INNER CIRCLE: Intro To The Gospel of Truth

INNER CIRCLE: Intro To The Gospel of Truth June 21, 2024

IMAGE: Keith Giles [MJ]
The Gospel of Truth, like the lost Gospel of Thomas, was one of several ancient texts that were suppressed by Irenaeus and other early Church Fathers, and only recently uncovered in 1945 as part of the Nag Hammadi find in Egypt.

In our ongoing weekly study of this Gospel of Truth, we will attempt to make sense of the text in light of the ideas of non-duality and oneness.

First, let’s take a look at the dating of the text.

According to scholars Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae, the dating of the Gospel of Truth was more than likely the very same Valentinian work entitled the “Gospel of Truth” attested to in the Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus.

As they report:

“…the heresiologist [Irenaeus] reveals little about the content of the work, except that it differed significantly from the canonical gospels. Given the general Valentinian affinities of the text of Codex I, it is quite possible that it is identical with the work known to Irenaeus. If so, a date of composition in the middle of the second century (between 140 and 180 C.E.) would be established. On the basis of literary and conceptual affinities between this text and the exiguous fragments of Valentinus, some scholars have suggested that the Gnostic teacher himself was the author. That remains a distinct possibility, although it cannot be definitively established.”    

While we cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Gospel of Truth was originally penned by Valentinus himself, the fact remains that many of the ideas contained within reflect ideas that correspond to other known Valentinian writings.

Not only this, but according to Dr. Elaine Pagels, the Gospel of Truth may actually have been written as a homily intended to correspond to ideas found in the Apostle Paul’s epistles.

As Dr. Pagels writes in her article, “How the Gospel of Truth Depicts Paul’s Secret Teaching: A Study in Second Century Reception History”:

“…The Gospel of Truth, dense with allusions to sources now in the New Testament, [and] most often explored for its resonances with Johannine literature, also offers significant evidence for second-century reception of Paul’s letters, while highlighting poetic images often overlooked.”

In her article, Pagels makes a strong case for a correlation between the language and literary structure of 1 Cor. 1-6 with the opening section of the Gospel of Truth and “…shows that the latter implicitly claims to reveal the secret and primordial “wisdom of God” that Paul declares he teaches only orally to initiates (1 Cor 2:6–7).”

So, even though Irenaeus rejected the Gospel of Truth because it “differed significantly from the canonical gospels,” the reality is that adhered quite significantly with the writings of the Apostle Paul.

The question that the author of the Gospel of Truth seems interested in answering is “What was God doing before the creation of the universe?”

As Pagels notes, “…certain second-century Jewish teachers [were] wary of questions about what God was doing before he created the world, [and] similarly tried to prohibit such speculation, forbidding Jewish exegetes to speak about ‘what happened before, or beyond, or above’ the world’s creation, insisting that people were never meant to know such mysteries, much less probe into them.”

Irenaeus, who also spoke out against “evil exegetes” agreed with the Jewish teachers on this point and “articulated his own objections in language that echoes that of Mishnah Hagiga”, but as Pagels notes, “…prohibitions have never stopped people from speculating.”

The Apostle Paul, however, did not necessarily agree with Irenaeus and those Jewish teachers. In both Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2, and 1 Corinthians 2:6-7, Paul tells us that Christ existed before the world was created and was, in fact, the “hidden mystery” of God who helped to create the universe itself.

The author of the Gospel of Truth picks up on this concept and endeavors to dig a little deeper into this hidden mystery of what was going on before the world began. As Pagels says, “to answer this question, [the Gospel of Truth] begins in primordial time, since, as Paul told the Corinthians, this is a mystery that “God foreordained before the aeons” [See 1 Cor 2:7]

As the Gospel of Truth tells us from the very beginning:

“The gospel of truth is joy to those who have received from the Father of truth the gift of knowing him by the power of the Logos, who has come from the fullness and who is in the thought and the mind of the Father; he it is who is called “the Savior,” since that is the name of the work which he must do for the redemption of those who have not known the Father.” [GoT 1:1-2]

The Gospel [Good News] of Truth is what brings us joy from the Father of Truth who has given us the gift of knowing [gnosko] God by the power of the Logos [or the Christ].

This same Gospel of Truth is “…the manifestation of hope, since that is the discovery of those who seek him.” [GoT 1:3]

So, what was going on before God created all things? The Logos [Christ] “who has come from the fullness” was with God and eager to make the Father known.

This desire and intention to make the Father known comes before “all things [began to search] “for the one from whom they came forth.” The solution existed before there was a need. God, in infinite love and wisdom, has prepared in advance to answer the cry of his creation for knowledge of “the incomprehensible, inconceivable one who is superior to every thought.” [GoT 2:1-2]

This ignorance of the Father was the source of intense fear in the hearts of the creation, as we read in the Gospel of Truth 2:3-4, “Ignorance of the Father brought about terror and fear, and terror became enveloped like a mist [or a dense a fog] so that no one was able to see. In this way, Transgression found strength and she fashioned materiality with emptiness.”

According to Dr. Pagles, these passages correspond well with the Apostle Paul’s assertion that we [and all things] are from God and Christ, even though not everyone is aware of this fact as he says in 1 Cor. 8:6-7, “But for us there is one Father, God, from whom are all things, and in whom we exist; and one lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we exist. . . . But the truth [gnosis] is not in everyone.”

So, the Gospel of Truth and Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians are in agreement so far.

But what else will we find as we lay these two texts side-by-side?

Let’s talk about that next week.


The newest book from Keith Giles, “The Quantum Sayings of Jesus: Decoding the Lost Gospel of Thomas” releases TODAY on Amazon. Order HERE>

Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” He hosts the Second Cup with Keith podcast, and co-hosts the Apostates Anonymous podcast, and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast.

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