The Gnostic Scripture The Revelation of Adam speaks of a figure known as Illuminator: a being who will come and “redeem their souls from the day of death” (351). However, each of the fourteen kingdoms of the world each have a different “origin story” of how the Illuminator came to be. Interestingly nearly all of the kingdoms descriptions (with the exception of the first as most of it is missing) can be matched up with an existing salvific tradition of that time. I will be going over three such traditions two Abrahamic and one pagan.
“The third kingdom says of him; He came from a virgin womb. He was banished from his city, with his mother, and was brought to a desert place. He nourished himself there. He came and received glory and power, and in this way he came to the water.” Immediately upon hearing the phrase “virgin womb” one might assume the figure they are speaking of is Jesus as depicted in the Gospel of Luke. However, Luke states in chapter two, verse seven “And she gave birth to her firstborn son…and laid him in a manger because there was no place…in the inn.” Which directly contradicts the line “He was brought to a desert place” after his birth, as any place with an inn is clearly not the wilderness. Instead the text that most matches this description is found in the Koran, Surah nineteen Maryam. This Surah tells the story of Jesus’ birth. Ayah twenty-two says “So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a far place.” This fulfills the first two lines of the description (albeit Mary leaves of her own volition rather than being banished). Later, when Mary becomes famished from childbirth, Jesus instructs her in ayahs twenty-five and twenty-six “Your Lord has provided a water stream under you. And shake the tree of date palm towards you, it will let fall fresh, ripe dates.” Thus fulfilling the description “He nourished himself there.” Although this tradition lines up rather nicely with the description there are two problems with it. The Koran was written long after the Revelation of Adam and Jesus (Isa) isn’t a savior figure in the Koran. However, this story about Mary might have been part of the folklore of the time. Thus still allowing this comparison some credence. Therefore, it is safe to say that the third kingdom’s description of the Illuminator at least reflects the figure of Isa.
“And the thirteenth kingdom says of him, every offspring of their ruler is a word, and this word received a mandate there. He received glory and power, and in this way he came to the water, so that the desire of those powers might be satisfied.” (354) This passage contains clear echoes of the gospel of John. John says chapter one verse one “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” Later in verse fourteen he said “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… a father’s only son.” In verse nineteen he says “Grace and truth came from Jesus Christ... it is God the only Son who is close to the father’s heart who has made him known.” It is worth noting that the Gnostics looked over the first chapter of John in great detail and this is most likely where they got the thirteenth kingdom’s description of the Illuminator. As Jesus himself later says in chapter fourteen verse thirty-one, “But I do as the Father has commanded me that the world may know that I love the Father.” This further cements the connection between Jesus and the mandate that the Illuminator receives” So that the desire of those powers might be satisfied.” Both the explicit connections between verses in The Gospel of John and the thirteenth kingdom’s description of the Illuminator as well as the Gnostic’s familiarity of The Gospel of John, suggests that the thirteenth kingdom’s description of the Illuminator reflects John’s description of Jesus and his purpose.
The eighth kingdom says of him, A cloud came over the earth and enveloped a rock, and he came from it. The angels over the cloud nourished him. He [ received] glory and power there, and [ in this way he] came to [ the water]. (353) This description seems to align with the figure of Mithras. Mithras was the central figure of a Roman mystery cult that was active from the first through the fourth centuries A.D. Like Christianity, it promised salvation to its followers and like Gnosticism that salvation was achieved through secret teachings. Unfortunately, those teachings were such a closely guarded secret they are lost to history. However, we can be assured of a few things: Mithraism and icons relating to Mithraism feature two common events. Mithras slaying a bull, suggesting that the means by which Mithras gave salvation were a lot more bloody and violent than Jesus’ (An inscription located in a Mithras worship site says “You have saved us… in the shed blood” which lends support to this interpretation.) The second image commonly found in Mithras worship sites is Mithras’ birth from a rock, which matches up with the only description given by the eight kingdom “and he came from… [ a rock] “. Being both a savior figure and born from a rock, Mithras is the most likely candidate of the eighth kingdoms description of the Illuminator.
The Origin of the Illuminator isn’t merely a description of various contemporary savior figures; it defines which groups have the wrong idea about the savior figure. As the final part of poem says, “But the generation without a king says, God chose him from all the eternal realms. He made knowledge of the undefiled one of truth to come to be [in] him. He said, “The [great] illuminator has come [from] foreign air, [ from a] great eternal realm.” And [ he] illumined the generation of those people, whom he had chosen for himself, so that they might illumine the whole eternal realm.” (355). “The generation without a king” are the Gnostics. This shows that the purpose of this poem is to discredit both the rival savior figures (such as Mithras) as well as rival conceptions of the savior figure (such as the proto Islamic and Christian view of Jesus) acknowledging only the Gnostic conception of Jesus as the true way to understand the coming savior figure.