| The Forty Day Teachings of Christ|
in the Books of Jeu and the Pistis Sophia:
A Gnostic Endowment
The New Testament informs us that after Christ's resurrection, He
spent forty days among the disciples, "speaking of the things
pertaining to the kingdom of God."(1) What exactly did the Lord say
to His disciples during this time? Why is this passing mention all
we have of His visit? Did the authors of the New Testament not feel
that these teachings were important enough to include with the rest
of His words?
The scriptures contain several accounts of Jesus instructing his
disciples to keep things "secret." For example, on the Mount of
Transfiguration, the Lord told His disciples to "tell the vision to
no man"(2) until it became appropriate to do so. As members of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are not unfamiliar
with subjects that are to be kept "sacred" and not discussed openly.
We can see this idea represented in latter-day scripture as well.
For example, the closing verse of the Book of Moses' first chapter
translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith read:
(These words were spoken unto Moses in the mount,
the name of which shall not be known among the
children of men. And now they are spoken unto you.
Show them not unto any except them that believe.
Even so. Amen.)(3)
Legend holds that there was an entire body of knowledge, which came
to be called gnwoij (gnosis), which the Lord imparted to His
disciples after His resurrection during this forty day period. Not
too many years later, as the ancient Christian church began
splitting up into sects, each of them claimed to have this gnosis,
or "secret knowledge," which the Lord had taught to only a select
few. Hugh Nibley quotes Clement and comments:
"To James the Just and to John and Peter after the
resurrection the Lord conveyed the gnosis, these
handed it on to the rest of the Apostles and in
turn to the Seventy." So we have a true gnosis, a
certain knowledge, entrusted to the general
authorities of the church after the resurrection
and, as far as we know, to no one else. This was
precisely the knowledge which the so-called
Gnostics later claimed to have. From the titles and
contents of recently found Gnostic writings it is
plain that their special boast was to possess "What
Christ taught to the Apostles after the
Within the last several years, translations of these "recently found
Gnostic writings" have become available to the public. These are the
records of those who claimed to have the gnosis. When I first
started studying these books, I believed that no matter how
distorted and scattered, fragments of the Lord's true teachings
would be recognizable by their resemblance to truths restored in
modern times. Now, it is not my intention in writing this paper to
deal with everything each of these books claim the Lord taught. My
intention is to give Latter-day Saints interested in (yet unfamiliar
with) these writings exposure to a sampling of their teachings.
Specifically, I will focus on the books of First and Second Jeu and
the Pistis Sophia.
Violet MacDermot, to whom I am indebted for her outstanding English
translations, describes the manuscripts in her introductions to the
Books of Jeu and the Pistis Sophia as
compilations. . . .This method of composition gives
rise to repetitions in the narrative, and to a lack
of overall continuity. Thus [some chapters] appear
to be variant accounts of what has already been
given in [previous] chapters(5)
Accordingly, as I attempt to which will hopefully be interesting to
the LDS reader, I will jump around the text quite a bit; as
different accounts of the same event occur in several places. We
know from our study of the many scriptures we have been blessed with
that details included in one account of an event are often slightly
different or clearer in another. For example, from Genesis 1 we
learn about the creation of Earth and the things on/near it, but
would know nothing of spiritual creation were it not for the account
recorded in the Book of Moses.
People and Clothes
In dealing with what the Lord "taught His disciples" after the
resurrection, the first note of interest is who is being taught. The
Pistis Sophia records that it is not only the disciples that the
Lord has gathered to teach, but "the disciples and women" to whom He
is giving this heavenly instruction.(6) Given prevalent attitudes
toward women, as those found in the writings of Paul, it is
noteworthy that women be invited to participate in these goings-
on.(7) All three books also specify the participants' manner of dress
during the period of instruction. Each states that they are clothed
"in linen garments."(8) First Jeu even records that they were wearing
a hat or cap of some kind made of myrtle.(9) The mention of the
specific types of clothing they are wearing would suggest that the
author thinks it worth mentioning; I.e., there is something
significant about being dressed in a specific way with respect to
what they are doing. In fact, the role of ritual clothing in the
"mysteries" is expounded upon a great deal in much of the extra-
Curiously enough, the Pistis Sophia account of the Lord's teachings
begins with a record of things the Lord has not taught the disciples
prior to this visit. Especially interesting among these are
references to "watchers" who guard the doors of "the Treasury of
Light," which we will discuss later, and to a variety of angel which
the author calls the "unpaired ones."(11) "Unpaired ones" seems an
odd way to designate an angel, but compare the 132nd section of the
Doctrine and Covenants in which we learn that to achieve the highest
degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, we must enter into the new
and everlasting covenant of marriage. Those who do not abide the
Lord's law of marriage
cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and
singly, without exaltation, in their saved
condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are
not gods, but are angels of God forever and
A Seal, a Cipher, and A Name
First Jeu is dominated by the Lord teaching the disciples three
things time and time again: a seal, a cipher, and a name.(13)
When you come to this place, seal yourselves with
this seal: . . . ,while the cipher 70331 [?] is in
your hand. Furthermore say this name. . . three
times, and the watchers and the veils are drawn
back, until you go into the place of their Father
and he gives (you his seal and name) and you cross
over (the gate into his treasury).(14)
The Gnostics believed they had something secret and precious, which
they wanted to keep to themselves and their initiates. Ms.
MacDermot's renderings of yhfoz, sfragixein, and sfragiz as
"cipher," "to seal," and "seal" help preserve that aura of secrecy
and mystery. However, for our purposes, a translation which is
clearer, as opposed to one which better preserves atmosphere, will
enhance our understanding of exactly what is going on. I found that
some work with a few lexicons and context clues went a long way
toward blowing away the fog of mysticism.
First consider the word Ms. MacDermot has translated "cipher,"
yhfoz. One lexicon(15) defines it as a "pebble. . .used in voting, in
juries and elsewhere; a black one for conviction, a white one for
acquittal." A second(16) gives "a pebble used for reckoning," "a
counter," and "a pebble used in voting." Still a third(17) renders
yhfoz "a pebble variously employed" and "a pebble or stone probably
given as a token." The meaning now becomes clearer. The Lord is
giving His disciples something, which is "in the hand," which will
be a token of their "acquittal," or their having received the
necessary ordinances and instructions the Lord is giving them.
Recognition of this by the watchers will be a essential step in the
process of passing the watchers and going through the veil into the
place of the Father. Although "cipher," which Ms. MacDermot has
chosen, does create a certain atmosphere, for clarity I will use
"token" as yhfoz throughout the rest of this paper.(18)
Next let us turn to the words rendered as "to seal" and "seal,"
sfragixein and sfragiz. Our first lexicon(19) gives the following for
sfragixw: to "mark (with a seal) as a means of identification. . .
so that the mark which denotes ownership also carries with it the
protection of the owner." Again, to "provide with a mark of
identification." The second(20) gives to "authenticate a document
with a seal," and to "certify an object after examination by
attaching a seal." And our third lexicon(21) renders it as "to mark
distinctively as invested with a certain character." The same
lexicons, on the same pages, also define sfragiz as a "seal. . .sign
or stamp of approval," "impression of a signet-ring, seal," and "a
seal, distinctive mark. . .a token, proof." Once again, the meaning
begins to clear up. I feel safe in suggesting that Christ isn't
stamping His celestial signet-ring on the fore heads of the
disciples. What He is doing is giving them a sign by which they can
authenticate or identify themselves as having received the
ordinances and instructions to the watchers, and perhaps even to
other initiates. Again, I think the words "identify" and "sign" are
more easily understood than Ms. MacDermot's readings. Applying our
new understanding, the passage most recently quoted would read
When you come to this place,
your hand. Furthermore say this name . . . three
times, and the watchers and the veils are drawn
back, until you go into the place of their Father
and he gives (you his
cross over (the gate into his treasury).(22)
|The prophet Brigham Young described similar events: |
Let me give you a definition in brief. Your
endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in
the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you,
after you have departed this life, to enable you to
walk back to the presence of the Father, passing
the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to
give them the key words, the signs and tokens,
pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your
eternal exaltation in spite of earth and gain your
eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.(23)
Using the tokens, names, and signs which the Lord has taught the
disciples,(24) the receiver is allowed to approach the innermost area
of the Treasury of Light, where he will be taught a new series.
Again you will pass in to their interior to the
rank of the veils which are drawn before the great
ruler (king) of the Treasury of the Light. They
will give to you their great mystery and their
Light. And they will be drawn back until you cross
over and pass into them, until you reach the great
Man, he who is the ruler (king) of this whole
Treasury of Light, whose name is Jeu.(25)
By employing the newly learned names, etc. the recipient will be
enabled to pass through "until [he] reach[es] the great Man, he who
is ruler of this whole Treasury of Light. . . ." Equating the ruler
of the Treasury of Light and our Heavenly Father is natural, but the
reference to God Himself being a great Man is rather unusual.(26)
However, it has a familiar ring to those acquainted with the words
of the prophet Lorenzo Snow, "as man is, God once was; as God now
is, man may be."(27) President Snow explained of this couplet:
Now, how is it that God proposes to confer this
mighty honor upon us and to raise us to this
condition of glory and exaltation? Who are we that
God should do all this for us? Why, we are just
beginning to find out that we are the offspring of
God, born with the same faculties and powers as He
possesses, capable of enlargement through the
experience that we are now passing through in our
second estate. Let me illustrate. Here is an
emperor sitting upon his throne, governing and
controlling his empire wisely and properly. He has
an infant son that sits upon the knee of its
mother. That son he proposes to one day set upon
his throne, to govern and control his empire. Here
is that infant, perfectly helpless, not knowing how
to sustain its own life, not able to walk alone,
without any knowledge; and here is this mighty
emperor sitting upon his throne and governing his
vast empire. Who would believe that he could raise
that infant up to such a condition as to make it
suitable to be placed on his throne? No one would,
unless he had seen such things accomplished in his
experience; seen the infant develop into boyhood,
and then to manhood, possessing all the powers,
faculties and possibilities of its father. Now, we
are the sons and daughters of God. He has begotten
us in His own image. He has given us faculties and
powers that are capable of enlargement until His
fulness is reached which He has promised -- until
we shall sit upon thrones, governing and
controlling our posterity from eternity to
eternity, and increasing eternally. That is the
fact in regard to these matters.(28)
To summarize, the process outlined in the first section of teaching
(1) being stopped by angels and tested for certain knowledge
(2) identifying ourselves using a special sign
(3) verifying ourselves by a token in the hand
(4) giving a name as a kind of password
(5) coming to a veil
(6) learning new information from the Father
(7) passing through the veil into the presence of the Father
(8) God is an exalted man
A Peculiar Prayer
The next occurrence of interest to us is the special manner in which
Christ teaches the disciples and women to pray. This also is
recorded in several places:
(Jesus) placed his disciples behind him, all robed
in linen garments, while the cipher of the name of
the Father of the Treasury of Light was in their
hands. He cried out thus saying: "Hear me, my
Father. . . ."(29)
[T]he disciples and women were standing behind
Jesus. But Jesus was standing before the altar. And
Jesus cried out as he turned to the four corners of
the world with his disciples, and they were all
robed in linen garments, and he said: "iaw, iaw,
And he caused all his disciples to be clothed with
linen garments. . . .He placed the cipher of the
first amen: 530, in their hands. They placed their
feet together. They remained before the incense
which he had offered. Jesus sealed his disciples
with this seal. . . he again beside the incense
which he had offered. He spoke the prayer, saying
thus: "Hear me, my Father. . . ." When he and his
disciples had said this prayer, saying it to the
four corners of the whole world, he sealed them all
with the seal of the two amens.(31)
Gathering up all the bits and details from these varying accounts
makes for an interesting picture. However, some of the more obscure
phrases beg interpretation. The phrases "the four corners of the
earth" and "placed their feet together" suggest facing all
directions, or being in a circle. For the disciples to stand with
their feet together would require them to all be side by side, or in
a circle. "Jesus sealed his disciples with this seal. . ." of course
meant that He identified all of them by their knowledge of the
special sign He had previously taught them. So, He has the disciples
and women form a circle, and after receiving the signs, instructs
them to have the tokens He has taught them in their hands. He then
prays at the altar. His prayer opens in two different ways in the
accounts; once in a special "coded" language, where the same word or
phrase is repeated three times, and once in vernacular, with the
words "Hear me, my Father." Finally, the phrase "When he and his
disciples had said this prayer. . ." suggests that those in the
circle may have also said the prayer, or that they may have repeated
the words of the prayer after their Master.
So to clarify:
(1) All are "robed" in linen garments
(2) They are standing in a circle
(3) Jesus receives the special sign from the disciples and women
(4) He has those in the circle have in their hands one of the
(5) Jesus is before an altar
(6) He opens His prayer with a coded word or phrase which He repeats
(7) The opening of Jesus' prayer, translated, is "Hear me, my
(8) Those in the circle repeat the words of the prayer
The Final Ordinance
After completing their peculiar prayer, the Lord still has one
"mystery," which means ordinance,(32) to give to His disciples. It is
the mystery of the forgiveness of sins, and is so important that
every man who will believe in the Son of the Light
must receive the mystery of the forgiveness of
sins, so that he will be completely perfected and
completed in all mysteries. . . every sin which you
have committed knowingly, and those which you have
commited unknowingly, [they] will all be erased. . . .(33)
What is this ordinance? An ordinance which will purge the receivers
of all sin, and make them "clean every whit," or clean from the
blood and sins of their generation. The Lord states that this is the
last ordinance they are to receive, or that after it they will be
"perfected and completed in all mysteries [ordinances]."(34) The Lord
also describes where the ordinance is performed, and the blessings
which await those which faithfully receive it.
[I]t is the great mystery which is in the treasury
of the innermost of the innermost. And it is the
whole salvation of the soul. And all those who
receive that mystery will surpass all gods. . .
when you come forth from the body, you will become
pure light. And you will hasten upwards. . . until
you reach the Treasury of Light.(35)
This ordinance is performed only in a specific place, the "innermost
of the innermost." Receiving this ordinance not only ensures the
recipient a place in "Heaven," but also promises that they will
"surpass all gods." The Doctrine and Covenants 132nd section uses
similar language to describe those who enter into and faithfully
live by the new and everlasting covenant.
[A]nd they shall pass by the angels, and the gods,
which are set there, to their exaltation and glory
in all things, as hath been sealed upon their
heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a
continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then
shall they be gods, because they have no end;
therefore shall they be from everlasting to
everlasting, because they continue; then shall they
be above all, because all things are subject unto
them. Then shall they be gods, because they have
all power, and the angels are subject unto them.(36)
There is obviously an extensive body of teaching preserved in these
Gnostic traditions.(37) These two accounts tell us that the Lord
gathered together the disciples and women secretly after His
resurrection and taught them certain things. He taught them the
knowledge required to enter the "Treasury of Light" after this life.
These things included tokens in the hand, certain signs by which to
identify themselves, and names which would also act as kinds of
keywords to enable them to pass by the watchers, or angels,
stationed as guards outside. Once they had successfully passed them,
they would come to a veil, where the Father, a "great Man" would
teach them a new name and sign, and then part the veil, admitting
them into His presence.
He taught them a new manner of prayer; one in which all who
participated were "robed" in linen garments (including a cap of some
kind), and standing in a circle around an altar at which Jesus would
offer the prayer. Before the prayer, they identified themselves via
the signs He had taught them, and held the tokens in their hands
during the prayer. Jesus begins the prayer by crying out three times
an encoded statement which means: "Hear me, my Father." And those in
the circle possibly repeated the words of the prayer.
He taught them of a new ordinance, one which would cleanse them from
all sin and stain, and would guarantee their place in Heaven. He
taught that this ordinance is performed only in "the innermost of
the innermost," and that those who receive it will eventually "pass
Joseph Smith, the first Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of this
dispensation, stated that in founding the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, he was simply restoring the Church of Christ with
precisely the same organization, doctrines, and ordinances that had
existed previously. Granted no amount of evidence can ever "prove"
anything spiritual, but the contents of these texts are strong
witnesses to Joseph Smith's claim. This paper represents only two of
hundreds of texts of this kind which are now coming to light and
being published every year. I encourage the interested reader to
further search the source material for themselves.
1. Acts 1:3
2. Matthew 17:9
3. Smith, Joseph. The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City: The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1989. Moses 1:42.
Italics are mine.
4. Nibley, Hugh. The World and the Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book Company. 1988. pp.65-66.
5. MacDermot, Violet. The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the
Bruce Codex. Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1978. p. XIII. (Hereafter cited as
1J or 2J).
6. MacDermot, Violet. Pistis Sophia. Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1978. p.
353. (Hereafter cited as PS). Perhaps the women are the disciples'
7. At least the author feels it is important enough to make specific
mention of the presence of women.
8. PS. p. 353.
9. PS. p. 353, 1J. p.114
10. For example, in the Shepherd of Hermas, we are instructed that
with out putting on the garment, the rites are of no use to us: "no
man can otherwise be found in the kingdom of God,
unless these shall clothe him with their garment; for if thou
receive only the name, but receive not the garment from them, thou
profitest nothing." (Shep. Hermas 13:2) Similar references are
frequent throughout the text. Also, in the Gospel According to
Philip we read, "In this world those who put on garments are more
precious than the garments. In the Kingdom of Heaven the garments
are more precious than those who have put them on." (Gospel of
11. PS p. 2.
12. Smith, Joseph. Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1978. 132:17. Italics
13. 1J. pp. 84, 85, 86, 91, 92, 109, 113, 118, etc.. All make
similar references to coming to a special place and holding a cipher
in the hand, sealing one's self with a seal, and saying a name. To
quote all of the occurrences would be needlessly redundant.
14. 1J. p. 83.
15. Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and
Other Early Christian Literature. Second edition of the fourth
revised and augmented edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1979. p. 892.
16. Liddel, Henry G. and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.
Clarendon Press: Oxford. 1968. pp. 892.
17. The Analytical Greek Lexicon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1975. p. 442. (Hereafter cited as TAGL).
18. Interestingly enough, this same word "yhfoz" is the word
translated "white stone" in Rev. 2:17. " He that hath an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that
overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him
a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man
knoweth saving he that receiveth [it]." Read the verse again,
substituting "token" in place of "white stone." With the token one
receives not only a name, but a "new name."
19. Bauer. p.796.
20. Liddel and Scott. p. 1742.
21. TAGL. p. 394.
22. Text in <> is my rendering. The name is important to know as
well, as in The Gospel of Philip "If one does not acquire the name
for himself, the name Christian will also be taken from him. . .[for
he who receives the name] is no longer a Christian but a Christ."
23. Widstoe, John A.. Discourses of Brigham Young. Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book Company. 1954. p. 416. Italics are mine.
24. "Be patient and I will say it to you." Response like this to the
disciples' requests to be taught greater and greater mysteries show
that the ordinance itself involved oral instruction.
25. 2J. p. 122.
26. Unusual to modern Christians, perhaps, but not an uncommon theme
in the literature of the time. These people understood that as
children of God, we have incredible potential within us as well.
Consider these quotes from the Gospel of Philip: "A horse sires a
horse, a man begets a man, a god brings god." We are literally
children of our Father in Heaven, or gods in embryo. What adult was
there who never was a child?
27. Snow, Lorenzo. Teachings of Lorenzo Snow. Bookcraft, 1984. p. 2.
28. Ibid, p. 2-3.
29. PS. p. 370. Italics are mine.
30. PS. p. 353. Italics are mine.
31. 2J. pp.114-116. Italics are mine.
32. Bauer. p. 350. mnsthrion--"secret rite, secret teaching, mystery"
33. 2J. p. 117. Italics are mine.
34. 2J. p. 117.
35. 2J. pp. 117-118. Italics are mine.
36. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20. Italics are mine.
37. There are an enormous amount of sources which I encourage the
interested reader to review for themselves.