Trimorphic Protennoia

The Trimorphic Protennoia is a Sethian Gnostic text from the New Testament apocrypha. The only surviving copy comes from the Nag Hammadi library (Codex XIII).

I [am] the Thought of the Father, Protennoia, that is, Barbelo, the perfect Glory, and the immeasurable Invisible One who is hidden. I am the Image of the Invisible Spirit, and it is through me that the All took shape, and (I am) the Mother (as well as) the Light which she appointed as Virgin, she who is called 'Meirothea', the incomprehensible Womb, the unrestrainable and immeasurable Voice.[1]

Similarities with other texts

Like the more familiar Apocryphon of John, to which it is similar, it is thought to be from the mid-second century, and similar in style to the Gospel of John. In particular, there is great similarity with the prologue.


The name of the text means The First Thought which is in Three Forms (or The Three Forms of the First Thought), and appears to have been rewritten at some point to incorporate Sethian beliefs, when originally it was a treatise from another Gnostic sect. Unusually, the text is in the form of an explanation of the nature of cosmology, creation, and a docetic view of Jesus, in the first person. That is, the text is written as if it is God (the three-fold first thought) writing it. Like most Gnostic writing, the text is extremely mystical, more so for being in the first person. Whilst it appears quite difficult to understand, this was the intention, as Gnosticism was more concerned about the way the text affected people than the content of it.

Secret teachings

In common with mystery religions, there were secret teachings, and not all texts were intended to be read by uninitiated people. This text appears to have been written for a higher level of initiate, part of the way through stating "Now behold! I will reveal to you my mysteries, since you are my fellow brethren, and you shall know them all",[2] although tantalizingly the next five lines are missing and followed by "I told all of them about my mysteries".[3] Some speculation has considered the possibility that these missing five lines were always missing, having never originally existed, their absence itself being a teaching of the text.


  1. Trimorphic Protennoia, paragraph 9 lines 5-8
  2. Trimorphic Protennoia (On Fate: Two), paragraph 29 line 1
  3. Trimorphic Protennoia (On Fate: Two), paragraph 29 line 2 (or 7, considering the 5 missing lines)

External links

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