The Testimony of Truth
Written sometime between the years 150 and 200, The Testimony of Truth is part of the Nag Hammadi library, discovered in Egypt in 1945. The text is famous for questioning whether martyrs are guaranteed salvation, while supporting the Gnostic view the Tree of Knowledge involved enlightenment, not spiritual bondage. The writer is keen to point out contradictory issues in early Christian thought, and also supports the view of some Gnostics that enlightenment comes through conquering desire and attachments. Julius Cassianus is the suspected author.
Listen with the ears of your mind, not the ears of your body. Many have sought the truth and not found it because their minds were infected by kernels of yeast planted by the Pharisees and scribes of the Law, and they represent false desires of angels, demons and stars. The scribes belong to the first spirits. They have no authority over angels.
No one who follows their Law will know truth, for no one can serve two masters.
Their Law commands husband and wife to beget and multiply like the sand of the sea. But passion, which is a delight to them, binds the spirit and many defile or are defiled in order that their Law might be fulfilled. And they turn away from the light and are unable to pass by the angel of darkness until paying the last penny.
But the Son of Man rose out from Imperishability, and so was completely alien to defilement. He came to the world by the Jordan River, and immediately the Jordan turned back. And John bore witness to the descent of Jesus. For it is he who saw the power of the Jordan River. For he knew that the time of carnal desire had come to an end. The Jordan River is the power of the body, that is, the senses of pleasure. The water of the Jordan represents carnal desire. John is the first angel of the womb.
And this is what the Son of Man revealed to us. It is fitting to receive the word of truth, if one will receive it perfectly. But as for one who is in ignorance, it is difficult for him to diminish works of darkness. Those who have known Imperishability, however, have been able to win the struggle against passion. I have said to you, “Don’t hang with gangsters, but bring forth fruit to the Father.”
The foolish believe if they confess, “We are Christians” in word only, not with power, while giving themselves over to ignorance, not knowing where they are going or who Christ really is, thinking that they will live, when they are marching to the beat of the authorities. They fall into evil clutches because of their ignorance. They do not know they will destroy themselves.
For the Son of Man clothed himself with their first fruits. He went down to the underworld and performed many miracles. He also raised the dead. And the sorcerers got jealous, for they found no sin in him. And he thwarted their bad energy when the lame, the blind, the paralyzed, the dumb, and the possessed were all healed.
The disciples boarded a ship and witnessed Jesus walking on the sea. These are empty martyrs, since they bear witness only to themselves. They are sick, and not able to raise themselves. But through their executions they have become “perfected” as martyrs. They believe if they are killed in the name of Christ, they will be saved. But these matters are not settled in this way. They are wandering stars following a futile course if they do not possess the secret.
And some say, “On the last day we will certainly rise in the resurrection.” But they do not know what they are saying, for the last day is when those belonging to Christ destroy the angels of darkness. Those who know the secret will know the Son of Man. This is real enlightenment, that man know himself by means of the All.
Do not expect, therefore, a carnal celebration resurrection. That’s an empty, mistaken interpretation of the resurrection, which is actually more about destruction. Those who don’t know the secrets will die. They do not understand the Son of Man is coming. Those who receive him with honesty and power and wisdom are the ones he will grant eternal life.
It is ignorant to say; “God created a penis and vagina so we could enjoy ourselves.” And some even compel God to participate in their sexual activities. These people will not reach enlightenment.
Like Isaiah, who was sawed with a saw, and became two, so also the Son of Man divides us by the word of the cross, which divides day from night, light from dark, corruptible from incorruptibile, male from female. But Isaiah is the body and the saw is the word of the Son of Man, which separates angels and demons.
No one knows the God of truth except solely the man who forsakes all attachments, having renounced all and grasped the fringe of his garment. He gains power by conquering desire. How many powers does he have? And who is the one who has bound him? And who is the one who will unleash him? And what is the light? And what is the dark? And who is the one who created the earth? And who is God? And who are the angels? And what is soul? And what is spirit? And where is the voice? And who speaks? And who hears? Who dispenses pain? And who receives pain? And who hath begotten corruptible flesh? And who rules by right? And why are some lame, some blind, some rich, some poor? And why are some powerless, while gangsters abound?
He gave command to himself, began to know himself and speak with his mind, the father of truth, concerning the unknown realms, and concerning the virgin who brought forth the light. And he thinks about the power which flowed over the realm, and which takes hold of him. And he is a disciple of his mind, which is male. He began to keep silent within himself until the day when he should become worthy to be received in heaven. He rejects mindless babbling and disputations, and endures everything, including the evil. And he is patient with every one, makes himself equal to every one, and separates himself from them. And that which someone wants, he brings to them, in order that he might become holy. He was filled with wisdom and bore witness to the truth, the power, and went into Imperishability, the place whence he came forth, having left the world, which has the appearance of the night, and those that whirl the stars in it. This, therefore, is the true testimony: When man comes to know himself and God, who is over all truth, he will be saved, and will crown himself with a crown that cannot fade.
John was begotten by the World through a woman, Elizabeth, and Christ was begotten by the world through a virgin, Mary. What is the meaning of this mystery? John was begotten by means of a womb worn with age, but Christ passed through a virgin’s womb. When she had conceived, she gave birth to the Savior. Furthermore, she was found to be a virgin again. Why, then don’t you investigate the meaning of these mysteries?
It is written in the Law when God gave a command to Adam, “From every tree you may eat, but from the tree which is in the midst of Paradise. Do not eat, for on the day that you eat from it, you will surely die.” But the serpent was wiser than all the animals in Paradise, and persuaded Eve, saying, “On the day when you eat from the tree in the midst of Paradise, the eyes of your mind will be opened.” And Eve obeyed, and she stretched forth her hand; she took from the tree and ate, and she also gave some to her husband. And immediately they felt naked, and took fig leaves to cover their privates.
But God came at the time of evening, walking in the midst of Paradise. When Adam saw him, he hid. And he said, “Adam, where are you?” Adam answered, “I’m under this fig tree.” And at that moment, God knew Adam had eaten from the tree which he hath commanded him not to, and he said to Adam, “Who hath instructed you?” And Adam answered, “That woman you gave me.” And Eve said, “The serpent instructed me.” And God cursed the serpent, and called him devil. And he said, “Behold, Adam has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Then he said, “Let us cast Adam out of Paradise, lest he take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
But what sort of God is this? First he maliciously refuses Adam from eating the tree of knowledge, and then says, “Adam, where are you?” Does not God know everything? Would he not know where Adam was hiding, and what had already happened? And afterwards, God said, “Let us cast him out of this place, lest he eat of the tree of life and live forever.” Surely, this is an act of an evil God! For great is the blindness of those who read, and they did not know him. And he said, “I am the jealous God. I will bring the sins of the fathers upon the children until three or four generations.” And he said, “I will make their hearts sore, and cause their minds to close down, that they might not comprehend the things that are said.” These things he has said to those who believe in him and serve him!
And in one place, Moses writes, “He made the devil a serpent for those whom he has in his generation.” Also, in Exodus, it is written: “He contended against the sorcerers, when the place was full of serpents according to their wickedness; and Moses’ rod became a serpent, and it swallowed the serpents of the sorcerers.”
There are some, who upon entering the faith, receive a baptism believing they are receiving hope of salvation, which they call the “seal,” not knowing if the fathers of the world are manifest in that place. But he himself knows what is sealed. For the Son of Man did not baptize any of his disciples. But the baptism of truth is something else. It is found by renunciation of the world. But if you renounce in word only and not in deed, you are deceiving, and will enter a place of fear. Moreover, you will be humbled within that place. Just as those to whom it was given to have been condemned, they shall get something!
They are wicked in their behavior! Those who worship idols. Others have demons dwelling with them, as did David the king. He is the one who laid the foundation of Jerusalem; and his son Solomon, whom he begat in adultery, is the one who built Jerusalem by means of the demons, because he received their power. When he had finished building, he imprisoned the demons in the temple. He placed them into seven jugs. They remained a long time in the jugs, abandoned there. When the Romans came to Jerusalem, they discovered the jugs, and immediately the demons escaped from their prison. And the jugs remained pure thereafter. And since those days, they dwell with men who are in ignorance, and they have remained upon the earth.
Who, then, is David? And who is Solomon? And what is the foundation? And what is the wall that surrounds Jerusalem? And who are the demons? And what are the jugs? And who are the Romans? But these are the mysteries.