The Lost Gospels

Good evening.  Tonight we’ll look at a phenomenon that’s caught the public eye recently:  Religious texts hidden for centuries. The Da Vinci code has been on the bestseller list for months. Last fall Time magazine published a picture of Jesus on the front cover with the question, “Early texts that never made it into the Bible are suddenly popular. What do they tell us about Christianity today?”  Lost Gospels.  All sorts of questions come to mind.  Who lost them?  Were they suppressed?  Are they better understandings of Christ’s message?  Has the Vatican kept a lid on writings they didn’t want the world to see?  Anyway, how can there be new gospels?  This Bible’s finished isn’t it? 

Yes, but.  There was a time before the Bible was declared finished, when there were competing versions jostling to be included in the canon. There were originally many alternative gospels, some purporting to be the words of Jesus, others the testimony of His disciples   The early Church Fathers, after much discussion and dialogue and testing of the spirit, chose the books that would become the New Testament that we know.  By the way, the word “canon” is from the Greek and translates as “yardstick.”  When the yardstick was applied, the true or orthodox New Testament was defined.  But many alternative gospels continued to circulate until formal Church councils declared them Heretic, not orthodox, not straight teaching.  Others were really just popular entertainment, first century best sellers.  Some survived.  Some are coming to our attention today.

These writings have unusual names like The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of Thomas, The Infancy Gospels, Thomas the Contender. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. The Manichean Psalms of Thomas, The Apocalypse of Thomas, The Gospel of Truth.  Ever hear of them?  I’ll talk about several this evening.

Let me briefly set the background.  Early Christianity did not develop in a smooth, regular path like a project on a pert chart.  How did Jesus describe it? The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man threw into his garden, and it grew into a great tree.  Anything that grows has struggles, twists, turns, false starts and convolutions.  Christianity is no different.  St. Paul uses the analogy of an olive tree to describe the kingdom of God. These Lost Gospels, in a sense, are part of the twists and turns and false starts of Christianity. And by the way, the tree of Christianity did not start with the earthly appearance of Jesus. That was “phase four.”

Phase four?  The first step in Christianity’s development was the promise given to Noah.  After the baptism of the Earth by flood, God promised Noah he would never again wipe out all animal life on Earth, and sealed that promise with a rainbow.  Then Noah made a burnt offering sacrifice of some surviving animals.  The second phase of the promised kingdom was the promise given to Abraham that his seed would be like the sands of the seashore, and all nations would be blessed by his seed.  That promise was confirmed with animal sacrifice.  Remember Abraham split animals in the field and GOD passed fire through them, as confirmation of his promise. And Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac foreshadowed a different kind of sacrifice

The third stage of Christianity’s development was the promise given through Moses to the whole Jewish people, that if they followed God’s Law they would enter His kingdom, and be a light to the nations.  This third promise was sealed by the continuing ritual sacrifices of animals in a structured Temple setting. The fourth stage? Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets, foretold the fourth stage of the promise, of a new covenant written on the heart and in the mind, not on stone or vellum.  This promise, the fourth, was of course sealed by the self-sacrifice of Jesus, God’s own son.  This promise brought the covenant to all of humanity, not just the Jewish people.  We are living under that promise and sacrifice today.

But the development of each stage was accompanied by much initial misinterpretation and disagreement.  Noah’s irreverent sons, Abraham’s contentious sons, Moses and the grumbling, quarrelsome people of the Exodus.  And in like manner, the fourth stage. Jesus’s struggling disciples and later followers needed time to work through and perfect their understanding of Jesus’s meaning and message.

These Lost Gospels are recorded written records of the intellectual struggles to understand and interpret Jesus’ mission, his life and teaching. Some of these records survive and illustrate what are today called “heresies” – non-orthodox or “unofficial” interpretations. The Lost Gospels for the most part are an explicit set of writings that spell out what the “heretics” were reading and passing around.

Even today we have many versions of Christianity: Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Presbyterian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Christian Scientist, Mormons to name just a few.  If even now we have so many interpretations, think how much more schismatic was the first and second century church, with its gaggle of Jews and Greeks, Romans and Scythians, barbarians and slaves – all believers and all struggling to understand the new promise and its meaning for them.  We get a glimpse of this cacophony through what are called The Lost Gospels.

I‘ll describe some of these lost gospels, the sects that grew around each, whether they were suppressed or were just set to the side, and how some of these philosophies, cults, live on in today’s practices of religion.

I’ll start with a fun one, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas.  This gospel is not strictly lost, but it is sensational.  Everybody wanted to know what was Jesus like as a boy.  Was he like Superboy endowed with unimaginable powers?  Or was he just an ordinary Jewish boy until power came to him at his Bar Mitzvah?  Well, the answers are given to us in a book that circulated for centuries.  This “gospel” should not be thought of as authoritative in any sense.  It is more of a popular entertainment written to satisfy the public’s curiosity.  Sort of like People magazine, or Entertainment Tonight.  Here are a few of the stories.

One story: he was going through the village again and a running child bumped his shoulder. Becoming bitter, Jesus said to him, "You will not complete your journey."  Immediately, he fell down and died.  Then, some of the people who had seen what had happened said, "Where has this child come from so that his every word is a completed deed?"  And going to Joseph, the parents of the one who had died found fault with him.

When they saw what he had done, they were extremely afraid and did not know what to do. And they talked about him, saying, "Every word he speaks, good or evil, is an event and becomes a miracle."  When Joseph saw that Jesus had done this, however, he was outraged and took his ear and pulled it extremely hard.  Then, the child became angry and said to him, "It is enough for you to seek and not find, but too much for you to act so unwisely.  Do you not know that I am not yours? Do not trouble me."

This kid sounds like quite a handful.  The story goes on to tell that a wise teacher named Zacchaeus tried to take this young Jesus in hand.  Joseph is reported to have warned him, "Nobody except God can subordinate this child. Do not consider him to be a small cross, brother."  Well, Zacchaeus was bested by his young student, completely routed.  The Infancy Gospel goes on to say, “when the young child ceased speaking, immediately all they were made whole which had come under his curse. no man after that dared provoke him, lest he should curse him and maim him.”  I guess there’s a lesson there.

This Infancy Gospel has many such stories, but also some that are more like the Jesus we know.  Here’s one:  a certain young man was cleaving wood in the neighborhood, and the axe fell and cut his foot badly, and losing much blood he was at the point of death.  There was a tumult and the young child Jesus ran there, and forced his way through the multitude, and took hold of the foot of the young man that was cut, and straightway it was healed.  He said to the young man: Arise now and chop the wood and remember me.  But when the multitude saw what was done they worshipped the young child, saying: Truly the spirit of God dwells in this young child.

Well, it’s easy to see why an infancy gospel like this got around the early Christian world; it’s a great read.  But most of us would accept that it’s neither history nor religion.  The Infancy Gospel of Thomas didn’t make it into our Bible.  And it’s a juicy example of a whole group of writings that were pop entertainment in the first Christian centuries.

Next let me look next at another category of writings, those that came out of specific early-Christian sects.  One of the oldest, the Ebionites, emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus.  Their view was Jesus was an ordinary Jewish man at first.  Through his perfect keeping of Moses’ Law, GOD adopted him and anointed him as his own son.  Thus, to the Ebionites, the scrupulous keeping of the Law of Moses became the essential feature of their version of Christianity.  Out of the Ebionite community came writings such as “The Circuits of Peter" and “The Ascent of James.” Their basic gospel we know only as “The Gospel of the Ebionites;” we don’t actually know its original title. 

The Ebionite gospel is based on Matthew, but also contains some portions of Mark and Luke. Matthew, as you remember, is the gospel aimed specifically at the Jewish people.  They called themselves “Ebionites”  - which in Aramaic means “the poor ones” – a reference to Jesus Beatitude in Matthew, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The best guess is this Ebionite gospel was written in the mid second century. These Ebionites rejected all of Paul’s writings and followed both John the Baptist and Jesus.  By the way, in their view, both John and Jesus were vegetarians.  This led them to reject non-Jewish Christians, to hold to scrupulous observance of dietary laws and so on.  The Ebionite attitude was the one Paul railed against in his letters to the Galatians, in particular.  “What has bewitched you, you foolish Galatians?”  And Paul had the support of other early leaders including Peter and James.  Later Church councils agreed with Paul and the super-scrupulous Ebionite writings were declared not-orthodox by the Councils of Ephesus in 431 and Chalcedon in 451.  But we see the influence of the Ebionites today in the Jews for Jesus movement.

At the other extreme was Marcion, who utterly rejected anything Jewish about Jesus.  His view was there was not one God, but two.  The God of the Jewish Scriptures, Marcion claimed, was a bitter, angry god, never satisfied, vengeful.  Jesus, he claimed was a much better and more fitting God.  Gentle, nice, loving everyone – except maybe the Jews.  Marcion rejected the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament.  Prophets, and Psalms and all.  He tried to completely replace the Old Testament with the New Testament only – and his rewritten version at that. I suspect Marcion edited out as much Jewishness from Matthew, Mark and Luke as he could.  Marcion was a colorful type.  He tried to buy his way into being a Bishop in Italy, and made a huge contribution to the Christian Church at Rome.  But as soon as the church fathers read his “gospel”, they gave his money back and booted him out of the church.  But even today we find echoes of Marcionism.  The Manicheans, a form of Gnosticism which we’ll discuss in a moment, took a cue from Marcion, and put forward a two-God view; Good God, Bad God.  We find traces of this view in certain pagan cults.  We see echoes of Marcionism in the goody-goody desire for a good news only Jesus

Let me make a brief detour here.  Early Christian writings turn up all over the place, anywhere a new archeological site is discovered.  Some of these finds make big news.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were a collection of writings from a Jewish community and included manuscripts of the Old Testament, as well as many documents documenting the rules and daily life of the community at Qumran in Israel.  Then in 1945 a major find of 1100 pages of ancient papyrus manuscripts was discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.  Basically an entire library from the 4th Century was discovered.  The manuscripts included The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Truth.  Many of these writings came from the Gnostic movement of an early Christian monastery founded in Nag Hammadi in 320 AD. 

There are six major categories of writings found in Nag Hammadi.  There are many writings within each category, but I’ll just give you a sense of the groupings just now. [I’ve attached an Appendix for names of texts within each category.]The groups are:

1. Gnostic mythology, including alternative versions of creation and salvation:

2.  Observations and commentaries on Gnostic themes, such as the nature of reality, the nature of the soul, and the relationship of the soul to the world

3. Liturgical and initiatory texts relating to this early Gnostic-Christian community.

4.  Writings dealing primarily with the feminine deity particularly with the Divine Sophia

5. Writings pertaining to the lives and experiences of some of the apostles.

6. Manuscripts which contain sayings of Jesus as well as descriptions of incidents in His life:

That last category is a big one.  Collections of sayings were a standard literary form in the early Christian eras.  Besides, this Jesus and his movement was news.  So many of these collections were made to help spread the word of this new Jesus movement.  Broadly they functioned as biographical reports or news reports, “What did he say during that speech up on the mountain?  Well I talked to a guy who was there …” But of course, as human communication, interpretation specific to a particular group crept into these collections, plus the usual mutations that come from the “telephone” game of copying and re-copying the texts.  In this category is the mysterious and still lost Q Gospel – the one the scholars theorize was a source for the gospels we know today. It's believed to have been one of the earliest collections of Jesus’ sayings. Most of these "sayings" were rejected by the Pauline Christians long before even the first Synod of Laodicea in 363, and others, such as the Gospel of Thomas, never even made it into mainstream consideration.  

When you think about it, the New Testament canon was not finally established until just a few hundred years ago. Everything was floating around until the Council of Trent in 1546 where the 27 books of the New Testament were finally agreed on.  The vote, by the way, was 24 to 15 with 16 abstentions.  That was of course Roman Catholic, but the Protestant denominations also agreed.  And that is our New Testament today. At least in the West.  The five or six Eastern churches each still include different books, and John's Revelation is still not included in the Greek Orthodox Bible.

Now let’s take a particular look at the Gnostic Gospels which have been getting a lot of attention recently including several best-sellers by prominent scholars.  Gnostic is a broad term, which means, “knowing.” The idea here is that the deep truths of the Bible are hidden from ordinary view.  These truths can only be accessed by individuals with secret knowledge.  This knowledge is achieved through initiation into the secrets by those already in the know.  We see echoes of Gnosticism in today’s Sophia, Wiccan and Pagan movements.  And in the Da Vinci Code.  As Ecclesiastes teaches, there is nothing new under the sun.

One branch of Gnosticism is The Sophia, or female wisdom tradition which has deep roots and many early writings.  There is the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and another, The Sophia of Christ.  Here the feminine aspect of GOD is emphasized and explained in a setting with the disciples and seven women, including Mary.  Mary of Magdala has a unique role in many of these early writings.  She is seen as an apostle in her own right, and a teacher of great wisdom.  Here is a sample from the Sophia of Christ:

The Holy One said: "I want you to know that First Man is called 'Begetter, Self-perfected Mind'.  He reflected with Great Sophia, his consort, and revealed his first-begotten, androgynous son.  His male name is designated 'First Begetter, Son of God', his female name, 'First Begettress Sophia, Mother of the Universe'. Some call her 'Love'

Mary said to him: "Holy Lord, where did your disciples come from, and where are they going, and (what) should they do here?"

The Perfect Savior said to them: "I want you to know that Sophia, the Mother of the Universe and the consort, desired by herself to bring these to existence without her male  (consort)… the "Son of Man consented with Sophia, his consort, and revealed a great androgynous light. His male name is designated 'Savior, Begetter of All Things'.  His female name is designated 'All-Begettress Sophia'. Some call her 'Pistis'.

Today, this feminine Sophia/Wisdom track pops up in some Christian denominations and underlies the Wicccan movement and others.  In the meanwhile, the Gnostic wisdom view has morphed into a reliance on personal human development -- often to the exclusion of both God and Church.

The classic Gnostic emphasis on the personal search for hidden knowledge often led to an elitist in-crowd of initiates.  This elitist tendency seems hardly in keeping with Jesus’ concern for the ordinary, humble person.  Jesus’s admonition that the kingdom of god is hidden from the wise and revealed to the simple hearted just doesn’t square with a Gnostic view.  In addition another aspect of Gnosticism that is jarring to us today is that it requires more than one God – either a good god and a wrathful god, or an inferior god and a superior god.  Just like The Matrix movies, reality is hidden from our eyes by an inferior or evil god.  It is only by acquiring the GNOSIS or inside information about all this that we are freed to see and enjoy reality as it is.  The Kingdom of God is all around us, all we have to do is open our eyes and look.

These Gnostic teachings were declared non-orthodox by church councils in Nicea in 325 and Chalcedon in 451.  Other Gnostic writings include much fable and invention.  But even though the Church officially rejected Gnosticism, we also hear some truth in the Gnostic emphasis on a personal search for greater knowledge of God.  We see many traces of Gnostiscism surviving today in both Jewish and Christian tradition.  The Christian wisdom fathers of the desert – the monastics, and the mystics, while never the core of Church, were fully accepted as teachers and   members of the Church family.  And speaking in tongues, recognized as a charism especially within the Pentecostal churches, would have been totally familiar to an early Gnostic. 

The Jews have their own version of Gnosticism.  It is called Kabbala.  Madonna, not the real one, Demi Moore, and others in the Hollywood circle have recently discovered Kabbala studies.  Kabbala – which literally means “arcane, or hidden” is of two basic types.  The first is esoteric study of the hidden meanings of Hebrew letters and numbers and their groupings, as a code hidden in the Torah, sort of religious numerology.  This tradition has produced some fine cryptologists and computer programmers. 

The other type of Kabbala study is more conventional and familiar to us. It is probing the hidden meanings of scripture through keen Bible study.  Millennia of advanced Jewish bible studies have been preserved and codified for ongoing study today.  This is often done through books that purport to be sayings of famous old rabbis revered and honored for their insight.  Thus, a typical Kabbala Bible study might begin with a Bible verse, then have a story that starts, “Rabbi Jose was walking on the road to Safed one day accompanied by two students.  On expounding this verse, one student asked rabbi Jose what this meant, since it seemed to contradict something rabbi Meyer taught…”  Doesn’t this sound a little like, “A rabbi, a priest and a minister went into a bar …”

Actually this is a very traditional Jewish form of teaching.  While it references historic figures, no one really takes it to mean that these figures actually had that conversation.  It is just a pedagogical technique.  A number of the “lost gospels,” which purport to be written by Matthew or Judas Didymus, or to be sayings of Jesus himself, are influenced by this tradition.  Use of this format would hardly be surprising, since the leadership of the early Christian church was heavily Jewish.  What happens, is that this teaching technique of imagining a conversation gets taken as literal fact … so-and-so actually had a revelation or vision and wrote it down.  When actually it was simply so-and-so doing his best to write a training manual for his congregation and used the current teaching techniques, the “best practices” if you will. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at another lost gospel.  The Apocalypse of Peter.  The Apocalypse of Peter was supplanted by John’s apocalypse, which we know today as Revelation, in the 4th Century.  The Church decided against Peter’s Apocalypse for several reasons.  In general, it was seen as cobbled together, without a coherent style or point of view.  John’s apocalypse, in contrast, was more elegantly written and holistic, if you will.  Peter’s apocalypse has some notable images, however.  Peter speaks of specific Hells, where you are tormented by that by which you sinned.  Blasphemers were hung by their tongues, liars hung by their lips, adulterers – well, you get the picture.  More though. Jesus, after the crucifixion, asks God to take them all out of Hell.  And God does, for Christ’s sake.  This was an upsetting thought to the church authorities.  While they did not disagree that all will get out of Hell, they did not want the people to know this.  They were afraid that if people thought hell was temporary, they would all happily go on sinning.  This may be the source of the rumor that ALL the lost gospels are suppressed by the church.  At any rate, John’s Revelation prevailed and became part of the New Testament, while the Apocalypse of Peter remains an interesting story on the fringe.

Another lost gospel that’s getting a lot of current attention is The Gospel of Thomas.  This is another one of the writings uncovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945.  Followers of this Gospel are called Thomasines.  First, who was Thomas – was it doubting Thomas?  Yes.  But his name was not really Thomas.  This disciple was really named Judas, a common Jewish name, but he was known as Judas the Twin.  In Aramaic the word twin is thoumo. And Twin in Greek is Didymos.  So, this disciple became known as Thomas Didymos.  And then folks made a leap and decided that Thomas the Twin had to be Jesus’ twin.  Quite a leap … of imagination.

The Thomasines are very much a current phenomenon.  Elaine Pagels, a scholar at Princeton, claims comfort from the Gospel of Thomas.  Pagel’s current book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, sets out her conversion from an orthodox Protestant Evangelical upbringing, to almost a Gnostic view.  Let’s look at a few verses of the 114 sayings that make up the Gospel of Thomas:

These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.

(1) And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death."

 (3) Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."

(4) Jesus said, "The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same."

90) Jesus said, "Come unto me, for my yoke is easy and my lordship is mild, and you will find repose for yourselves."

(94) Jesus said, "He who seeks will find, and he who knocks will be let in."

Sounds familiar, but with a twist.  The twist is that self-knowledge will lead to revelation of the kingdom.  Wisdom is the key.  Jesus is seen as a superb teacher who pointed the way to knowledge.  Pagel’s title, Beyond Belief, speaks volumes about this view.  According to this view it is not necessary to believe in the miracles of Jesus’ birth and life or even resurrection. Wisdom is all that is necessary.  Pagels, in the aftermath of some personal tragedies, finds in Thomas, relief from uncomfortable theological tenets. She finds hope in the personal quest for divine knowledge, and comfort in her community of fellow seekers.

But I see something disturbing in this.  The new Gnosticism breeds a movement recently described by David Brooks in the New York Times as “Heaven Lite.”  “Heaven Lite” is a religion all about ME ME ME.  Modern Gnosticism is a religion of self-knowledge.  Heaven as an excellent therapy session.  God, if he exists, is a genial Dr. Phil.  God and his glory are not the center of attention; it’s all about you and feeling good about yourself.  Christopher Lasch in, “The Culture of Narcissism” called the therapeutic mentality an anti-religion that tries to liberate people from the idea that they should submit to a higher authority; they are free to focus more obsessively on their own emotional needs.

This also takes form in the view of some that it is not necessary to believe  in both the Crucifixion AND the Resurrection. It is enough to believe in Jesus’ death, his teaching as a great prophet and moralist. Belief in the miraculous and inexplicable Resurrection, these modern Gnostics believe, is unnecessary. Sound familiar? Religion Lite.

Now, Gnosticism is a pretty broad label.  It contains some obvious heresies – two gods, esoteric knowledge is necessary for salvation, Etc.  But the Gnostic writings also emphasize some truth. The truth that the pursuit of wisdom is helpful.  This truth is stated all through our New Testament.  There is a balance between belief and wisdom that’s very important for our mature understanding of our Christian belief.  Classic Gnosticism diminished the importance or even the occurrence of miracles such as resurrection.  Wisdom was all important.  Pursuing the secret knowledge of the Kingdom of God was the classical Gnostic key to salvation.  In reaction, the church seems to have focused on faith.  Faith of course is critical, and without faith, wisdom is meaningless.  You cannot perceive God’s Kingdom by logical and sensory processes.  You need to be open to it by faith, then grace is granted you to experience it. 

However, my personal view is the churches are somewhat wrong-headed in diminishing the wisdom aspects of Jesus’ teachings. I think it is over-compensation. I believe in the physicality of Jesus’ Resurrection and the miracles. Why? Because my God is able to do these things.  On the other hand, I also believe God wants us to seek him constantly, and in seeking him to allow him to transform us into something else.  To transform us into his son’s and daughters even in this life, and more so in the life to come.  But I can be firmly rooted in both – Belief AND Knowledge.  As thanksgiving for our salvation, Paul teaches us in Romans, to worship by MIND AND HEART,… be TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MINDS.  Is Paul a Gnostic?  Certainly not, but Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, emphasizes faith first, then knowledge – as much as is given you to know.  Both the heart – faith, and the mind – wisdom.  Seems to me a good balance.  So I find the all-or-nothing reactions to the Gnostic writings and other lost gospels disturbing.

In Conclusion:

So what do we make of all of these lost writings?  The collections of sayings?  The Gnostic gospels?  The sermons and teaching materials?

Well, we certainly learn that the early Christian era was just like ours in many ways.  People wanted to hear more about the personalities in the news, people wanted to read juicy best sellers, teachers wanted decent textbooks to help them instruct their religious students, other teachers wrote competing interpretations of current events … probably trying to publish for tenure.  But as we look at these writings with a spiritual curiosity, we need to evaluate them as we would a new internet site:  is this newly discovered manuscript consistent with what we know, or does it lead to contradictions?  Is it coherent – in style and content -- within itself?  Is it supported by reasonable research and documentation?  Is it helpful teaching from a new perspective or does it purport to replace the teachings we’re familiar with?  Is it just a great beach read, or serious thought-provoking?  Is it truly spirit-filled?

New interpretations often bring freshness to our own belief, or lead us to appreciate new perspectives or learning that we’d overlooked before.  Our personal process should mimic that of the church:  evaluating consistency across all known teachings, consensus among those with scholarly or spiritual experience, and, always, discernment.  The “Lost Gospels” found and studied can add to our Christianity and understanding; they sure   won’t supplant it.

And now let’s open it up to any questions or issues that interest you…


Overview of Nag Hammadi texts taken from the Internet

When analyzed according to subject matter, there are six separate major categories of writings collected in the Nag Hammadi codices:

 Writings of creative and redemptive mythology, including Gnostic  alternative versions of creation and salvation: The  Apocryphon of John; The Hypostasis of the Archons; On the Origin of the World; The Apocalypse of  Adam; The Paraphrase of Shem.  (For an in-depth discussion of these, see the  Archive commentary on Genesis and Gnosis.)

Observations and commentaries on diverse Gnostic themes,  such as the nature of reality, the nature of the soul, the relationship of the soul to the  world: The Gospel of Truth; The Treatise on the  Resurrection; The Tripartite Tractate; Eugnostos the Blessed; The Second Treatise of the Great Seth; The  Teachings of Silvanus; The Testimony of Truth.

 Liturgical and initiatory texts: The Discourse  on the Eighth and Ninth; The Prayer of Thanksgiving; A Valentinian Exposition; The Three Steles of  Seth; The Prayer of the Apostle Paul

 Writings dealing primarily with the feminine deific and spiritual  principle, particularly with the Divine Sophia: The Thunder,  Perfect Mind; The Thought of Norea; The  Sophia of Jesus Christ; The Exegesis on the Soul.

 Writings pertaining to the lives and experiences of some of the apostles:  The Apocalypse of Peter; The Letter of  Peter to Philip; The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles; The (First) Apocalypse of James; The (Second)  Apocalypse of James, The Apocalypse of Paul.

 Scriptures which contain sayings of Jesus as well as descriptions of incidents  in His life: The Dialogue of the Saviour; The Book of Thomas  the Contender; The Apocryphon of James; The  Gospel of Philip; The Gospel of Thomas.