The Secret Book of James occupies the first 16 pages of Nag Hammadi Codex I. It is a letter sent from ‘James’ to an unknown addressee, containing an account of a secret revelation the Saviour gave to the disciples James and Peter. The letter is written in Hebrew, and asks his addressee not to share this writing with many; even the Saviour did not want to deliver this message to the twelve disciples, but only to two of them.
James holds the addressee in high regards as he refers to him as ‘a minister of the salvation of the saints’ – to convey the contents to elect believers with faith received through this discourse (logos) conferring salvation upon them.
The events depicted happen 550 days after the Saviour’s resurrection, at a time when the twelve disciples, all sitting together, are writing down in books what they remember of the words Christ told to each of them during his earthly life.
The Saviour draws James and Peter apart from the other disciples and says, “You have been favoured through the Father to receive my sayings. The other disciples have also written my sayings in their books as if they have understood, but be careful. They have done their work without really understanding. They have listened like foolish people, and… they have not understood.”
The aim is for them to be ‘filled’, a gnostic term associated with reaching the pleroma/fullness, through his revelation.
The Saviour’s teachings are expressed through a series of opposing gnostic metaphors: drunkenness and sobriety, waking and sleeping, being healed and being sick, emptiness and fullness. The Saviour uses sayings, parables, and prophecies, some of which are cryptic or veiled:
“First I spoke with you in parables, and you did not understand. Now I am speaking with you openly, and you do not grasp it. Nevertheless, you were a parable among parables and a disclosure among things revealed.”
James is receptive to the revelation, asking questions, but Peter is confused:-
“Sometimes you urge us on toward heaven’s kingdom, but at other times you turn us away, master. Sometimes you encourage us, draw us toward faith, and promise us life, but at other times you drive us away from heaven’s kingdom.”
The two figures represent opposing symbols of the Gnostic community and the emerging orthodox church; members of the gnostic community have no need of an intermediary (bishop/priest etc) to obtain salvation, while members of the orthodox church are obliged to follow the church dogma and doctrine in order to be saved.
Before the Saviour leaves he says,
“Be attentive to the glory that awaits me, and when you have opened your hearts, listen to the hymns that await me up in heaven. Today I must take my place at the right hand of the Father…I shall depart from you, for a chariot of spirit* has carried me up, and from now on I shall strip myself that I may clothe myself.”
(*The ‘chariot of spirit’ is also known as the Merkaba, a counter-rotating field of light surrounding our bodies for approximately 55-60’. It affects spirit and body simultaneously and can be used as an interdimensional vehicle. The Merkaba contains all your knowledge and wisdom and can transport your spirit anywhere. It requires activation, but this only needs to be done once. For more information see Drunvalo Melchizedek’s work – he explains the process clearly and concisely.)
James and Peter kneel down to give thanks and open their hearts to heaven. After seeing and hearing angelic trumpets and a great deal of turmoil, the two disciples reach a higher place, where they can hear angels praising, rejoicing and singing hymns. Going further, James and Peter approach the Majesty – the highest God – but they are allowed to hear and see no more.
The other disciples are keen to hear what the revelation was and James answers:- “He ascended. He gave us his right hand, and promised all of us life. He showed us children coming after us and commanded us to love them, since we are to be saved for their sakes.”
The disciples believe the revelation but are angry about those to be born. James diffuses the situation by sending them out to different places to preach the word whilst James returns to Jerusalem to “share with loved ones who are to appear.” These are future believers, like readers of the Secret Book of James.
The letter concludes with James saying,
“I pray that the beginning may come from you. This is how I can be saved. They will be enlightened through me, by my faith, and through another’s that is better than mine. I wish mine to be the lesser.”
Scholars believe the Secret Book of James was written in a small Egyptian community, probably Alexandria, in the second century.
Next blog: The Gospel of Truth (Codex I) – one of the most poetic and well written texts from the Nag Hammadi Library.
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