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The Gospel of Truth

A moving expression of Gnostic joy in experiencing enlightenment, the “Gospel of Truth” is one of the real treasures of the Nag Hammadi Library (see p. 19). The book is not a Gospel in the traditional sense—there is no account of the life or teachings of Jesus here. It is called a Gospel because it presents the “good news” of God’s gracious revelation of saving knowl­ edge, gnosis, which comes through Jesus Christ. Some scholars believe that it was originally a sermon preached to a Gnostic, or possibly a more broadly Christian, congregation; many are convinced that it was authored by the most famous Gnostic Christian of the second century, Valentinus himself. The Gospel of Truth presupposes important aspects of Gnostic myth, but it does not explicate them; there are only scattered hints about how the divine realm, the material world, and human beings came into existence. Instead, the book focuses on the truth that brings redemption to an an­ guished humanity languishing in darkness and ignorance, and especially on the one who brought this revealed truth, Jesus Christ, the Word who comes forth from the Father as his Son. Through Christ’s revelation, the fog of error has been dissipated and the illusions of falsehood have been exposed, opening those who receive the truth to understand who they are, allowing them to be reunited with the incomprehensible and inconceivable Father of all. Whether or not the work actually came from the pen of Valentinus, it was known to the church father and heresy-hunter Irenaeus, and so must have been written sometime before 180 ce.

The gospel of truth is joy for those who have received from the Father of truth the grace of knowing him, through the power of the Word that came forth from the

pleroma, the one who is in the thought and the mind of the Father, that is, the one who is addressed as the Savior, (that) being the name of the work he is to

Translation by Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae, in Harold W. Attridge, Nag Hammadi Codex 1 (The Jung Codex) (Nag Hammadi Studies, 22) (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1985) 82–117; used with permission.


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