceived, the anointed, by the will and grace of the invisible
spirit. The twelve realms belong to the child of the self-conceived one, and everything was established by
the will of the holy spirit through the self-conceived one.


Now, from the foreknowledge of the perfect mind, through the expressed will of the invisible spirit and the
will of the self-conceived one, came the perfect human, the first revelation, the truth. The virgin spirit
named the human Geradamas and appointed Geradamas to the first eternal realm with the great self-
conceived, the anointed, by the first luminary, Harmozel. Its powers dwell with it. The invisible one gave
Geradamas an unconquerable power of mind.

Geradamas spoke and glorified and praised the invisible spirit by saying,

“Because of you everything has come into being, and to you everything will return.

“I shall praise and glorify you, and the self-conceived, and the eternal realms,
the three—father, mother, child, the perfect power.”

Geradamas appointed his son Seth to the second eternal realm, before the second luminary, Oroiael.

In the third eternal realm were stationed the offspring of Seth, with the third luminary, Daveithai. The
souls of the saints were stationed there.

In the fourth eternal realm were stationed the souls of those who were ignorant of the fullness. They did
not repent immediately but held out for a while and repented later. They came to be with the fourth
luminary, Eleleth, and they are creatures that glorify the invisible spirit.


Now, Sophia, who is the wisdom of afterthought and who constitutes an eternal realm, conceived of a
thought from herself, with the conception of the invisible spirit and foreknowledge. She wanted to bring
forth something like herself, without the consent of the spirit, who had not given approval, without her
partner and without his consideration. The male did not give approval. She did not find her partner, and
she considered this without the spirit’s consent and without the knowledge of her partner. Nonetheless, she
gave birth. And because of the invincible power within her, her thought was not an idle thought.
Something came out of her that was imperfect and different in appearance from her, for she had produced
it without her partner. It did not resemble its mother and was misshapen.

When Sophia saw what her desire had produced, it changed into the figure of a snake with the face of a
lion. Its eyes were like flashing bolts of lightning. She cast it away from her, outside that realm so that none
of the immortals would see it. She had produced it ignorantly.

She surrounded it with a bright cloud and put a throne in the middle of the cloud so that no one would see
it except the holy spirit, who is called the mother of the living. She named her offspring Yaldabaoth.


Yaldabaoth is the first ruler, who took great power from his mother. Then he left her and moved away
from the place where he was born. He took control and created for himself other realms with luminous
fire, which still exists. He mated with the mindlessness in him and produced authorities for himself:

The name of the first is Athoth, whom generations call the reaper.
The second is Harmas, who is the jealous eye.
The third is Kalila-Oumbri.
The fourth is Yabel.
The fifth is Adonaios, who is called Sabaoth.
The sixth is Cain, whom generations of people call the sun.
The seventh is Abel.
The eighth is Abrisene.
The ninth is Yobel. The tenth is Armoupieel.
The eleventh is Melcheir-Adonein.
The twelfth is Belias, who is over the depth of the underworld.

Yaldabaoth stationed seven kings, one for each sphere of heaven, to reign over the seven heavens, and five
to reign over the depth of the abyss. He shared his fire with them, but he did not give away any of the
power of the light that he had taken from his mother. For he is ignorant darkness.

When light mixed with darkness, it made the darkness shine. When darkness mixed with light, it dimmed
the light and became neither light nor darkness, but rather gloom.

This gloomy ruler has three names: the first name is Yaldabaoth, the second is Sakla, the third is Samael.

He is wicked in his mindlessness that is in him. He said, I am god and there is no other god but me, since
he did not know where his own strength had come from.

The rulers created seven powers for themselves, and the powers created six angels apiece, until there were
365 angels. These are the names and the corresponding appearances:

The first is Athoth and has the face of sheep.
The second is Eloaios and has the face of a donkey.
The third is Astaphaios and has the face of a hyena.

The fourth is Yao and has the face of a snake with seven heads.
The fifth is Sabaoth and has the face of a snake.
The sixth is Adonin and has the face of an ape.
The seventh is Sabbataios and has a face of flaming fire.

This is the sevenfold nature of the week.

Yaldabaoth has many faces, more than all of these, so that he could show whatever face he wanted when he
was among the seraphim. He shared his fire with them and lorded it over them because of the glorious
power he had from his mother’s light. That is why he called himself god and defied the place from which
he came.

In his thought he united the seven powers with the authorities that were with him. When he spoke, it was
done. He named each of the powers, beginning with the highest:

First is goodness, with the first power, Athoth.
Second is forethought, with the second power, Eloaios.
Third is divinity, with the third power, Astaphaios.
Fourth is lordship, with the fourth power, Yao.
Fifth is kingdom, with the fifth power, Sabaoth.
Sixth is jealousy, with the sixth power, Adonin.
Seventh is understanding, with the seventh power, Sabbataios.

Each has a sphere in its own realm.

They were named after the glory above for the destruction of the powers. While the names given them by
their maker were powerful, the names given them after the glory above would bring about their destruction
and loss of power. That is why they have two names.

Yaldabaoth organized everything after the pattern of the first realms that had come into being, so that he
might create everything in an incorruptible form. Not that he had seen the incorruptible ones. Rather, the
power that is in him, that he had taken from his mother, produced in him the pattern for the world order.

When he saw creation surrounding him, and the throng of angels around him who had come forth from
him, he said to them, I am a jealous god and there is no other god beside me.

But by announcing this, he suggested to the angels with him that there is another god. For if there were no
other god, of whom would he be jealous?


Then the mother began to move around. She realized that she was lacking something when the brightness
of her light diminished. She grew dim because her partner had not collaborated with her.

I said, Master, what does it mean that she moved around?

The master laughed and said, Do not suppose that it is as Moses said, above the waters. No, when she
recognized the wickedness that had occurred and the robbery her son had committed, she repented. When
she became forgetful in the darkness of ignorance, she began to be ashamed. She did not dare to return, but
she was agitated. This agitation is the moving around.

The arrogant one took power from his mother. He was ignorant, for he thought no one existed except his
mother alone. When he saw the throng of angels he had created, he exalted himself over them.

When the mother realized that the trappings of darkness had come into being imperfectly, she understood
that her partner had not collaborated with her. She repented with many tears. The whole realm of fullness
heard her prayer of repentance and offered praise on her behalf to the invisible virgin spirit, and the spirit
consented. When the invisible spirit consented, the holy spirit poured upon her some of the fullness of all.
For her partner did not come to her on his own, but he came to her through the realm of fullness, so that
he might restore what she lacked. She was taken up not to her own eternal realm, but to a position above
her son. She was to remain in the ninth heaven until she restored what was lacking in herself.


A voice called from the exalted heavenly realm,

The human exists
and the human child.

The first ruler, Yaldabaoth, heard the voice and thought it had come from his mother. He did not realize
its source.

The holy perfect mother-father,
the complete forethought,
the image of the invisible one,
being the father of everything,
through whom everything came into being,
the first human—
this is the one who showed them, and appeared in human shape.

The entire realm of the first ruler quaked, and the foundations of the abyss shook. The bottom of the
waters above the material world was lighted by this image that had appeared. When all the authorities and
the first ruler stared at this appearance, they saw the whole bottom as it was illuminated. And through the
light they saw the shape of the image in the water.


Yaldabaoth said to the authorities with him, Come, let us create a human being after the image of god and
with a likeness to ourselves, so that this human image may give us light.

They created through their respective powers, according to the features that were given to them. Each of
the authorities contributed a psychical feature corresponding to the figure of the image they had seen. They
created a being like the perfect first human and said, Let us call it Adam, that its name may give us power
of light.

The powers began to create:

The first one, goodness, created a soul of bone.
The second, forethought, created a soul of sinew.
The third, divinity, created a soul of flesh.
The fourth, lordship, created a soul of marrow.
The fifth, kingdom, created a soul of blood.
The sixth, jealousy, created a soul of skin.
The seventh, understanding, created a soul of hair.

The throng of angels stood by and received these seven psychical substances from the authorities in order
to create a network of limbs and trunk, with all the parts properly arranged.

The first one, who is Raphao, began by creating the head,
Abron created the skull,
Meniggesstroeth created the brain,
Asterechme the right eye,
Thaspomocha the left eye,
Yeronumos the right ear,
Bissoum the left ear,
Akioreim the nose,
Banen-Ephroum the lips,
Amen the teeth,
Ibikan the molars,
Basiliademe 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,
——e the left elbow,
Abitrion the right underarm,
Euanthen the left underarm,
Krus the right hand,
Beluai the left hand,
Treneu the fingers of the right hand,
Balbel the fingers of the left hand,
Krima the fingernails,
Astrops the right breast,
Barroph the left breast,
Baoum the right shoulder joint,
Ararim the left shoulder joint,
Areche the belly,
Phthaue 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 backbone,
Ipouspoboba the veins,
Bineborin the arteries,
Aatoimenpsephei the breaths in all the limbs,
Entholleia all the flesh,
Bedouk the right buttock,
Arabeei the left buttock,
. . . the penis,
Eilo the testicles,
Sorma the genitals,
Gormakaiochlabar the right thigh,
Nebrith the left thigh,
Pserem the muscles of the right leg,
Asaklas the muscle of the left,
Ormaoth the right leg,
Emenun the left leg,
Knux 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. . . .

Those who are appointed over all these are seven in number:


Those who activate the limbs are, part by part:

the head, Diolimodraza,
the neck, Yammeax,
the right shoulder, Yakouib,
the left shoulder, Ouerton,
the right hand, Oudidi,
the left one, Arbao,

the fingers of the right hand, Lampno,
the fingers of the left hand, Leekaphar,
the right breast, Barbar,
the left breast, Imae,
the chest, Pisandraptes,
the right shoulder joint, Koade,
the left shoulder joint, Odeor,
the right ribs, Asphixix,
the left ribs, Sunogchouta,
the abdomen, Arouph,
the womb, Sabalo,
the right thigh, Charcharb,
the left thigh, Chthaon,
all the genitals, Bathinoth,
the right leg, Choux,
the left leg, Charcha,
the right shin, Aroer,
the left shin, Toechtha,
the right ankle, Aol,
the left ankle, Charaner,
the right foot, Bastan,
its toes, Archentechtha,
the left foot, Marephnounth,
its toes, Abrana.

Seven have been empowered over all these:


Those who are over the senses are Archendekta,

the one who is over perception is Deitharbathas,
the one who is over imagination is Oummaa,
the one who is over arrangement is Aachiaram,
the one who is over all impulse to action is Riaramnacho.

The source of the demons that are in the entire body is divided into four:


The mother of them all is matter.

The one who is lord over heat is Phloxopha,
the one who is lord over cold is Oroorrothos,
the one who is lord over what is dry is Erimacho,
the one who is lord over wetness is Athuro.

The mother of all these, Onorthochras, stands in the midst of them, for she is unlimited and mingles with
them all. She is matter, and by her they are nourished.

The four principal demons are:

Ephememphi, the demon of pleasure,
Yoko, the demon of desire,
Nenentophni, the demon of grief,
Blaomen, the demon of fear.

The mother of them all is Esthesis-Ouch-Epi-Ptoe.

From the four demons have come passions:

From grief come jealousy, envy, pain, trouble, distress, hardheartedness, anxiety, sorrow, and others.
From pleasure comes an abundance of evil, vain conceit, and the like.
From desire come anger, wrath, bitterness, intense lust, greed, and the like.
From fear come terror, servility, anguish, and shame.

All these are like virtues and vices. The insight into their true nature is Anaro, who is head of the material
soul, and it dwells with Esthesis-Z-Ouch-Epi-Ptoe.

This is the number of angels. In all they number 365. They all worked together until, limb by limb, the
psychical and material body was completed. Now, there are others over the remaining passions, and I have
not told you about them. If you want to know about them, the information is recorded in the Book of


All the angels and demons worked together until they fashioned the psychical body. But for a long time
their creation did not stir or move at all.

When the mother wanted to take back the power she had relinquished to the first ruler, she prayed to the
most merciful mother-father of all. With a sacred command the mother-father sent five luminaries down to
the place of the angels of the first ruler. They advised him so that they might recover the mother’s power.

They said to Yaldabaoth, Breathe some of your spirit into the face of Adam, and then the body will arise.

He breathed his spirit into Adam. The spirit is the power of his mother, but he did not realize this,
because he lives in ignorance. The mother’s power went out of Yaldabaoth and into the psychical body that
had been made to be like the one who is from the beginning.

The body moved and became powerful. And it was enlightened.

At once the rest of the powers became jealous. Although Adam had come into being through all of them,
and they had given their power to this human, Adam was more intelligent than the creators and the first
ruler. When they realized that Adam was enlightened, and could think more clearly than they, and was
stripped of evil, they took and threw Adam into the lowest part of the whole material realm.

The blessed, benevolent, merciful mother-father had compassion for the mother’s power that had been
removed from the first ruler. The rulers might be able to overpower the psychical, perceptible body once

again. So with its benevolent spirit and great mercy the mother-father sent a helper to Adam, an
enlightened afterthought who is from the mother-father and who was called life. She helped the whole
creature, laboring with it, restoring it to its fullness, teaching it about the descent of the seed, teaching it
about the way of ascent, which is the way of descent.

Enlightened afterthought was hidden within Adam so that the rulers might not recognize her, but that
afterthought might be able to restore what the mother lacked.


The human being Adam was revealed through the bright shadow within. And Adam’s ability to think was
greater than that of all the creators. When they looked up, they saw that Adam’s ability to think was
greater, and they devised a plan with the whole throng of rulers and angels. They took fire, earth, and
water, and combined them with the four fiery winds. They wrought them together and made a great

The rulers brought Adam into the shadow of death so that they might produce a figure again, from earth,
water, fire, and the spirit that comes from matter, that is, from the ignorance of darkness, and desire, and
their own false spirit. This is the cave for remodeling the body that these criminals put on the human, the
fetter of forgetfulness. Adam became a mortal being, the first to descend and the first to become

The enlightened afterthought within Adam, however, would rejuvenate Adam’s mind.

The rulers took Adam and put Adam in paradise. They said, Eat, meaning, do so in a …

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