On the Origin of the World ~ NHL

Seeing that everybody, gods of the world and mankind, says that nothing existed prior to chaos, I, in distinction to them, shall demonstrate that they are all mistaken, because they are not acquainted with the origin of chaos, nor with its root. Here is the demonstration.

How well it suits all men, on the subject of chaos, to say that it is a kind of darkness! But in fact it comes from a shadow, which has been called by the name ‘darkness’. And the shadow comes from a product that has existed since the beginning. It is, moreover, clear that it existed before chaos came into being, and that the latter is posterior to the first product. Let us therefore concern ourselves with the facts of the matter; and furthermore, with the first product, from which chaos was projected. And in this way the truth will be clearly demonstrated.

After the natural structure of the immortal beings had completely developed out of the infinite, a likeness then emanated from Pistis (Faith); it is called Sophia (Wisdom). It exercised volition and became a product resembling the primeval light. And immediately her will manifested itself as a likeness of heaven, having an unimaginable magnitude; it was between the immortal beings and those things that came into being after them, like […]: she (Sophia) functioned as a veil dividing mankind from the things above.

Now the eternal realm (aeon) of truth has no shadow outside it, for the limitless light is everywhere within it. But its exterior is shadow, which has been called by the name ‘darkness’. From it, there appeared a force, presiding over the darkness. And the forces that came into being subsequent to them called the shadow ‘the limitless chaos’. From it, every kind of divinity sprouted up […] together with the entire place, so that also, shadow is posterior to the first product. It was the abyss that it (shadow) appeared, deriving from the aforementioned Pistis.

Then shadow perceived there was something mightier than it, and felt envy; and when it had become pregnant of its own accord, suddenly it engendered jealousy. Since that day, the principle of jealousy amongst all the eternal realms and their worlds has been apparent. Now as for that jealousy, it was found to be an abortion without any spirit in it. Like a shadow, it came into existence in a vast watery substance. Then the bile that had come into being out of the shadow was thrown into a part of chaos. Since that day, a watery substance has been apparent. And what sank within it flowed away, being visible in chaos: as with a woman giving birth to a child – all her superfluities flow out; just so, matter came into being out of shadow, and was projected apart. And it did not depart from chaos; rather, matter was in chaos, being in a part of it.

And when these things had come to pass, then Pistis came and appeared over the matter of chaos, which had been expelled like an aborted fetus – since there was no spirit in it. For all of it (chaos) was limitless darkness and bottomless water. Now when Pistis saw what had resulted from her defect, she became disturbed. And the disturbance appeared, as a fearful product; it rushed to her in the chaos. She turned to it and blew into its face in the abyss, which is below all the heavens.

And when Pistis Sophia desired to cause the thing that had no spirit to be formed into a likeness and to rule over matter and over all her forces, there appeared for the first time a ruler, out of the waters, lion-like in appearance, androgynous, having great authority within him, and ignorant of whence he had come into being. Now when Pistis Sophia saw him moving about in the depth of the waters, she said to him, “Child, pass through to here,” whose equivalent is ‘yalda baoth’.

Since that day, there appeared the principle of verbal expression, which reached the gods and the angels and mankind. And what came into being as a result of verbal expression, the gods and the angels and mankind finished. Now as for the ruler Yaltabaoth, he is ignorant of the force of Pistis: he did not see her face, rather he saw in the water the likeness that spoke with him. And because of that voice, he called himself ‘Yaldabaoth’. But ‘Ariael’ is what the perfect call him, for he was like a lion. Now when he had come to have authority over matter, Pistis Sophia withdrew up to her light. ¬†Continued here:


Translated by Hans-Gebhard Bethge and Bentley Layton

Original translation of this text was prepared by members of the
Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate School.
The Coptic Gnostic Library Project was funded by UNESCO, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other Institutions.
E. J. Brill has asserted copyright on texts published by the Coptic Gnostic Library Project.