56 The Gospel of Truth26:4–8. The edition used here is Robinson. Ibid.
57 Ibid., 30:27–33; 31:4–6.
Jesus was patient in accepting sufferings . . . since he knows that his death is life for many . . . he was nailed to a tree; he published the edict of the Father on the cross. . . . He draws himself down to death through life . . . eternal clothes him. Having stripped himself of the perishable rags, he put on imperishability, which no one can possibly take away from him.^58
Here and later (18:23) the author states (4)that Jesus was persecuted and suffered and (5)that he was “nailed to a tree,” obviously referring to his crucifixion.
(6)We are also told of the belief that it was Jesus’ death that brought salvation “for many,” which is referred to as the imparting of Light to those who would receive it (30:37; 31:12–20). It is also asserted (7)that Jesus was raised in an eternal body which no one can harm or take from him.
The theological overtones in The Gospel of Truth(as well as in other Gnostic writings) present an obvious contrast to the ancient secular works inspected above. Yet, even allowing for such theological motivation, these early Gnostic sources still present us with some important insights into the historical life and teachings of Jesus. The Apocryphon of John
Grant asserts that this work is closely related to the thought of the Gnostic teacher Saturninus, who taught around AD 120–130.^59 The Apocryphon of Johnwas modified as it was passed on and was known in several versions. Irenaeus made use of one of these versions as a source for his treatment of Gnosticism, Against Heresies, written ca. AD 185. Thus, by this time, at least the major teachings of The Apocryphon of Johnwere in existence.^60
In a largely mythical treatise involving esoteric matters of Gnostic theology, this book does purport to open with a historical incident. We are told: It happened [one day]when Jo[hn, the brother] of James,—who are the sons of Ze[bed]ee—went up and came to the temple, that a [Ph]arisee named Arimanius approached him and said to him, “[Where] is your master whom you followed?” And he [said] to him, “He has gone to the place from which he came.” The Pharisee said to him, “[This Nazarene] deceived you (pl.) with deception and filled [your ears with lies] and closed [your hearts and turned you] from the traditions [of your fathers].”^61 This passage relates (1)that John the disciple, in response to a question from Arimanius the Pharisee, stated that Jesus had returned to heaven, a possible reference to the Ascension. (2)The Pharisee responded by telling John that Jesus had deceived his followers with his teachings, which is reminiscent of the Talmud’s statements about Jesus. Whether such an encounter between John and Arimanius actually occurred or not, such is apparently a typical view of Jesus’ teachings from the standpoint of the Jewish leaders.
58 Ibid., 20:11–14, 25–34.
59 Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, p. 109.