Get the CD Now!

2nd Apocalypse of James

At a Glance
(2/5) **
Reliability of Dating:
(3/5) ***
Length of Text:
Original Language:
Ancient Translations:
Modern Translations:

Estimated Range of Dating: 120-180 A.D.

Chronological List of Early Christian Writings
Discuss this text on the Early Writings forum.



Recommended Books for the Study of Early Christian Writings

Information on 2nd Apocalypse of James

Wolf-Peter Funk writes (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, p. 328):

Original language, date and place of origin: although there is no firm evidence for it, it is generally assumed that the extant Coptic copy of 2 Apoc. Jas. goes back to a translation from the Greek. The occasional appearance of a name or a loan-word in a Greek inflected form can be interpreted as an indication of the Coptic translator's lack of attentiveness; here and there the idea of a translation from the Greek is also helpful for our understanding of the Coptic text. The translation into Coptic will have taken place at the latest shortly before the making of the codex (middle of 4th cent.), hence in the first half of the 4th century, but at the earliest in the second half of the 3rd century. We know nothing of the original place and date of origin of the document; for lack of direct connections with literature which can be historically located, no firm indications can be gained from the content itself. We may however raise the question in what period and region the document would best fit according to our conception of it. Along these lines conjectures have been advanced which tend towards the 2nd century (middle, or even first half). In many respects the text stands close to the Fourth Gospel, as well as to the Antitheses of Marcion, although it cannot be recognized to be dependent on either of the two. The prominent role of James the Lord's brother appears to speak for the geographical area of Syria and Palestine rather than for any other.

Charles W. Hedrick writes (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, pp. 269-270):

The tractate as a whole is clearly gnostic in character, yet it shows remarkable restraint in treating usual gnostic themes. Nor can it be identified with any of the known gnostic systems of the second century. On the other hand, the author has made extensive use of Jewish-Christian traditions. James, who held a position of special prominence in Jewish-Christian circles, is regarded as the possessor of a special revelation form Jesus and is assigned a role in the gnostic tradition that rivals, and perhaps exceeds, that of Peter in the canonical tradition. For example, James is the "escort" who guides the Gnostic through the door of the heavenly kingdom and even rewards him (55,6-14; cf. 55,15-56,13). The description is similar to Peter's charge as the keeper of the keys of heaven (Mt 16:19).

As to the date and place of composition, little can be said with certainty. Because of the basic Jewish-Christian traditions out of which the tractate is composed, it is probable that its origin is to be associated with Jewish-Christian circles. The absence of allusions to the later developed gnostic systems, and the almost total absence of allusions to the New Testament tradition suggest an early date for the origin of the tractate.

Wolf-Peter Funk writes (op. cit., p. 330):

On the question of relationships we are faced by one (or several) of the major riddles of this document, which is further aggravated by the destruction of some passages but would probably remain even if the text had been handed down complete. The name of James' father and Mary's husband is given not as Joseph but as Theudas (p. 44.18), and the special relationship of Jesus with James consists to all appearances not in the usual (half-)brotherly relationship, but on the one hand in a 'foster-brother' relationship through James' mother and on the other in some kind of blood relation through James' father (p. 50). There has been much speculation about the last statement; we probably have to read (despite a small lacuna) with a high degree of certainty 'he (Jesus) is a brother of your (James') father' - whatever is to be understood by 'brother' here. It is, however, to be noted that 2 Apoc. Jas. (in contrast to 1 Apoc. Jas.) contains no express rejection of a bodily brotherhood relationship between Jesus and James, and that here (even more clearly than in 1 Apoc. Jas.) the author works with the latent consciousness of this brotherly relationship (cf. the course of the conversation at p. 50). A certain natural relationship between Jesus and James is in any case of fundamental importance for the development of the main ideas fo the document. In addition the family, as already mentioned, is placed in a relation to a Jerusalem Temple priest (pp. 44 and 61; cf. the priest from the Rechabites in Hegesippus, Euseb. H.E. II 23.17).

Charles W. Hedrick writes (op. cit., p. 269):

The tractate contains at least four sections artistically arranged. Because of their balance and stylized form they have been described as "harmonic prose" possessing a "hymnic" quality. Three of these units are aretalogies. One (49,5-15) is a series of self-assertions by the resurrected Jesus in the "I am" style. Another (58,2-20) is a series of predications about the resurrected Jesus made by James in the third person (i.e., "he is"). In a further aretalogy (55,15-56,13) the resurrected Jesus describes James' special role in the second person (i.e., "you are"). The entire description in the third aretalogy suggests that James is intended to perform the function of gnostic redeemer.

The fourth and final unit is the prayer of James, set shortly before his martyrdom.

Some Contemporary Texts

Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!

Kirby, Peter. "2nd Apocalypse of James." Early Christian Writings. <>.