The Nag Hammadi Library and Mormon Beliefs

(The following information comes primarily from James M. Robinson's Nag Hammadi Library in English, Harper and Row Publishers, 1988. Books and page numbers come from this edition, unless otherwise noted. Quoted materials within [] marks are missing words being filled in with the probable term by the authors. Parentheses are for clarification.)

Table of Contents

*A Brief History of the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism
*Reformed Egyptian
*Saved for the End of Times/Last Days
*Secret Writings and Teachings
*Being as God is - Equality with God
*The Three Degrees of Glory for 3 Types of Beings

Brief History of the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism

The Nag Hammadi library is a group of Gnostic texts found in Egypt. The word Gnosis means secret or hidden mystery. AThe Gnostics were actually several different groups of Christians who had created heretical doctrines, which the mainstream church tried to fight, though sometimes eventually adopted. Simon Magus (Acts 8) was one of the earliest known Gnostics. Gnosticism came originally came from sects in Judaism, and were just other sects of Judaism, such as were the Zealots, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadduccees. The apostle Paul warned of many who tried to change the doctrines of the Church, showing that Gnosticism was creeping into the Christian Church even in his day (2 Timothy 2:17-18 compared with The Treatise on the Resurrection). Many Gnostics claimed to know the "secrets" of the apostles. Once the apostles were gone, many came to these pretenders asking for the secrets, and they mixed doctrine with Greek philosophy and Oriental beliefs. The problem is determining which of their beliefs were based upon true Christian doctrine, and which were the "philosophies of men." Clement and others of the early Church leaders acknowledged that there was a "true gnosis" or secret teachings of the apostles, but fought the Gnostics on the grounds that they were trying to impose false doctrines in place of the true secret teachings of the apostles.

Regardless of all the flaws in the Gnostic teachings, one is assured that all the following ideas are at least ancient in nature, and that some Christian sects at least among the gnostic, if not orthodox as well, believed in such ideals.

Reformed Egyptian

Most of the Nag Hammadi writings were written in Coptic. Coptic is what one gets when the Egyptian language is written with the Greek alphabet, as well as a few new letters for sounds not made in Greek. In other words, they used a Reformed Egyptian to write their books!

Saved for the End of Time

James M. Robinson wrote: "Two of the texts of the Nag Hammadi library refer to their being stored for safekeeping in a mountain until the end of time. The Gospel of the Egyptians concludes:

"The Great Seth wrote this book with letters in one hundred and thirty years. He placed it in the mountain that is called Charaxio, in order that, at the end of the times and the eras, may come forth and reveal this incorruptible, holy race of the great savior, and those who dwell with them in love, and the great, invisible, eternal Spirit, and his only begotten Son..."

Near the end of Allogenes a similar idea occurs: "Write down [the things that I] shall [tell] you and of which I shall remind you for the sake of those who will be worthy after you. And you will leave this book upon a mountain and you will adjure the guardian, 'Come Dreadful One.'" (pp.. 21-22).

This comes very close to the idea of Moroni hiding the gold plates up in a hill until the "end of time." Yet, the Nag Hammadi library was not discovered until 100 years after Joseph Smith's death in 1844. Hidden caches of documents were virtually unknown in Joseph's day, and to find others with the same ideal of being preserved for the last days is truly incredible.

Secret Writings and Teachings

The idea of books and information being kept from the masses is not a new idea. Christ taught many secret things to his apostles, commanding them to not reveal them (Matthew 7:6, 17:1-9) except at later dates and times. Alma commanded his son Helaman in the Book of Mormon to not reveal certain secret writings of the Jaredites to the people, because they weren't ready for it and the time was not right. 

And in the Apocryphon of James, we read:
"Since you asked that I send you a secret book which was revealed to me and Peter by the Lord, I could not turn you away or gainsay you; but [I have written] it in the Hebrew alphabet and sent it to you, and you alone. But since you are a minister of salvation of the saints, endeavor earnestly and take care not to rehearse this text to many - this that the Savior did not wish to tell to all of us, his twelve disciples. But blessed will they be who will be saved through the faith of this discourse." (pg. 30).

The Gospel of Thomas tells us at the very beginning:
"These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down." (pg. 126). And also: "Jesus said, 'It is to those [who are worthy of my] mysteries that I tell my mysteries.'" (pg. 133).

The Apocryphon of John starts out:
"The teaching [of the savior] and the [revelation] of the mysteries, [and the] things hidden in silence, [even these things which] he taught John, [his] disciple." (pg. 105).

And like this:
"And I have said everything to you that you might write them down and give them secretly to your fellow spirits, for this is the mystery of the immovable race. And the savior presented these things to him that he might write them down and keep them secure. And he said to him, 'Cursed be everyone who will exchange these things for a gift or for food or for drink or for clothing or for any other such thing.' And these things wee presented to him in a mystery, and immediately he disappeared from him. And he went to his fellow disciples and related to them what the savior had told him." (pg. 123).

Many of the other Nag Hammadi writings, as well as many "orthodox" Christian writings from pre-Nicene Fathers like Clement, stress the importance of secret teachings necessary for salvation. These teachings are reserved for those who are ready for them. This obviously was something lost over the years, yet has been restored in the LDS Church in the temple endowment and in the knowledge that there are many writings being withheld from the world right now, because it isn't ready for them (Writings of Enoch, sealed portions of the Book of Mormon, writings of the Lost Tribes, etc.).

Being as God Is - Equality with God

The Apocryphon of James states the following:
"The Lord answered and said, 'What is your (pl.) merit if you do the will of the Father and it is not given to you from him as a gift while you are tempted by Satan? But if you (pl.) are oppressed by Satan and persecuted and you do his (i.e. the Father's) will, I [say] that he (God) will love you, and make you equal with me, and reckon [you] to become beloved through his providence by your own choice.'" (pg. 32).

The Tripartite Tractate states:
All those who glorify the Father have their begetting eternally, - they beget in the act of assisting one another - since the emanations are limitless and immeasurable and since there is no envy on the part of the Father toward those who came forth from him in regard to their begetting something equal or similar to Him, since he is the one who exists in the Totalities, begetting and revealing himself. Whomever he wishes, he makes into a father, of whom he in fact is Father, and a god, of whom he in fact is God, and he makes them the Totalities, whose entirety he is....their (the aeons, or children of God) begetting is like a process of extension, as the Father extends himself to those whom he loves, so that those who have come forth from him might become him as well." (pp. 70-71).

Three  Degrees of Glory for Three Types of Beings

According to Robinson, The Tripartite Tractate teaches of three classes of humans:

"The pneumatic or spiritual recognizes the Savior immediately and respond to him, while the hylic or material reject him utterly. Between these two extremes the psychic or soulful types hesitate, and only gradually come to join the Savior. As is usual in Valentinian texts, the three types have clear social referents. The pneumatics are the Valentinians themselves, the hylics are non-Christians and the psychics are ordinary Christians." (pg. 59). "Each of the three essential types are known by their fruits." (pg. 94).

This is very similar to the orthodox Christian teachings of the Shepherd Hermas, who taught that all men are given a bough from the Tree of Life, and later when they are judged, it is by the look of the bough. For those boughs which bore more branches and fruit, the person was given a crown and allowed to dwell in the tower. For those whose branches showed some growth, they were allowed to live in the tower, yet without a crown. Others who showed promise were allowed into the courtyard, while the disobedient were not allowed to enter, but were cast out. (III Hermas, Similitude VIII, The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden, World Bible Publishers Inc, 1927, ISBN 0-529-03385-2).

Just as Paul stated that the resurrection of the dead were as the glory of the sun, moon and stars (1 Cor. 15:40-42), so The Tripartite Tractate teaches a comparison of men's spirits:
"The spiritual race, being like light from light and like spirit from spirit, when its head appeared, it ran toward him immediately....It suddenly received knowledge in the revelation. The psychic race is like light from a fire, since it hesitated to accept knowledge of him who appeared to it. (It hesitated) even more to run toward him in faith....The material race, however, is alien in every way; since it is dark, it shuns the shining of the light because its appearance destroys it."

The Tripartite Tractate also states concerning the aeonic life:
"They were fathers of the third glory....They are the first and the second and thus both of them are perfect and full, for they are manifestations of the Father who is perfect and full, as well as of those who came forth, who are perfect by the fact that they glorify the perfect one. The fruit of the third, however, consists of honors of the will of each one of the aeons....For this reason, they are minds of minds, which are found to be words of words, elders of elders, degrees of degrees, which are exalted above one another. Each one of those who give glory has his place and his exaltation and his dwelling and his rest, which consists of the glory which he brings forth." (pg. 69).


Table of Contents
*The Creation and the Divine Council
*The Veil of Forgetfulness and the Pre-Mortal Life
*Spirit Prison/Spirit World
*Eternal Marriage

The Creation by the Divine Council
Just as the LDS Church believes that God the Father created the world with the help of Christ, Michael the archangel, and others, the Gnostics believed also:

"And he said to the authorities which attend him, 'Come, let us create a man according to the image of God and according to our likeness, that his image may become a light for us.'" (Apocryphon of John, pg. 113).This is essentially the teaching in Genesis, yet clarified.

Veil of Forgetfulness and the Pre-existence

The Apocryphon of John tells us concerning the creation of man:
"This is the tomb of the newly-formed body with which the robbers had clothed the man, the bond of forgetfulness; and he became a mortal man." (pg. 117). "And he (Adam) saw the woman (Eve) beside him. And in that moment the luminous Epinoia appeared, and she lifted the veil which lay over his mind. And he became sober from the drunkenness of darkness. And he recognized his counter-image, and he said, 'This is indeed bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.'" (pg. 118). "And when Adam recognized the likeness of his own foreknowledge, he begot the likeness of the son of man. He called him Seth according to the way of the race in the aeons....And he made them drink water of forgetfulness, from the chief archon, in order that they might not know from where they came." (pg. 119).

Spirit Prison/Spirit World

The Apocryphon of John tells of the Spirit Prison for those who are disobedient, and of the preaching that occurs there in order to convert the unbelieving and wicked:

"And I said, 'Lord, those, however, who have not known to whom they belong, where will their souls be?' And he said to me, 'In those the despicable spirit (Satan) has gained strength when they went astray. And he burdens the soul and draws it to the worlds of evil, and he casts it down into forgetfulness. And after it comes out of (the body), it is handed over to the authorities, who came into being through the archon, and they bind it with chains and cast it into prison and consort with it until it is liberated from the forgetfulness and acquires knowledge. And if thus it becomes perfect, it is saved." (pg. 120).

I can't think of a better way to explain the preaching of the gospel to the dead, than that! This ties in very well with the story of the Spirit World in the early Christian work: Gospel of Nicodemus

In this work, 2 sons of a high priest are found to have resurrected and entered the city. The Sanhedrin question them to determine where they have been. They explain being in a place with Adam, Noah and others, awaiting their salvation. Satan comes down to the gates of Death and brags to Death about killing Christ. Death is shocked, realizing he cannot hold such a powerful being. When Christ comes, he breaks down the door, freeing the righteous.

Eternal Marriage

James Robinson tells us what the main theme is in the Gospel of Phillip:
"When Eve was separated from Adam, the original androgynous unity was broken. The purpose of Christ's coming is to reunite Adam and Eve. Just as a husband and wife unite in the bridal chamber, so also the reunion effected by Christ takes place in a bridal chamber, the sacramental one, where a person receives a foretaste and assurance of ultimate union with an angelic, heavenly counterpart." (pg. 140).

The Gospel of Phillip discusses the three chambers of the temple and that the inner chamber, the Holy of Holies, is the bridal chamber. Latter-day Saints everywhere will see the great similarity between the modern temple ordinance of eternal marriage in the sealing room of the temple and Phillip's bridal chamber. In fact, what better term to use than this?

"Great is the mystery of marriage! For [without] it the world would [not exist]....
"There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The one facing west was called "the holy." Another facing south was called "the holy of the holy." The third facing east was called "the holy of the holies," the place where only the high priest enters. Baptism is "the holy" building. Redemption is "the holy of the holy." "The holy of the holies" is the bridal chamber....
"Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated....
"If some belong to the order of the priesthood they will be able to go within the veil with the high priest....There is glory which surpasses glory. There is power which surpasses power. Therefore the perfect things have opened to us, together with the hidden things of truth. The holies of the holies were revealed, and the bridal chamber invited us in." (pp 148-159)Phillip teaches that man and woman were separated at the Fall of Adam. Since then, the great plan of God has been to reunite man and woman in the bridal chamber, never to be separated again.

In The Exegesis on the Soul, we read:
"...that marriage is not like the carnal marriage....But this marriage [...]. But [once] they unite [with one another], they become a single life. Wherefore the prophet said (Gen 2:24) concerning the first man and the first woman, 'They will become a single flesh.'
"For they were originally joined to one another when they were with the father before the woman led astray the man, who is her brother. This marriage has brought them back together again and the soul has been joined to her true love, her real master, as it is written (cf. Gen 3:16; 1 Co 11:1; Ep 5:23) 'For the master of the woman is her husband" (pg 195).

In the Dialogue of the Savior, The Lord answers some of Judas' questions concerning these things:
"Judas said, 'Behold! the governors dewll above us, so it is they who will rule over us!'
"The Lord said, 'It is you who will rule over them! But when you rid yourselves of jealousy, then you will clothe yourselves in light and enter the bridal chamber.'
"Judas said, 'How will [our] garments be brought to us?'
"The Lord said, 'There are some who will provide for you, and there are others who will receive [...]. For [it is] they [who will give you] your garments. [For] who [will] be able to reach that place [which] is [the] reward? But the garments of life were given to man because he knows the path by which he will leave. And it is difficult even for me to reach it!" (pg 251-252).

Here the apostles are told that they will become rulers through their entering the bridal chamber. In the chamber, they will receive a new garment. Certain ordinances are required prior to this eternal marriage: Baptism and Redemption. Other LDS ordinances are briefly referred to by Phillip, such as receiving a hidden or new name, garments, and a washing and anointing:

"Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect....
"'Jesus' is a hidden name, 'Christ' is a revealed name....
"In this world those who put on garments are better than the garments. In the kingdom of heaven the garments are better than those who have put them on....
"There is water in water, there is fire in chrism.... 
"For this reason it is fitting to baptize in the two, in the light and the water. Now the light is the chrism....
"The chrism is superior to baptism, for it is from the word 'chrism' that we have been called 'Christians,' certainly not because of the word 'baptism.' And it is because of the chrism that 'the Christ' has his name. For the father anointed the son, and the son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the holy spirit. The father gave him this in the bridal chamber....(pp 142-144, 151-154).These ordinances bring a person who holds the priesthood (as all worthy LDS men hold) to the temple, where they are washed and anointed, given a garment and a hidden name, then prepare to enter the bridal chamber where he is sealed to his spouse for eternity. And the greatest glory is that all things are given to him who receives these things:

"Not only must those who produce the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit do so, but (those who) have produced them for you. If one does not acquire them, the name ("Christian") will also be taken from him. But one receives the unction of the [...] of the power of the cross. This power the apostles called 'the right and the left.' For this person is no longer a Christian but a Christ.
"The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber" (p 150).So, all these ordinances are necessary to receive God's greatest gift: to be a Christ. 

Or, as the apostle Paul stated:
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ  Jesus: Who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:5-6)."The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:16-17).

So that the Gospel of Phillip states that Christ and Mary Magdalene had a very special relationship, even closer than he had with the apostles. Why does he do this? To introduce the idea of the bridal chamber and the importance of man and woman being reunited. Phillip suggests, then, that even Christ entered the bridal chamber and received all the above ordinances.  

Clearly, Eternal Temple Marriage was taught by early Christians.