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The Dialogue of the Savior

c. 150 C.E.

Our single surviving copy of the Dialogue of the Savior was discovered within the Coptic library at Nag Hammadi in 1945. Despite its badly damaged state, it represents an important stage of development in the Sayings Gospel tradition. The "dialogue" is an expansion of the pure sayings collections like the Gospel of Thomas or Q; the teachings of Jesus are narrated in response to questions from his disciples. This trend continued its development in the extended discourses of the Gospel of John. Although the sayings have parallels in all four canonical gospels as well as Thomas, it is unlikely that the Dialogue is directly dependent upon any of them; the sayings source may have been composed as early as the mid-first century.

In addition to the sayings, the author seems to have used at least three other sources: a creation myth, a catalog of cosmological wisdom, and an apocalyptic revelation. The combination of these, as well as an introductory Gnostic prayer, forms a complete lesson in eschatology, despite its lack of smooth transitory elements. The term "Savior" is probably a late addition by the final redactor.

The teachings in the Dialogue were probably intended for Christian initiates preparing for baptism. We are told how to attain the knowledge necessary for our souls to make the heavenly journey, of which the saved may know but cannot "see" while still possessing a body of flesh. Like most Gnostic teachings, the text was kept secret and was never accepted by the developing orthodox Church.