Nag Hammadi Scriptures – Exegesis on the Soul

The Nag Hammadi ScripturesExegesis on the Soul

Translated by Marvin Meyer

The Female Soul (127,18-22)

The sages who came before us gave the soul a feminine name. She is also feminine in nature, and she even has a womb.

Fall of the Soul (127,22-129,5)

While the soul was alone with the Father, she was a virgin and androgynous in form. When she fell down into a body and entered this life, she fell into the hands of many robbers. These shameless men passed her from one to the other and [violated] her. Some raped her, others seduced her with gifts. They defiled her, and she [lost her] virginity.

In her body she became a whore and gave herself to everyone, and she considered each sexual partner to be her husband. After she gave herself to shameless, faithless adulterers for them to abuse her, she sighed deeply and repented.

But when she turned her face from those adulterers, she ran after others, and they made her live with them and serve them in their beds as if they were her masters. She was ashamed, and then she did not dare to leave them. For a long time they fooled her into thinking they respected her like faithful, true husbands. But finally they left, and abandoned her.

She became a poor lost widow. She was helpless, and no one even gave ear to her in her pain. She got nothing from the adulterers except the filth they left when they had sex with her. The children she had from the adulterers are mute, blind and sickly. They are disturbed.

Her Father on high noticed her. He looked down on her and saw her sighing in pain and disgrace and repenting of her prostitution. She began to call on him for help, and [she sighed] with all her heart and said, “My Father, save me. Look, I shall tell [you how I] left home and fled from my maiden’s quarters. Restore me to yourself.”

When he sees her in this condition, he will consider her worthy of his mercy. For many afflictions have come upon her because she left home.

On the Prostitution of the Soul (129,5-131,13)

The holy Spirit prophesies in many places about the prostitution of the soul. The Spirit said in the prophet Jeremiah:

If a husband divorces his wife and she goes and takes another man, can she ever go back to him again? Has not such a woman utterly defiled herself? “You played the whore with many shepherds and you returned to me,” said the Lord. “Lift up your eyes and see clearly where you went whoring. Were you not sitting in the streets defiling the land with your whoring and your vices? And you took many shepherds as a way of stumbling for you. You were shameless with everyone. You did not call on me as companion or father or guardian of your virginity.”

It is also written in the prophet Hosea:

Come, accuse your mother, for she is not to be my wife nor I her husband. I shall remove her whoring from my presence and her adultery from between her breasts. I shall make her naked as on the day she was born and desolate as a waterless land. I shall make her childless with a [longing for children. I] shall show her no pity, for they are children of prostitution. Their mother played the whore and [shamed her children]. She said, “I shall be a whore to my lovers. They gave me bread, water, garments, robes, wine, oil – everything I needed.” When she seeks them but does not find them, she will say, “I shall go back to my former husband, for I was better off then than now.”

Again, it is said in Ezekiel:

It happened that after much wickedness, the Lord said, you built yourself a brothel and made yourself a beautiful place in the streets. You built brothels in every alley and you wasted your beauty, you spread your legs in every alley and multiplied your acts of prostitution. You were a whore for the sons of Egypt, your neighbours, well-endowed men.
What does “the sons of Egypt, well-endowed men” mean if not the realm of the flesh and the senses and the things of the earth by which the soul is defiled in this world? She receives from them bread, wine, oil, clothing and the other external stuff surrounding the body, the things she thinks she needs.

But as to this prostitution, the apostles of the Saviour commanded,

Guard yourselves against it, purify yourself from it.

They were speaking not just of the prostitution of the body but especially that of the soul. That is why the apostles write [to the churches] of God so that such [things] might not go on among us.

The greatest [struggle] is the prostitution of the soul. From it comes the prostitution of the body. Thus Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said:

I wrote to you in my letter, “Do not associate with whores,” not meaning the whores of this world or the greedy or the thieves or idol worshippers, since then you would have to leave the world.

Here he is speaking spiritually:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood – as he said – but against the world rulers of this darkness and the spirits of evil.

Restoration of the Soul (131,13-132,27)

As long as the soul keeps running here and there having sex with whomever she meets and defiling herself, she will suffer what she deserves. But when she perceives the trouble she is in and weeps before the Father and repents, the Father will pity her. He will make her womb turn from the outside back to the inside, so that the soul will recover her proper character. It is not so with a woman. The womb of the body is inside the body like the other internal organs, but the womb of the soul is turned to the outside like male sex organs, which are external.

When the womb of the soul, by the Father’s will, turns to the inside, she is baptised, and at once she is free of the external pollution forced upon her, just as dirty [clothes] are soaked in [water and] are moved about until the dirt is removed and they are clean. The soul is cleansed so that she may regain what she had at first, her former nature, and she may be restored. That is her baptism.

Then she will begin to rage like a woman in labour, who writhes and rages at the time of delivery. But since she is female and cannot conceive a child by herself, her Father sent her from heaven her man, her brother, the first-born. The bridegroom came down to the bride. She gave up her former whoring and cleansed herself of the pollution of adulterers, and she was restored to be a bride. She cleansed herself in the bridal chamber. She filled it with perfume and sat there awaiting the true bridegroom. She no longer went around the marketplace having sex with whomever she desired, but she stayed and waited for him, saying, “When will he come?” And she feared him. For she did not know what he looked like. She no longer remembered from the time she fell from her Father’s house. Yet, by the Father’s will, she dreamed of him like a woman who loves a man.

Marriage of the Soul to Her Beloved (132,27-133,31)

Then, by the Father’s will, the bridegroom came down to her in the bridal chamber that had been prepared. And he decorated the chamber.

This marriage of the soul is not like a marriage of the flesh. In a marriage of the flesh, those who have sex with each other become satiated with sex, and so they leave behind them the annoying burden of physical desire and [turn their faces] from each other. This marriage of the soul [is different]. When the partners join [with each other] they become a single life.

Thus the prophet said about the first man and woman,

They will become a single flesh.

These partners were originally joined to each other when they were with the Father, before the woman led astray the man, her brother. This marriage has brought them together again, and the soul has joined her true love and real master, as it is written:

The master of the woman is her husband.

Gradually she recognised him. She was happy again, and she wept in his arms when she remembered the disgrace of her former widowhood. She adorned herself even more, so that he might be pleased to stay with her.

The prophet said in the Psalms:

Hear, my daughter, see and give ear,
and forget your people and your father’s house,
for the king has desired your beauty,
and he is your master.

Her master has her turn her face from her people and the many adulterers with whom she once was, to devote herself to her king, her real master, and to forget the house of the earthly father, with whom things went badly for her, but to remember her Father in heaven.

So also it was said to Abraham:

Leave your country and your relatives and your father’s house.

Rebirth of the Soul (133,31-135,4)

When the soul [adorned] herself again in her beauty, she [was eager] to enjoy her beloved. [He also] loved her. When she made love with him, she received from him the seed, which is the life-giving spirit. She bears good children by him and brings them up. This is the great, perfect, wonderful birth.

This marriage is consummated by the Father’s will.

The soul needs to regenerate herself and become as she formerly was. So the soul stirred, and she received the divine from the Father, that she might be restored and returned to where she was before.

This is resurrection from the dead.
This is freedom from captivity.
This is ascent to heaven.
This is the way up to the Father.

Therefore the prophet said:

My soul, praise the Lord,
all within me, praise his holy name.
My soul, praise God,
who forgave all your sins,
who healed all your sicknesses,
who freed your life from death,
who crowned you with mercy,
who satisfies your longing with good things,
Your youth will be renewed like an eagle’s.

When the soul is renewed, she will arise and praise the Father and her brother, by whom she was rescued. In this way, through rebirth, the soul will be saved. ‘This is not because of practical lessons or technical skills or learned books. Rather, it is the grace of the [Spirit], it is the gift of the merciful [God], for it is from above.

Thus the Saviour calls out:

No one can come to me unless my Father draws and brings that one to me.
I myself will raise that one on the last day.

Praying with All Our Soul (135,4-136,16)

So we need to pray to the Father and call on him with all our soul, not outwardly with our lips but with the spirit, which is within and has come from the depth,

repenting for the lives we led,
confessing our sins,
recognising the vain deception
and vain zeal we were in,
weeping over our lives
in darkness, as billows roll,
mourning for ourselves
that he might pity us,
hating ourselves
for what we are now.

Again, the Saviour said:

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be pitied.
Blessed are the hungry, for they will be filled.

Again he said:

One who does not hate one’s own soul cannot follow me.

The beginning of salvation is repentance. Thus:

Before Jesus appeared John came and preached the baptism of repentance.

Repentance takes place in sorrow and grief. The Father is good and loves people, and hears the soul that calls to him and sends her the light of salvation.

Thus he said through the spirit to the prophet:

Say to the children of my people,
“[If] your sins can reach [from earth to] heaven,
if they become [red] as scarlet and blacker than sackcloth,
[and if] you return to me with all your soul
And say to me, ‘My Father’,
I will listen to you as a holy people.”

Again, elsewhere:

Thus says the Lord, the holy one of Israel,
“If you return and sigh,
you will be saved
and know where you were
when you trusted what is vain.”

And again he said:

Jerusalem wept and wept, saying, “Pity me”. He will have pity on the voice your lamentation. When he noticed, he listened to you. And the Lord will give you bread of affliction and water of oppression. From now on those who deceive will never approach you again. Your eye will see those who would deceive you.

Repentance of Odysseus and Helen (136,16-137,11)

We need to pray to God night and day and lift our hands to him as people do who sail in the middle of the sea. They pray to God with all their heart without hypocrisy. Those who pray with hypocrisy deceive only themselves. For God examines what is within and searches the depths of the heart to find out who is worthy of salvation. And no one is worthy of salvation who still loves the place of deception.

Thus it is written in the poet:

Odysseus sat weeping and grieving on the island. He turned his face from the words of Calypso and from her tricks and longed to see his village and smoke coming from it. If he had not [received] help from heaven, [he would not have been able to return] to his village.

Again, [Helen also] says:

My heart turned away from me. I want to return to my own house.

She sighed and said:

Aphrodite deceived me and brought me out of my village. I left my only daughter behind, and my good, understanding, handsome husband.

When the soul leaves her perfect husband because of the deception of Aphrodite, which happens in the act of conception in this world, the soul suffers harm. But if she sighs and repents, she will be restored to her house.

Our Repentance (137,11-27)

Israel would not have once been visited by God and brought out of the land of Egypt and the house of bondage if it had not sighed to God and wept about its oppressive labours.

Again, it is written in the Psalms:

I have been deeply troubled.
in my groaning.
I shall drench my bed and cover each night
with my tears.
I have become old among all my enemies.
Depart from me, all you who do lawless things,
for look, the Lord has heard the cry of my weeping,
and the Lord has heard my prayer.

If we truly repent, God, who is patient and abundant in mercy, will hear us. To God be the glory for ever and ever.


Exegesis on the Soul.

Extract from The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume – Edited by Marvin Meyer.

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