Secret Gospel of James (Apocryphon of James)

This ancient lost Gospel text from the Nag Hammadi collection, also titled "Apocryphon of James" or "Secret Book of James" contains parts of Jesus' teachings not found in the four Gospels.


James has written: Peace be with you from Peace – love from Love – grace from Grace – faith from Faith – life from Holy Life.

1. Because you asked me to send you a confidential document describing what was revealed to me and Peter by the Master, I could not decline you nor speak directly to you. But I have written it in Hebrew text and am sending it to you – and you alone.

2. Yet since you are a preacher of the salvation of the prophets, strive diligently and be careful not to pass on this text to the multitudes, that which the Savior wished not to tell all of us, his twelve disciples. But blessed is one who is saved by his faith in this discussion.

3. Ten months ago I sent you another confidential scroll, which the Savior had revealed to me. You should regard this one to be revealed to me, James:

4. One time the twelve disciples were sitting together and recalling what the Savior had said to each one of them, whether confidentially or openly. They were recording this in writing. Then as I was writing onto my scroll, the Savior appeared – after he had left us – and we all gazed upon him.

5. After five hundred and fifty days following his rising from the dead body, we asked him, “Have you left and separated yourself from us?”

6. Then Jesus said, “No but I shall be going to the place from which I came. If you want to come with me, then come.”

7. Everyone answered, saying, “If you invite us, we will come.”

8. He said, “Truly I tell you, no one enters the sanctuary of the spiritual realm by my invitation, but rather because you are satisfied from within. Give me James and Peter, so that I might give them satisfaction.”

9. After calling these two, he took them aside and instructed the others to continue with what they were doing.

10. The Savior said, “You have received mercy … (7 lines missing)

11. “Do you not want to become satisfied? And is your heart drunk? Do you want to be sober? Therefore be humbled. Now when you are awake or asleep, remember that you have seen and spoken with the Servant of Humanity and you have heard from him.

12. “Woe to those who have seen the Servant of Humanity. Blessed are those who have not seen the man and who have not associated with him nor spoken with him, nor have heard from him. Yours is life! Understand that he healed you when you were sick so that you might regain your health.

13. “Woe to those who have recovered from their sickness, because they will again relapse into sickness. Blessed are those who haven’t been sick, or have known health before they were sick. Yours is the sanctuary of God. Thus I tell you, become satisfied and leave no place within you empty, because he who comes can trick you.

14. Then Peter replied, saying, “Look, three times you have told us, ‘Become satisfied’ – but we are satisfied.”

15. The Savior answered, saying, “The reason I have told you, ‘Become satisfied,’ is so you will not be empty. However, those who are empty cannot be saved. For contentment is good and emptiness is bad. Thus, just as it is good for you to be empty and on the other hand bad to be satisfied, so also shall one who is satisfied be empty and one who is empty is not as satisfied as the empty one who becomes satisfied. And one who becomes satisfied attains perfection.

16. “Thus you must be empty in order to become satisfied, and be satisfied in order to be empty, so that you can become increasingly satisfied. Therefore, become satisfied by the Spirit, but be empty of speculation. For speculation comes from the mind, and is of the nature of the mind.

17. I replied and said to him, “Master, we can obey you if it pleases you, for we have abandoned our fathers and mothers and villages to follow you. Grant to us, then, not to be tempted by the deceiver – the wicked one.”

18. The Master answered and said, “What will be your benefit if you do what pleases the Creator and this is not granted to you by Him when you are tempted by the evil one? But if you are oppressed by the evil one and persecuted, and you are doing God’s will, I tell you that He will love you and make you equal to me, and make sure that you will become dear by His mercy, according to the choice you made freely.

19. “Will you then not stop being lovers of the flesh and fearing bodily pain? Or do you not realize that you haven’t been mistreated nor been falsely accused. Nor have you been locked up in prison, nor been condemned illegally, nor have you been crucified without cause, nor have you been buried shamefully – as I myself was by the wicked? Do you dare to spare the flesh, which for you surrounds the spirit like a wall?

20. “If you consider the material world – how long it has been here before you and how long it will remain after you, you will discover that your life is a single day and your sufferings a single hour. Because holiness doesn’t enter the material world. Therefore scorn death and focus upon life. Remember my sacrifice and my death and you will live.”

21. Then I replied and said to him, “Master, don’t mention to us your sacrifice and death, for they are apart from you.”

22. The Master answered, saying, “Truly I tell you, none is saved without trusting my sacrifice. But those who have trusted my sacrifice, theirs is the sanctuary of God. Therefore become seekers of death, like the dead who seek life – because what they seek will be revealed to them. Then what is left to trouble them?

23. “As for you, when you investigate death, it will teach you about choice. Truly I tell you, no one who fears death will be saved – because the Sanctuary belongs to those who all themselves to die. Become greater than I – make yourselves like the servant of the Holy Spirit.”

24. Then I asked him, “Master, how will we be able to prophesy to those who request we give prophesy for them? Because people ask us, and look to us to hear a revelation from us.”

25. The Master answered, saying, “Do you not understand that the head of prophecy was removed with John?”

26. Then I replied, “Master, is it be possible to remove the head of prophecy?”

27. The Master replied to me, “When you realize what ‘head’ is, and that prophecy originates from the head, then the meaning of ‘its head was removed’ can be understood.

28. “In the beginning I taught you with analogies, and you didn’t understand. Now I speak openly and you don’t understand. Moreover, you provided me the analogy of analogies – making what is open apparent.

29. “Be eager to be saved without fanaticism. Instead, get yourself prepared and if you can, get there before me. Because of this, the Creator will love you.

30. “Detest hypocrisy and wicked speculation – for it is speculation that gives rise to hypocrisy. And hypocrisy is contrary to Truth.

31. “Don’t allow the sanctuary of the spiritual realm to become distant from you. For its is like a palm tree whose dates dropped around it. They sprouted and budded, but they withered.

32. “This will also happen with fruit produced from a single root. After being picked, it provided fruit to many. It was fruitful and available for cultivating new plants from it.

33. “Since I have already been glorified in this manner before, why do all of you hold on to me as I am wanting to go? You have compelled me to stay for eighteen more days because of the analogies. It was enough for some people to hear the teachings and understand ‘the shepherd;’ ‘the seed;’ ‘the building;’ ‘the lamps and virgins;’ ‘the worker's wage;’ the ‘the two drachma’ and ‘the woman.’

34. “Become diligent with regard to the teachings. Because the teachings’ initial requirement is trust. The second is love. The third is service. From these come life.

35. “For the teaching is compared to a grain of wheat. The one who planted it trusted in it. And once it sprouted, he loved it because he saw many grains come from the one. Then after his service, he was saved because he could use it for food while having some to plant.

36. “This is how you can receive the sanctuary of the spiritual realm: Unless you receive this through understanding, you won’t be able to discover it.

37. “Therefore I tell you, be sober. Don’t be deceived. Many times have I told you all together, as well as alone, James: ‘Become rescued.’ And I have instructed you to follow me and I have told you how to respond to the chiefs. Recognize that I have come down and taught, and I have suffered, and will receive my prize by saving you.

38. “For I came down to dwell with you so that you may come and dwell with me. And when I discovered that your dwellings had no roofs over them, I stayed in the places where I was received when I descended.

39. “Heed the teachings – embrace knowledge and love life. No one will persecute you, nor will any oppress you except for yourselves.

40. “Oh you fools! You losers! You destroyers of truth! You forgers of knowledge! You sinners against the Spirit! Do you now want to listen when you were inclined to speak from the start? Do you now want to sleep when you were inclined to be awake from the start? So that the sanctuary of the spiritual realm might receive you?

41. “Truly I tell you, if I were sent to those who hear me when I spoke to them, I would not have descended to the material world. Be humbled by these things.

42. “Look, I will be leaving you and will go away. I don’t want to be with you anymore, just as you yourselves have not wanted to. So now, follow me quickly. This is why I tell you, ‘For you benefit I descended.’ You are the beloved and you will be bringing life to many.

43. “Call upon the Creator. Seek God often. And He will give to you. Blessed is one who has seen you with Him as He was worshipped by the angels and glorified by the saints: Yours is life. Be joyful and happy, as servants of God. Keep His will, so that you may be saved. Accept my chastisement and save yourselves. I will intercede on your behalf with the Creator, and He will forgive you greatly.”

44. When we heard these things we became joyful, because we were dismayed by what we had said earlier. Yet when he saw us rejoicing, he said, “Woe to you who have no advocate. Woe to you who need mercy. Blessed are those who speak freely and have found mercy.

45. “Consider yourselves like foreigners: How are they judged by your village? Why would you not hesitate to remove yourselves on your own and leave your village? Why would you leave your home of your own volition and prepare it to be occupied for someone else? You outcasts and escapees! Woe to you, because you will be captured.

46. “Or perhaps you think that the Creator loves humankind? Or that He is persuaded by prayer? Or that He gives grace to someone on behalf of someone else? Or that He is burdened by one who seeks?

47. “For He knows desire, and also the needs of the flesh. Because it is not the flesh that desires the soul. Without the soul, the body doesn’t sin – just as the soul is not saved unless by the Spirit. But if the soul is saved from evil and saved by the Spirit, then the body becomes free of sin. Because it is the Spirit that animates the soul – but it is the body that kills it. Therefore, the soul kills itself.

48. “Truly I tell you, the Creator does not forgive the sin of the soul nor the guilt of the flesh by any means, for none who have worn the flesh will be saved. Do you think that many have found the sanctuary of the spiritual realm? Blessed is one who sees himself as fourth in the spiritual realm.”

49. When we heard these things we became discouraged. Then when he saw that we were discouraged, he said, “The is why I said this to you – so that you can understand yourselves. For the sanctuary of the spiritual realm is like a seed of grain that sprouted in the field. When it matured, it scattered its seed and in turn planted the field with seeds of grain for the next year. You should also be purposeful to reap for yourselves the seed of life, so that you may be filled with the Sanctuary.

50. “And as long as I am here with you, pay attention to me and obey me. And when I leave you, remember me. Remember me, for when I was with you, you didn’t understand me. Blessed will be those who have understood me – woe to those who have heard and not trusted. Blessed be those who have not seen, yet have trusted.

51. “And again I implore you: For I have explained to you the building of a dwelling of value to you, since you take shelter within it. Similarly, it will be able to support the houses of your neighbors when theirs is in danger of falling down.

52. “Truly I tell you, woe to those on whose behalf I was sent down to this place. Blessed are those who will ascend to the Creator. Again I implore you: You who have, pretend to be those who don’t have so that you may associate with those who don’t have.

53. “Don’t make the sanctuary of the spiritual realm a desert within you. Don’t be arrogant due to the light that shines. Rather, become for yourselves as I have been to you. For I allowed myself to be cursed so that you may be saved.”

54. Then Peter replied, saying, “Master, sometimes you urge us towards the sanctuary of the spiritual realm and other times you turn us away. Sometimes you implore us and encourage us to trust and you promise us life. Other times you turn us away from the sanctuary of the spiritual realm.”

55. Then the Master replied and said, “I have given you faith many times. Furthermore, I have revealed myself to you, James – and you have not understood me. Again, I now see you rejoicing repeatedly. When you are joyful about the promise of life, are you still distraught? Are you discouraged when you are taught about the Sanctuary?

56. “Yet through trust and wisdom you have received life. Therefore, avoid rejection when you hear it. But when you hear the promise, become more joyful. Truly I tell you, one who receives life and relies upon the Sanctuary will never leave it – not even if the Creator wants to banish him.

57. “I tell you these things for now. But now I will ascend to that place from which I came. Yet when I was eager to go, you have cast me out. And instead of accompanying me, you pursued me. But take notice of the splendor that awaits me. And open your heart and listen to the hymns that await me within the spiritual realm. Because today I will take hold of the right hand of the Creator.

58. “I have told these last teachings to you, and will leave you, for a spiritual chariot is picking me up. From now on I will become bare so that I can be clothed. But be careful: Blessed are those who have proclaimed the Representative before his descent – so that after I came, I might ascend. Triple blessed are those who were proclaimed by the Representative before they came into being, so that you might have a part with them.”

59. After saying these words, he left. Peter and I bent down to our knees and worshiped, and sent our hearts up to the spiritual realm. We heard with our ears and saw with our eyes the sounds of struggle and a trumpet sounding, and a great tumult.

60. Then after we left that place, we sent our minds further up and saw with our eyes and heard with our ears hymns and angelic praising and angelic rejoicing. And spiritual assemblies were glorifying, and we felt joyful.

61. Afterward, we also wanted to send our spirits above to the Majestic One. But when we ascended, we were not permitted to see or hear anything. Because the rest of the disciples summoned us and questioned us: “What is it that you heard from the Master?” “What did he say to you?” “Where did he go?”

62. Then we answered them: “He has ascended, and he gave us a commitment and promised us life and disclosed to us the devoted who will come after us, for he asked us to love them because we will be saved for their sake.”

63. When they heard this, they believed the revelation, but were upset about those to be born. But not wishing to create a controversy, I sent each of them elsewhere. But I myself went to Jerusalem and prayed that I might have a position among the beloved who will be revealed.

64. And I pray that the inception will come from you, because then I can be saved. Because they will be enlightened through me – by my faith and through another’s – whose is greater than mine. For mine is of the lessor.

65. Endeavor with diligence, then – to become like them, and pray that you may obtain a position with them. For outside of what I have described, the Savior did not reveal to us any revelation. For their benefit we affirm a part with those for whom it is proclaimed – those whom the LORD has made His servants.

Continue on to the Letter of Peter to Philip