(Nag Hammadi Codex I, 2:1.1—16.30)
Introduction: This collection of Jesus-tradition is part of the same library which contains The Coptic Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Philip. The document had no title, so scholars have given it its name, based on one of the main characters in the dialogue and upon the document’s use of the term secret book (an apocryphon, in Greek). As is the case with The Gospel of Philip and The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, this gospel contains virtually no narrative, and its sayings claim to be a secret, esoteric tradition, given by Jesus to select apostles. The Apocryphon of James contains some very ancient Jesus-traditions, traditions that can lay as persuasive a claim to antiquity as do those of the canonical gospels.1
(1.1) [James, writing] to [- - -] thos. Peace [to you (sing.) from] peace, [love from] love, (5) [grace from] grace, [faith] from faith, life from holy life!
Since you asked me to send (10) you a secret book which was revealed to Peter and me by the Lord, I could neither refuse you nor dissuade you; (15) so [I have written] it in Hebraic letters and have sent it to you—and to you alone. Nevertheless, you should do your best, as a minister of the salvation (20) of the saints, to take care not to disclose this book to many—this which the Savior did not wish [to] disclose to all of us, his (25) twelve disciples. Still, blessed are they who will be saved through the trustworthiness of this text.
Ten months ago I sent you (30) another secret book which the Savior revealed to me. However, that one you are to regard in this way, as revealed (35) to me, James. And this one (2.1) [ … revealed … ] those who […], therefore, and seek […] (5) so it is […] salvation […].
Now the twelve disciples [used to] sit all together at the [same time], (10) remembering what the Savior had said to each one of them, whether secretly or openly, and setting it down (15) in books. I was writing what went in [my book]—suddenly, the Savior appeared, [after] he had departed from [us, and while we were watching] for him. And so, five hundred (20) fifty days after he rose from the dead, we said to him, “You went away and left us!”
1. For more on this document and on the Nag Hammadi Library, see Ron Cameron, The
Other Gospels: Non-Canonical Gospels (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982); The Nag Hammadi
Library, James M. Robinson, gen. ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), rev. ed. Our
translation of The Apocryphon of James is through the courtesy of Ron Cameron.