Paraphrase of Shem

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The Paraphrase of Shem is an apocryphal Gnostic writing discovered in the Codex VII of the Nag Hammadi Codices.


The text begins saying that it is "[The] paraphrase which was about the unbegotten Spirit." It is an apocalyptic writing that talks of Shem's ascension and recension to Earth. It is during this event that Shem is given a revelation from a being called Derdekeas, who is the son of infinite Light. It also gives its own account on the Biblical Flood, Sodom's destruction, and the baptism and resurrection of the Saviour. The text first describes three powers: Light, Spirit, and Darkness. The Light is a dominant power of reason, and the Darkness is a malevolent power of chaos. The meek power of Spirit stands between them. The text goes on to discuss the identity and actions of Derdekeas. He is a Gnostic savior interested in spreading salvation and combating the evils plaguing the Earth. He ultimately descends into the world in disguise in order to save the Spirit from the Darkness and in so doing, provides the world with more of the knowledge and deliverance connected to the Light[1]

It also refers to Shem as the first person on Earth which is similar to Old Testament teaching regarding Adam, but can also be connected to Jesus who, according to the New Testament said "Before Abraham was, I AM."[John 8:58]

The Paraphrase of Shem ends saying:

Henceforth, O Shem, go in grace and continue in faith upon the earth. For every power of light and fire will be completed by me [49] because of you. For without you they will not be revealed until you speak them openly. When you cease to be upon the earth, they will [5] be given to the worthy ones. And apart from this proclamation, let them speak about you upon the earth, since they will take the carefree and agreeable land.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Roberge, Michel (2010). The paraphrase of Shem (NH VII, 1): introduction, translation, and commentary. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18585-2. OCLC 697174343.


  1. ^ director, James M. Robinson (1977). The Nag Hammadi Library : Chenoposkion Manuscripts English (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Harper & Row. pp. 308–328. ISBN 0-06-066929-2.

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