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The First Thought in Three Forms

Discovered at Nag Hammadi (see p. 19), the “First Thought in Three Forms” (sometimes called the “Trimorphic Protennoia”) contains a series of three mystical discourses on the world, humans, and salvation through knowledge, placed on the lips of a female aeon (� divine being). Comparable in many ways to the Secret Book of John, the discourses contain several of the key elements of the Gnostic myth. Particularly emphasized are the revelations of divine knowledge from on high, culminating in the incarnation of the Word (cf. John 1:1–18). The “First Thought” (� Protennoia), is the first emanation from the one true inscrutable God. She begins her discourse by revealing her own mysterious greatness, which is so great that it cannot even be spoken of. She then describes the three descents that she made from the heavenly realm in order to bring humans the heavenly knowledge that can illuminate their souls, delivering them from darkness into light. Each of these descents is associated with one of her three forms, since she is the Thought of the Father (or Voice), the Mother (or Sound), and the Son (or Word, i.e., the Logos). It is her final descent in the appearance of human flesh that brings the ultimate illumination to those who dwell in ignorance and darkness, leading to their ascent into the world of Light. It is difficult to date this work, but many scholars think it was written around 200 ce.

[I] am [Protennoia, the] Thought that [dwells] in [the Light. I] am the movement that dwells in the [All, she in whom the] All takes its stand, [the first]-born

among those who [came to be, she who exists] before the All. [She (Protennoia) is called] by three names, although she dwells alone, [since she is perfect]. I

Translation by John D. Turner, in James Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 3rd ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988) 13–22; used with permission.


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