Second Apocalypse Of James


This constitutes the fourth tractate in Codex V of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY. It is called the Second in order to distinguish it from its immediate predecessor in Codex V; both texts have the same ancient title, The .

The presence and order of the two apocalypses in Codex V may be attributed to the deliberate scribal organization. Although the two documents stress different aspects of the James tradition, the recipient of the revelation is the same in both tractates: James, the brother of Jesus (24.12-13; 50.1-23). In the First Apocalypse, James is warned about his future sufferings (25.12-14; 30.13-15) at the hands of an angry mob (33.2-5), which James will stir to anger against himself (32.9-11).

In its fragmentary conclusion, however, this document contains an only scant reference to James’s in accordance with these predictions. The Second Apocalypse, on the other hand, gives a detailed report of the suffering and death of James at the hands of a mob angered by his discourses. In short, the Second fulfills the predictions of the First of James.

Although it is titled an “apocalypse,” the second James text takes the form of a two-part report to Theuda, the father of James, by a priest who was apparently present at the ritual stoning of James. The first part of the report narrates the discourses of James that immediately preceded and apparently caused his stoning (46.1(?)- 60.29(?). Interestingly, James’s reports include two revelation discourses of the resurrected Jesus, which exhibit Gnostic tendencies (48.1(?)-49.30(?); 51.1(?)-57.11). The second part of the priest’s report (61.15-62.12) describes the ritualistic stoning of James, which accorded exactly with the Jewish execution prescribed for “deceivers” (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6.6). The document closes with the final prayer of the martyred James (62.12-63.29).

At least four major sections were written in a sufficiently stylized form that they have been described by Böhlig and Labib (1963) as consisting of “harmonic prose.” Three of these segments are aretalogies (49.5-15; 58.2-20; 55.15-56.13) and the fourth forms the final prayer of James.

The document clearly falls within the Christian-Gnostic tradition. Yet the author shows remarkable restraint in treating the usual Gnostic themes and draws extensively from tradition, particularly in his description of James’s martyrdom (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 2.23).

Little is known about the date and provenance of the document. Like other texts from the Nag Hammadi Library, it was probably written originally in Greek and then translated into Coptic (Sahidic) sometime before the middle of the fourth century A.D. The lack of allusions to the developed of the second century A.D. and the New Testament suggest an early date for the tractate, possibly sometime before A.D. 150.

  • Böhlig, A., and P. Labib. Koptisch-gnostische Apokalypsen aus Codex V von Nag Hammadi im Museum zu Alt- Kairo. Special issue, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Martin- Luther Universität. Halle-Wittenberg, 1963.
  • Brown, S. K. “Jewish and Gnostic Elements in the Second of James (CG V, 4).” Novum Testamentum 17 (1975):225-37.
  • Funk, W. P., ed. Die Zweite Apokalypse des Jakobus aus NagHammadi-Codex V. Texte und Untersuchungen 119. Berlin, 1976.
  • Hedrick, C. W. “The (Second) of James.” In Nag Hammadi V, 2-5, and VI with Berolinensis 8502, 1 and 4, ed. D. M. Parrott. 11. Leiden, 1979.
  • Little, D. H. The Death of James the Brother of Jesus. Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 1971.