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Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light

The book by Shirley Paulson, PhD

Published in 2022, the exciting new book by Shirley Paulson is available from Amazon, Barnes and NobleCascadeor by ordering a signed copy directly from the author.

Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light is for people seeking to understand Jesus’s teachings in a new way.

The book provides two basic tools:

1) a thorough exploration of the Secret Revelation of John, including where the ancient book came from, what it meant in the second century, and why it’s valuable today.

2) a paraphrase of the whole Secret Revelation of John that does not depend on the reader having extensive knowledge of second-century culture.

The Secret Revelation of John, unearthed in 1945, has bewildered and excited scholars and religious thinkers ever since its discovery.

It was found in central Egypt, near Nag Hammadi, and it consists of a collection of writings that shifts our view of early Christianity in startling ways. Only one of the treatises in that collection appears three times, indicating its importance in the overall collection. This is the Secret Revelation of John (scholars also call it the Apocryphon of John). Unlike the biblical book, the Revelation to John, this (relatively) new discovery includes the whole Christian story of creation, how evil operates in the world, and how the Savior saves.

Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John book cover
Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John book back cover

The Secret Revelation of John was probably written around the same time some of the later books of the Bible took shape, but it was lost and buried around the 4th century. Although it was hidden throughout most of Christian history, its message seems especially relevant today because it appeared at a time somewhat like our own.

The book was written a little over a hundred years after Jesus was gone, and the Roman aggression against ‘others’ had risen to its peak. Some parts of the Roman world thrived, but their glory was built on the backs of non-Romans who were crushed. Scholars do not know who the author of this remarkable text is, but it seems evident he must have been a Jewish follower of Jesus who saw hope and help in the message of Jesus for his own day.

So what is the Secret Revelation of John about?

It’s an imaginary story of Jesus’s disciple John grieving over the loss of Jesus and his guidance when the world was falling apart all around him. Jesus appears to him in a vision and brings him hope and guidance by explaining how to claim his divine right to freedom. It might have been understood as a ‘secret’ because the powerhouse in Rome couldn’t see the inner strength Jesus was defending in his followers.

The first portion of the Secret Revelation builds a deep foundation for the battle that lies ahead. It argues for the unfailing and ineffable goodness of the divine Being who is called by several names, such as Invisible Spirit. The battles and struggles of the world are so horrific, the author of the ancient text affirms God’s capacity to overrule every one of the weak spots that could allow creation to falter. There is no lack of love, no lack of wisdom, and no lack of power to defend the integrity of the divine realm.

This foundation is crucial, for the second part of the Secret Revelation unleashes the cruelty of everything that would—if it could—oppose God’s order of harmony, from subtle deceit to outright violence. The mythic character who embodies this opposition, named Yaldabaoth, exposes his own counterfeit nature by claiming to be the one and only great god. His deceitful, lying character provides the key to freedom, because the work of the Savior sent by God was to expose the fraudulence of his lies. The Savior demonstrates why anyone can be saved from unjust oppression. They need not just react in fear or anger, but they can act on God’s empowerment and resist the false authorities.

Order a signed copy of the book directly from the author.

Signed copies of the book (paperback) are available directly from the author for $26.99 including shipping.
Books are sent USPS Media Mail and generally arrive within 7 business days of placing your order.
If you need to order a hardback copy, several copies at once, or need expedited shipping please let us know via the contact form here.

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Book Introduction Video

Events Related to the Book

Three Reasons for Hope from the Secret Revelation of John

Date: May 15, 2022, 8:30 pm ET

Online event. Registration for Christian Feminism Today’s The Humble Gathering required.

Healing and Salvation in the Secret Revelation of John

Date: May 23, 2022, 8:00 pm ET

A Bible and Beyond Discussion led by Shirley Paulson, PhD

Why is the Secret Revelation of John Important to Christian Scientists?

Date: June 4-11, 2022, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm

One class per day during the Principia Summer Session, registration required.

How the Secret Revelation of John Saves Us from Ancient and Modern Demons

Date: June 27, 2022, 8:00 pm ET

A Bible and Beyond Discussion led by Shirley Paulson, PhD

Book Excerpt

View the table of contents and read chapter one from Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light.
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Press Information

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Press Release
Book Cover
Shirley Paulson’s CV

Blurbs and Reviews

Find out what people are saying and writing about Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light.

Paulson makes the Secret Revelation of John approachable for laypeople and scholarly sound for the academy. Her treatment of the text is brilliant. . . . Paulson brings the Secret Revelation of John back from its biblical exile at a time when it is very much needed and solidifies its importance to the redemption of Christian Spirituality in the 21st century.

Stephanie Duzant, Associate minister, St. Matthew's Community AME Church of Hollis

Paulson insists on an integrated approach which includes incisive historical investigation, important literary analysis, 21st century meaning making, and contemporary questions.  She paints with a clear and broad brush. . . . Those of us who have known the important of the Secret Revelation of John for more than a generation now have an accessible and informed next step forward.

Hal Taussig, Union Theological Seminary (retired)

Paulson provides an accessible introduction to the Secret Revelation of John. . . Paulson unpacks its primary message and its spiritual insights in down-to-earth language. Most importantly, she addresses its relevance in the twenty-first century as she explores its multiple layers of meaning—including its subversive challenge to a Roman Empire that kept people in their place. . . She helps us to grasp that SRJ reveals a liberation freely available to all.

Deborah Saxon, Author of The Care of the Self in Early Christian Texts