The Dialogue of the Saviour is the fifth and last tractate of codex III. Originally composed in Greek, the only existing copy is in Coptic (Ancient Egyptian) and is badly damaged. In its present form it is a compilation of four or five different sources, but the main content of the Dialogue of the Saviour is a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, in a similar style to the Gospel of Thomas.
The text starts with a monologue the Saviour delivers to his disciples about the theme of rest and the time of salvation. The Saviour tells them,
“Now the time has come, brothers and sisters, for us to leave our labour behind and stand at rest.” He adds,
“For whoever stands at rest will rest forever.”
These words imply salvation has already come – a common theme in Gnostic texts. The Saviour also notes that he too has already come and opened the path for those who are ‘chosen and alone’. (cf Gospel of Thomas 49).
Conversely, the second part of the monologue refers to salvation yet to come at a future time, and the soul must still go through the archons’ dreadful places after ‘death’ so as to attain the realm of truth. Gnostics believe the archons, guardians of the spheres, try to detain the soul in its ascent. The Saviour implores the souls to neither fear the cosmic powers nor linger as they pass by.
The actual dialogue of the Dialogue of the Saviour begins with the Saviour addressing his disciples, although only three of them are named; Judas, Mary (Magdalene) and Matthew, with Judas and Mary being the most praised in Gnostic literature. Judas asks the most questions (16), Mary 13, Matthew 11 and at other times the disciples as a whole (5 times).
But Mary Magdalene receives the highest accolade of all from Jesus:-
“Mary said, ‘So, the wickedness of each day is sufficient. Workers deserve their food. Disciples resemble their teachers.’
She spoke this utterance as a woman who understood everything.”
Some traditional sayings of Jesus are included in the Dialogue of the Saviour, together with frequent reminders of the Gospel of Thomas. For instance, “And I say to you, let one who has power renounce it and repent, and let one who knows seek and find and rejoice.” (128,23-129,19).
In fact, there are 14 sayings which are similar to those in the Gospel of Thomas, which is unsurprising if they are penned by the same person.
The following question from Judas refers to ‘the way’ reminiscent of the Gospel of John:-
“Judas asked, ‘Tell me, master, what is the beginning of the way?’
He said, ‘Love and goodness. If one of these had existed among the rulers (archons), wickedness would never have come to be.’”
The gospel concludes with this message from Jesus:-
“Work hard to rid yourselves of anger and jealousy, and strip yourselves of your works, and do not… (around twelve lines missing) reproach,… for I say to you,…one who has sought having found true life. This person will attain rest and live forever. I say to you, watch yourselves, so that you may not lead your spirits and your souls into error.”
The Dialogue of the Saviour makes no reference as to either the time the dialogue took place (before or after the Saviour’s resurrection) or where, but scholars are agreed that it must have been written in the 1st century as there are references to the Gospel of John.
This concludes my extracts from codices II, III and IV from the Nag Hammadi Library. If you would like to read them in full, they are available online at www.gnosis.org
Of the 11 tractates, I have written blogs on the ones that appear in Mary Magdalene’s Final Legacy; The Secret Book of John, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip and The Dialogue of the Saviour from codices II, III and IV of The Nag Hammadi Library.
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