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The Apocryphon of James

Alternate titles: Secret Book of James, Secret Letter of James, Epistula Iacobi Apocrypha

c. 100-150 C.E.

The Apocryphon (Secret Book) of James is probably the earliest example of a long-standing Gnostic tradition that the risen Jesus delivered secret teachings to his disciples. The gospel is framed within the format of a letter from James, the brother of Jesus, to a recipient whose name cannot be determined due to the fragmentary condition of the first page of the papyrus codex (known as the Jung Codex from the Nag Hammadi library). The MS is a Coptic translation of a Greek original, though the author claims to have written in Hebrew.

Jesus speaks of the importance of being "full" of the Spirit, for with it comes the knowledge (gnosis) of God's kingdom necessary to achieve salvation. After the revelation to James and Peter, James sends the apostles off to their missionary destinations, then travels to Jerusalem. Peter is given secondary importance in the dialogue, possibly representative of the developing conflict with the orthodox Church.

Secret James shows a familiarity with the known parables of Jesus, including a list of seven that exist in Matthew and/or Luke. Yet the text betrays no knowledge of the details of the passion accounts, even claiming Jesus to have been buried "in the sand" following his crucifixion. Thus, the body of Secret James likely dates back to the beginning of the second century when, like the Gospel of John, the early Sayings traditions were developed into discourses and dialogues. The narrative framework, consisting of the first two and last two chapters, is most likely a secondary development designed to utilize apostolic authority; the use of the term "Savior" in these chapters dates them slightly later than the body of the work.