The Apocryphon of James
Translated by Ron Cameron
James writes to you. Peace be with you from Peace, love from
Love, grace from Grace, faith from Faith, life from Holy Life!
Since you asked me to send you a secret book which was revealed
to me and Peter by the Lord, I could neither refuse you nor speak directly
to you, but I have written it in Hebrew letters and have sent it to you
- and to you alone. But inasmuch as you are a minister of the salvation
of the saints, endeavor earnestly and take care not to recount this book
to many - this which the Savior did not desire to recount to all of us,
his twelve disciples. But blessed are those who will be saved through faith
in this discourse.
Now I sent you ten months ago another secret book with the
Savior revealed to me. But that one you are to regard in this manner, as
revealed to me, James.
Now the twelve disciples were sitting all together at the same
time, and, remembering what the Savior had said to each one of them, whether
secretly or openly, they were setting it down in books. And I was writing
what was in my book - lo, the Savior appeared, after he had departed from
us while we gazed at him. And five hundred and fifty days after he arose
from the dead, we said to him: "Have you gone and departed from us?"
And Jesus said: "No, but I shall go to the place from which
I have come. If you desire to come with me, come."
They all answered and said: "If you bid us, we'll come."
He said: "Truly I say to you, no one ever will enter the Kingdom of
Heaven if I bid him, but rather because you yourselves are full. Let me
have James and Peter, in order that I may fill them." And when he called
these two, he took them aside, and commanded the rest to busy themselves
with that with which they had been busy.
The Savior said; "You have received mercy....
(7 lines missing) Do you not desire, then, to be filled? And is your
heart drunk? Do you not desire, then, to be sober? Therefore, be ashamed!
And now, waking or sleeping, remember that you have seen the Son of Man,
and with him you have spoken, and to him you have listened. Woe to those
who have seen the Son of Man! Blessed are those who have not seen the Man,
and who have not consorted with him, and who have not spoken with him,
and who have not listened to anything from him. Yours is life! Know, therefore,
that he healed you when you were ill, in order that you might reign. Woe
to those who have rested from their illness, because they will relapse
again into illness! Blessed are those who have not been ill, and have known
rest before they became ill. Yours is the Kingdom of God! Therefore I say
to you, become full and leave no place within you empty, since the Coming
One is able to mock you."
Then Peter answered: "Lord, three times you have said to us
'Become full', but we are full."
The Lord answered and said: "Therefore I say unto you, become full,
in order that you may not be diminished. Those who are diminished, however,
will not be saved. For fullness is good and diminution is bad. Therefore,
just as it is good for you to be diminished and, on the other hand, bad
for you to be filled, so also the one who is full is diminished; and the
one who is diminished is not filled as the one who is diminished is filled,
and the one who is full, for his part, brings his sufficiency to completion.
Therefore, it is fitting to be diminished while you can still be filled,
and to be filled while it is still possible to be diminished, in order
that you can fill yourselves the more. Therefore become full of the spirit
but be diminished of reason. For reason is of the soul; and it is soul."
And I answered, and said to him: "Lord, we can obey you if
you wish. For we have forsaken our forefathers and our mothers and our
villages and have followed you. Grant us, therefore, not to be tempted
by the wicked Devil."
The Lord answered and said: "What is your merit when you do the will
of the Father if it is not given to you by him as a gift, while you are
tempted by Satan? But if you are oppressed by Satan and are persecuted
and you do the Father's will, I say that he will love you and will make
you equal with me and will consider that you have become beloved through
his providence according to your free choice. Will you not cease, then,
being lovers of the flesh and being afraid of sufferings? Or do you not
know that you have not yet been mistreated and have not yet been accused
unjustly, nor have you yet been shut up in prison, nor have you yet been
condemned lawlessly, nor have you yet been crucified without reason, nor
have you yet been buried shamefully, as was I myself, by the evil one?
Do you dare to spare the flesh, you for whom the spirit is an encircling
wall? If you contemplate the world, how long it is before you and also
how long it is after you, you will find that your life is one single day
and your sufferings, one single hour. For the good will not enter the world.
Scorn death, therefore, and take concern for life. Remember my cross and
my death and you will live."
And I answered and said to him: "Lord, do not mention to us
the cross and the death, for they are far from you."
The Lord answered and said: "Truly I say to you, none will be saved
unless they believe in my cross. But those who have believed in my cross,
theirs is the Kingdom of God. Therefore, become seekers for death, just
as the dead who seek for life, for that which they seek is revealed to
them. And what is there to concern them? When you turn yourselves towards
death, it will make known to you election. In truth I say to you, none
of those who are afraid of death will be saved. For the Kingdom of God
belongs to those who have put themselves to death. Become better than I;
make yourselves like the son of the Holy Spirit."
Then I questioned him: "Lord how may we prophesy to those who
ask us to prophesy to them? For there are many who ask us and who look
to us to hear an oracle from us."
The Lord answered and said: "Do you not know that the head of prophecy
was cut off with John?"
And I said: "Lord, it is not possible to remove the head of prophecy,
The Lord said to me: "When you come to know what 'head' is, and that
prophecy issues from the head, then understand what is the meaning of 'Its
head was removed'. I first spoke with you in parables, and you did not
understand. Now, in turn, I speak with you openly, and you do not perceive.
But it is you who were to me a parable in parables and what is apparent
in what are open.
"Be zealous to be saved without being urged. Rather, be ready
on your own and, if possible, go before me. For thus the Father will love
"Become haters of hypocrisy and evil thought. For it is thought
which gives birth to hypocrisy, but hypocrisy is far from the truth.
"Let not the Kingdom of Heaven wither away. For it is like
a date palm shoot whose fruits poured down around it. It put forth leaves
and, when they budded, they caused the productivity of the date palm to
dry up. Thus it is also with the fruit which came from this single root;
when the fruit was picked, fruits were collected by many harvesters. It
would indeed be good if it were possible to produce these new plants now;
for then you would find the Kingdom.
"Since I have been glorified in this manner before this time,
why do you all restrain me when I am eager to go? You have constrained
me to remain with you eighteen more days for the sake of the parables.
It sufficed for some persons to pay attention to the teaching and understand
'The Shepherds' and 'The Seed' and 'The Building' and 'The Lamps of the
Virgins' and 'The Wage of the Workers' and 'The Double Drachma' and 'The
"Become zealous about the Word. For the Word's first condition
is faith; the second is love; the third is works. Now from these comes
life. For the Word is like a grain of wheat. When someone sowed it, he
believed in it; and when it sprouted, he loved it, because he looked forward
to many grains in the place of one; and when he worked it, he was saved,
because he prepared it for food. Again he left some grains to sow. Thus
it is also possible for you all to receive the Kingdom of Heaven: unless
you receive it through knowledge, you will not be able to find it.
"Therefore I say to you, be sober. Do not go astray. And many
times I have said to you all together - and also to you alone, James, I
have said - 'Be saved!' And I have commanded you to follow me, and I have
taught you the response in the presence of the rulers. Observe that I have
descended, and I have spoken, and I have troubled myself, and I have received
my crown, when I saved you. For I have descended to dwell with you in order
that you also may dwell with me. And when I found that your houses had
no ceilings over them, I dwelt in houses which would be able to receive
me when I descended.
"Therefore, obey me, my brothers. Understand what the great
light is. The Father does not need me. For a father does not need a son,
but it is the son who needs the father. To him I am going, for the Father
of the Son is not in need of you.
"Pay attention to the Word. Understand Knowledge. Love Life.
And no one will persecute you, nor will any one oppress you, other than
"O you wretched! O you unfortunates! O you dissemblers of the
truth! O you falsifiers of knowledge! O you sinners against the spirit!
Do you even now dare to listen, when it behooved you to speak from the
beginning? Do you even now dare to sleep, when it behooved you to be awake
from the beginning, in order that the Kingdom of Heaven might receive you?
In truth I say to you, it is easier for a holy one to sink into defilement,
and for a man of light to sink into darkness, than for you to reign - or
even not to reign!
"I have remembered your tears and your grief and your sorrow.
They are far from us. Now, then, you who are outside the inheritance of
the Father, weep where it behooves you and grieve and proclaim that which
is good, since the Son is ascending appropriately. In truth I say to you,
had it been to those who would listen to me that I was sent, and had it
been with them that I was to speak, I would have never descended upon the
earth. And now, then, be ashamed on account of them.
"Behold, I shall depart from you. I am going and I do not desire
to remain with you any longer - just as you yourselves have not desired.
Now, then, follow me quickly. Therefore I say to you, for your sake I have
descended. You are the beloved; you are those who will become a cause of
life for many. Beseech the Father. Implore God often, and he will give
to you. Blessed is the one who has seen you with him when he is proclaimed
among the angels and glorified among the saints. Yours is life! Rejoice
and be glad as children of God. Keep his will in order that you may be
saved. Take reproof from me and save yourselves. I intercede on your behalf
with the Father, and he will forgive you much."
And when we heard these things, we became elated, for we had
been depressed on account of what we had said earlier. Now when he saw
our rejoicing, he said: "Woe to you who are in want of an advocate! Woe
to you who are in need of grace! Blessed are those who have spoken freely
and have produced grace for themselves. Make yourselves like strangers;
of what sort are they in the estimation of your city? Why are you troubled
when you oust yourselves of your own accord and depart from your city?
Why do you abandon your dwelling place of your own accord, readying it
for those who desire to dwell in it? O you exiles and fugitives! Woe to
you, because you will be caught! Or perhaps you imagine that the Father
is a lover of humanity? Or that he is persuaded by prayers? Or that he
is gracious to one on behalf of another? Or that he bears with one who
seeks? For he knows the desire and also that which the flesh needs. Because
it is not the flesh which yearns for the soul. For without the soul the
body does not sin, just as the soul is not saved without the Spirit. But
if the soul is saved when it is without evil, and if the spirit also is
saved, then the body becomes sinless. For it is the spirit which animates
the soul, but it is the body which kills it - that is, it is the soul which
kills itself. Truly I say to you, the Father will not forgive the sin of
the soul at all, nor the guilt of the flesh. For none of those who have
worn the flesh will be saved. For do you imagine that many have found the
Kingdom of Heaven? Blessed is the one who has seen himself as a fourth
one in Heaven."
When we heard these things, we became distressed. Now when
he saw that we were distressed, he said: "This is why I say this to you,
that you may know yourselves. For the Kingdom of Heaven is like an ear
of grain which sprouted in a field. And when it ripened, it scattered its
fruit and, in turn, filled the field with ears of grain for another year.
You also: be zealous to reap for yourselves an ear of life, in order that
you may be filled with the Kingdom.
"As long as I am with you, give heed to me and obey me. But
when I am to depart from you, remember me. And remember me because I was
with you without your knowing me. Blessed are those who have known me.
Woe to those who have heard and have not believed! Blessed are those who
have not seen but have had faith!
"And once again I persuade you. For I am revealed to you building
a house which is very valuable to you, since you take shelter under it;
in the same way it will be able to support the house of your neighbors
when theirs is in danger of falling. In truth I say to you, woe to those
on behalf of whom I was sent down to this place! Blessed are those who
are to ascend to the Father. Again I reprove you. You who are, make yourselves
like those who are not, in order that you may come to be with those who
"Let not the Kingdom of Heaven become desolate among you. Do
not become arrogant on account of the light which illumines. Rather, become
to yourselves in this manner, as I am to you. For I have placed myself
under the curse, in order that you may be saved"
And Peter answered to this and said: "Sometimes you urge us
on to the Kingdom of Heaven, and other times you turn us away, Lord. Sometimes
you persuade us and impel us to faith and promise us life, and other times
you expel us from the Kingdom of Heaven."
And the Lord answered and said to us: "I have given you faith
many times. Moreover, I have revealed myself to you, James, and you have
not known me. Again, now I see you rejoicing many times. And when you are
elated over the promise of life, are you nevertheless glum? And are you
distressed when you are taught about the Kingdom? But you through faith
and knowledge have received life. Therefore, scorn rejection when you hear
it, but, when you hear the promise, be the more glad. In truth I say to
you, the one who will receive life and believe in the Kingdom will never
leave it - not even if the Father desires to banish him!
"These things I shall say to you for the present. But now I
shall ascend to the place from which I have come. But you, when I was eager
to go, have driven me out, and, instead of your accompanying me, you have
pursued me. But give heed to the glory which awaits me, and, having opened
your hearts, listen to the hymns which await me up in heaven. For today
I am obliged to take (my place) at the right hand of my Father. Now I have
said my last word to you. I shall part from you. For a chariot of wind
has taken me up, and from now on I shall strip myself in order that I may
clothe myself. But give heed: blessed are those who have preached the Son
before he descended, in order that, when I have come, I may ascend. Thrice-blessed
are thos who were proclaimed by the Son before they came into being, in
order that you may have a portion with them."
When he said these things, he went away. And we knelt down,
I and Peter, and gave thanks, and sent our hearts up to heaven. We heard
with our ears and saw with our eyes the sound of wars and a trumpet call
and a great commotion.
And when we passed beyond that place, we sent out minds up
further. And we saw with our eyes and heard with our ears hymns and angelic
praises and angelic jubilation. And heavenly majesties were hymning, and
we ourselves were jubilant.
After this, we also desired to send our spirits above to the
Majesty. And when we ascended, we were permitted neither to see nor to
hear anything. For the rest of the disciples called to us and questioned
us: "What is it that you have heard from the Master?" And, "What has he
said to you?" And, "Where has he gone?"
And we answered them: "He has ascended." And, "He has given
us a pledge and has promised us all life and disclosed to us children who
are to come after us, since he has bid us to love them, inasmuch as we
will be saved for their sake."
And when they heard, they believed the revelation, but were
angry about those who would be born. Then I, not desiring to entice them
to scandal, sent each one to another place. But I myself went up to Jerusalem,
praying that I may obtain a portion with the beloved who are to be revealed.
And I pray that the beginning may come from you, for thus I
can be saved. Because they will be enlightened through me, through my faith
and through another's which is better than mine, for I desire that mine
become the lesser. Endeavor earnestly, therefore, to make yourself like
them, and pray that you may obtain a portion with them. For apart from
what I have recounted, the Savior did not disclose revelation to us. For
their sake we proclaim, indeed, a portion with those for whom it was proclaimed,
those whom the Lord has made his children.