The ‘Hymn of the Pearl’ or ‘Hymn of the Robe of Glory’

Imbedded within the Acts of Thomas we find a beautiful and complete statement of a classic Gnostic myth describing the exile and redemption of the soul. The text is known both as the “Hymn of the Pearl” and occasionally as “Hymn of the Robe of Glory”. What astounds most is that such a clear rendition of the Gnostic mythos was allowed to survive within a text which resided for centuries on the shelves of orthodox archives.

-Paraphrase from The Hymn of the Pearl – The Acts of Thomas
in the ‘Gnostic Scriptures and Fragments’ section of The Gnosis Archive website


As the story goes: Thomas was the only one of the apostles that went to India to spread the christian faith there and actually died there.

While there, Thomas is arrested by his enemies and thrown in prison (where he was eventually martyred).

As he comes into the prison, all the prisoners gather around him and beg him to tell them a story that would instruct them in spiritual things & divert them from their troubles, so he tells them the story of the “Hymn of the Pearl” or the “Hymn of the Robe of Glory”

The story is told in the first person about an Individual (a heavenly being) without a name, but we can recognize that this Individual is the prototype and the archetype for the human soul…

…And when Judas stood before king Mazdai, who said to him: “Tell me what is thy story, by whose power thou doest these works?” And Judas was silent and gave him no reply. And king Mazdai commanded the soldiers, and they struck him a hundred and fifty lashes; and he gave orders that they should convey him bound to prison; and they bound him and carried him off. And when he was gone and had entered into the prison, Mazdai and Karīsh were planning how they might kill him, because the whole people were worshipping him as God, and they took pains to say (everywhere), “He hath reviled the king, and he is a conjuror”

But Judas, when he went to prison, was glad and rejoicing, saying: “I thank thee, my Lord Jesus the Messiah, that Thou hast deemed me worthy not only to believe in Thee, but also to bear many things for Thy sake.” And he said: “I thank Thee, my Lord, that Thou hast deemed me worthy of these things. I thank Thee, my Lord, that Thy providence hath been over me, and that Thou hast deemed me worthy to bear many evils for Thy sake. I thank thee, my Lord, that for Thy sake, I have been a recluse and an ascetic and a pauper and a wandering mendicant. Let me then receive of the blessing of the poor, and of the rest of the weary, and of the blessing of those whom men hate and persecute and revile and say of them odious words. Lo, for Thy sake I am hated and shunned by many; for Thy sake they say of me I know not what.”

-Paraphrase from p. 238-245 in the Syriac translation by William Wright,
Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (London, 1871)


The Hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle in the country of the Indians.

And whilst he was praying, all those who were in the prison saw that he was praying and begged of him to pray for them too. And when he had prayed and sat down, Judas began to chant this hymn.

“WHEN I was a little child, and dwelling in my kingdom, in my father’s house, and was content with the wealth and the luxuries of my nourishers, from the East our home my parents equipped me (and) sent me forth; and of the wealth of our treasury they took abundantly, (and) tied up for me a load large and (yet) light, which I myself could carry—gold of Beth-‛Ellāyē, and silver of Gazak the great, and rubies of India, and agates from Beth-Kāshān; and they furnished me with the adamant, which can crush iron. And they took off from me the glittering robe, which in their affection they had made for me, and the purple toga, which was measured (and) woven to my stature.

And they made a pact with me, and wrote it in my heart, that it might not be forgotten: ‘If thou goest down into Egypt, and bringest the one pearl, which is in the midst of the sea around the loud-breathing serpent, thou shalt put on thy glittering robe and thy toga, with which (thou art) contented, and with thy brother, who is next to us in authority, thou shalt be heir in our kingdom.’

I quitted the East (and) went down, there being with me two guardians, for the way was dangerous and difficult, and I was very young to travel it. I passed through the borders of Maishan, the meeting-place of the merchants of the East, and I reached the land of Babel, and I entered the walls of Sarbug.

I went down into Egypt, and my companions parted from me. I went straight to the serpent, I dwelt around his abode, (waiting) till he should slumber and sleep, and I could take my pearl from him. And when I was single and was alone (and) become strange to my family, one of my race, a free-born man, an Oriental, I saw there, a youth fair and loveable, the son of oil-sellers; and he came and attached himself to me, and I made him my intimate friend, an associate with whom I shared my merchandise.

I warned him against the Egyptians, and against consorting with the unclean; and I dressed in their dress, that they might not hold me in abhorrence, because I was come from abroad in order to take the pearl, and arouse the serpent against me.

But in some way or other they found out that I was not their countryman, and they dealt with me treacherously, and gave me their food to eat. I forgot that I was a son of kings, and I served their king; and I forgot the pearl, for which my parents had sent me, and because of the burden of their oppressions I lay in a deep sleep.

But all these things that befell me my parents perceived, and were grieved for me; and a proclamation was made in our kingdom, that every one should come to our gate (i.e., palace or residence), kings and princes of Parthia, and all the nobles of the East.

And they wove a plan on my behalf, that I might not be left in Egypt; and they wrote to me a letter, and every noble signed his name to it:

‘From thy father, the king of kings, and thy mother, the mistress of the East, and from thy brother, our second (in authority), to thee our son, who art in Egypt, greeting! Up and arise from thy sleep, and listen to the words of our letter! Call to mind that thou art a son of kings! See the slavery,—whom thou servest! Remember the pearl, for which thou wast sent to Egypt! Think of thy robe, and remember thy splendid toga, which thou shalt wear and (with which) thou shalt be adorned, when thy name hath been read out in the list of the valiant, and with thy brother, our viceroy, thou shalt be in our kingdom.’

My letter is a letter, which the king sealed with his own right hand, (to keep it) from the wicked ones, the children of Babel, and from the savage-demons of Sarbug. It flew in the likeness of an eagle, the king of all birds; it flew and alighted beside me, and became all speech.

At its voice and the sound of its rustling, I started and arose from my sleep. I took it up and kissed it, and I began (and), read it; and according to what was traced on my heart were the words of my letter written, I remembered that I was a son of royal parents, and my noble birth asserted its nature. I remembered the pearl, for which I had been sent to Egypt, and I began to charm him, the terrible loud-breathing serpent.

I hushed him to sleep and lulled him into slumber, for my father’s name I named over him, and the name of our second (in power), and of my mother, the queen of the East; and I snatched away the pearl, and turned to go back to my father’s house.

And their filthy and unclean dress I stripped off, and left it in their country; and I took my way straight to come to the light of our home the East. And my letter, my awakener, I found before me on the road; and as with its voice it had awakened me, (so) too with its light it was leading me.

It, that dwelt in the palace, gave light before me with its form, and with its voice and its guidance it also encouraged me to speed, and with its love it drew me on. I went forth (and) passed by Sarbug; I left Babel on my left hand; and I came to the great Maishān, to the haven of merchants, which sitteth on the shore of the sea. And my bright robe, which I had stripped off, and the toga that was wrapped with it, from Rāmthā and Reken (?) my parents had sent thither by the hand of their treasurers, who in their truth could be trusted therewith. And because I remembered not its fashion,—for in my childhood I had left it, in my father’s house,—on a sudden, when I (received) it.

The garment seemed to me to become like a mirror of myself. I saw it all in all, and I too received all in it, for we were two in distinction and yet again one in one likeness. And the treasurers too, who brought it to me, I saw in like manner to be two (and yet) one likeness, for one sign of the king was written on them (both), of the hands of him who restored to me through them my trust and my wealth, my decorated robe, which was adorned with glorious colors, with gold and beryls and rubies and agates and sardonyxes, varied in color. And it was skilfully worked in its home on high, and with diamond clasps were all its seams fastened; and the image of the king of kings was embroidered and depicted in full all over it; and like the stone of the sapphire too its hues were varied.

And I saw also that all over it the instincts of knowledge were working, and I saw too that it was preparing to speak. I heard the sound of its tones, which it uttered with its ….. , (saying): ‘I am the active in deeds, whom they reared for him before my father; and I perceived myself, that my stature grew according to his labors.’

And in its kingly movements it poured itself entirely over me, and on the hand of its givers it hastened that I might take it. And love urged me too to run to meet it and receive it; and I stretched forth and took it. With the beauty of its colors I adorned myself, and I wrapped myself wholly in my toga of brilliant hues.

I clothed myself with it, and went up to the gate of salutation and prostration; I bowed my head and worshipped the majesty of my father who sent me,—for I had done his commandments, and he too had done what he promised,—and at the gate of his retainers I mingled with his princes, for he rejoiced in me and received me, and I was with him in his kingdom, and with the voice of ….. all his servants praise him. And he promised that to the gate too of the king of kings with him I should go, and with my offering and my pearl with him should present myself to our king.”

The hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle, which he spake in the prison, is ended.

-Paraphrase from p. 238-245 in the Syriac translation by William Wright,
Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (London, 1871)


The Song of praise of Thomas the Apostle.

“TO be glorified are Thou, Lord of all, self-existent, unutterable, who art hidden in the brightness of Thy glory from all created beings.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the first-born of life, who art from the exalted Father and the Word of life.

“To be glorified art Thou, the one Father, who portrayest Thyself with wisdom in all creatures and in all worlds.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son of light, the Wisdom and the Power and the Knowledge, who art in all worlds.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father exalted, who didst rise (like the sun) from Thy secrecy into manifestation by means of all Thy Prophets.

“To be praised art Thou, Son of mercy, by whom all things were fulfilled in wisdom and in silence.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father supreme, born of Thy First-born in the silence and tranquility of meditation.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son adored, who didst rise (as the sun) from the Father, with His aspect, in peace and in glory.

“To be glorified art Thou, the good Father, who didst reveal the mystery of Thy First-born to the Prophets by the Spirit of holiness.

“To be praised art Thou, the proved Son, who didst reveal the glory of the Father to Thy Apostles in all nations.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father serene, who didst hallow Thy majesty for ever in Thy First-born; the Giver of life to Thy creation.

“To be praised art Thou, the comely Son, who didst rise (like the sun) from the splendor of the Father, and didst deliver our souls by Thy innocent blood.

“To be glorified art Thou, Father omnipotent, who dwellest in Thy glorious light, and art shrouded in Thy glory, and manifested to all in Thy grace.

“To be praised art Thou, the perfect Son, who art sown in the living earth, and wast before the world with Thy holy Father.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Feeder of all, who art in all worlds, on high and in the deep, and there is no place that is void of Thee.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the adored Fruit, who didst rise (like the sun) upon all in mercy, and didst put on our humanity, and whom our adversary slew;

“To be glorified art Thou, the infinite Father, who didst make Thy angels of the overflowings of Thy Spirit and Thy ministers Thy flaming fire.

“To be praised, art Thou, the Son of light, who art borne on the Spirit, and shrouded in the light of the Father, on holy clouds.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father giving life to all, who didst assemble the worlds for Thy glory by the hand of Thy dear (Son), that they might make praise to ascend unto Thee.

” To be praised art Thou Son of life, of whose gift the Father giveth in abundance to the holy, and through it they set out and arrive in the path of peace.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father giving life to all, who hast revealed the mysteries of Thy Son by the Spirit to His saints, in tranquility and rest.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the Fruit of the Father, who hidest Thy chosen ones under Thy wings, and hast fulfilled the will of Thy Father, and redeemed Thy dear ones.

“To be glorified art Thou, the good Father, giving life to all creatures by the hand of Thy dear (Son), in mercy and in grace, through His death by crucifixion.

“To be praised art Thou, the first-born Son, feeding created beings with Thy body, and blotting out our sins with the sign of Thy wounds and with the sprinkling of Thy blood upon us.

“To be glorified art Thou, the good Father, who dwellest in the pure heart, in the mind of Thy worshippers, and art hidden from all in Thy aspect, and revealed to us in Thy Messiah.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the Word, proclaiming Thy coming in stillness, who didst put on our humanity and deliver us by Thy living and innocent blood.

“To be glorified art Thou, the living Father, who didst give (new) life to our deadness, for we had erred from Thy way and were dead and perished, but Thy mercy was upon us.

“To be praised art Thou, the beloved Son, who didst give (new) life to our deadness, and didst turn back our I going astray, and wast to us a medicine of life by Thy life-giving body and by the sprinkling of Thy living blood.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father exalted by all mouths and by all tongues, who hast been reconciled to us by Thy Messiah, and whom we have tasted through Thy Fruit and have become children of Thy peace.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the Peace-maker, who hast healed our wounds, and persuaded our hardness (of heart), and collected our wandering, and trained us in Thy truth, and we have known through Thee Thy Father.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father omnipotent, who hast sent to us Thy living and life-giving Fruit; and He reconciled by the blood of His Cross Thy mercy with Thy creatures.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the Word of light, who didst rise (like the sun) from on high and satisfy us with the knowledge of Thee, and didst cleanse our impurity, and give (new) life to our deadness by Thy sign, the Cross of light.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father of all praises, and to be exalted is Thy great Name in all worlds, for Thou hast not reckoned against us our sins, but hast given us life through Thy Messiah, who is the Life of Thy will.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the Voice conceived of knowledge, our holy Priest, who hast made atonement for us by Thy pure and holy offering, and hast poured out Thy living blood on behalf of sinners.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father exalted, who art hidden from all worlds, and art revealed according to Thy will to all Thy worshippers.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son of life, accomplishing the will of Thy Father; who hast reconciled Thy creatures, so that they worship in Thee Him who sent Thee and are become partakers of Thy mysteries.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father exalted, by every knee, which shall bow to Thee, both in Heaven and on earth, through Thy dear (Son).

“To be praised art Thou, the adored Son of perfect mercy, through whom there has come peace and hope for the creatures, that they may know the Creator.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father giving life to all, the riches of whose mercy are never exhausted by the abundance of Thy gifts, but at all times Thou hast a need of giving unto us.

“To be praised art Thou, the Son, the Fruit; for Thou art the Gate of light and the Way of truth, and Thou hast made us run in thy footsteps, that we may arrive at the house of Thy exalted Father.

“To be glorified art Thou, the Father benign, who hast given us peace by the hand of our Life-giver, and hast revealed unto us Thy glorious, and holy mysteries by the hearing of Thy doctrine.

“To be praised art Thou, the only (-begotten) Son of the Father, whose mercy hath been upon us, and Thou hast signed us with Thy living and life-giving Cross.

“All mouths and all tongues glorify the Father and worship the Son and praise Thy holy Spirit, the worlds and the creatures which are hidden and which are manifest.

“Thy Angels glorify Thee on high through Thy Messiah, who became in Sheol peace and hope to the dead, who came to life and were raised.

“We beg of Thee, our Lord and our Life-giver, (the accomplishment) of all that Thou hast said and promised. Fulfill with us Thy grace, and raise us up to the place of Thy peace; for Thou art our Life-giver, Thou art our Paraclete, Thou art the medicine of our life, Thou art our sign of victory.

“Blessed are we, Lord, who have known Thee. Blessed are we, who have believed in Thee. Blessed are we through Thy wounds and Thy blood, (suffered and shed) on our behalf. Blessed are we, for Thou art our great hope. Blessed are we, for Thou art our God, and for ever and ever, Amen.”

-Paraphrase from p. 238-245 in the Syriac translation by William Wright,
Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (London, 1871)



– = Return to Part 6 = –