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Finding God in the Secret Revelation of John

by Shirley Paulson, PhD

Amber Heart

I found something deep and personal in the Secret Revelation of John, one of the books from the Nag Hammadi Library. (Some people call it the Secret Book of John or the Apocryphon of John). A number of years ago, God heard me deep in prayer, and answered my prayer in a surprising way. I was very ill, and I thought there was something I needed to hear from God that would heal me. But my husband was understandably quite concerned that my situation was dangerous, and thought I needed to get medical help.

I had just been thinking about an idea about God that challenged me — that God was both all-power and all-loving. In a way, that was hard to believe, considering the pain I was feeling; but I couldn’t escape the logic. As I was praying and pondering all this, I also asked God for guidance. I heard a quiet little answer that surprised me. It was well beyond my personal ability, so I knew I’m not the one who made it up. It came as a question, “Do you love your husband?”

To be honest, I had been thinking more about myself, and I guess I had slipped into a rather self-centered notion of my pain and my problem. It was a question that pulled me up and out of myself, and that’s how I knew it was from God. A deep repentance came over me and caused me to yearn for that love from God that would be bigger than myself. Then it dawned on me how I could put those two words together: all-power and all-loving. And within hours, the pain and suffering dissolved.  And there was my husband, whom I now loved more than ever before.

So, how does the Secret Revelation of John come into the story? For years afterward I carried an unforgettable appreciation for that transforming realization of God’s power and love – until I met up with this amazing ancient text. When I first read it, I was struck to discover the God in that text was so familiar to me, but from the pages of a book that was written almost 2,000 years ago! It was a God who is uncompromising in His/Her supremacy and faithful love. And it was a healing God. I had to read the text several more times to be sure I wasn’t making it up.

The first third of the book is almost a wild tale about aeons and layers of creation that confused me. But every time I read it, I found the God above was consistently all good. And clearly does not share power with any other. “The Unity [God] is a monarchy with nothing ruling over it. It is the God and Father of the All, the holy, the invisible Who exists over the All” (4:2,3). “It is the immeasurable light, the pure one who is holy and unpolluted” (4:20). It is “the blessed one who gives blessedness, … the ever good one who gives good, …the mercy which gives mercy” (4:37,28).

I think, in our modern world, we are too quick to dismiss as naïve and foolish the notion that such goodness and power could be real. After all, the ancients didn’t know the biological causes of disease, let alone the 20th-century holocaust and terrorism. But then, I had experienced this kind of God. This was the same power that was greater than my illness, and this was the source of love that turned my heart to repentance and affection. This was the God I learned in Jesus. Someone in the second century knew something very important about this God that encourages me even now.

Have any of you (our readers) found something about the God you recognize in the Secret Revelation of John? We’d love to hear from you.