This forbidden book of the Christian bible is very short, in conparison to the other texts in my series’. This will be the only one for this one. There will be no other parts. I apologize if it’s too long, textually. It has the hymn (“the song”), then it goes into understanding the hymn. It’s not a bad read. I hope y’all enjoy this!
The Round Dance of the Cross or The Hymn of Jesus
(In the Acts of John, it’s said that Jesus taught the Round Dance of the Cross to his disciples prior to his crucifixion. Just before this opening, the circumstance of the Round Dance of the Cross are explained in strongly polemical (which means relating to, or involving strongly critical controversial or disputatious writing or speech) terms, & reference is made to the “lawless Jews” who were inspired by the serpent.).)
Jesus told us to form a circle & hold each other’s hands, & he stood in the middle & said, “Respond to me with amen.”
He (Jesus) began singing a hymn & declaring, “Glory to you, father.” We circled around him & responded, “Amen.” “Glory to you, word. Glory to you, grace.” “Amen.” “Glory to you, spirit. Glory to you, holy one. Glory to your glory.” “Amen.” “We praise you, light, in whom no darkness lives.” “Amen.”
“I declare why we offer thanks: I’ll be saved & I’ll save.” “Amen.” “I’ll be released & I’ll release.” “Amen.” “I’ll be wounded & I’ll wound.” (This reminds me of Jesus’ crucifixion. Like he’s prophesying it.) “Amen.” “I’ll be born & I’ll bear.” “Amen.” “I’ll eat & will be eaten.” (This reminds of the Eucharist.) “Amen.” “I’ll be in mind, I, pure mind.” “Amen.”
“Grace dances. I will play the flute. Dance, everyone.” “Amen.” “I’ll weep. Lament, everyone.” “Amen.” “A realm of 8 sings with us.” “Amen.” “The 12th number dances above.” “Amen.” “The whole universe joins in dancing.” “Amen.” “If you don’t dance, you don’t know what is.” “Amen.”
“I’ll run away & I’ll remain.” (This reminds me of Jesus telling his disciples that he’ll be crucified but that he’ll be with them always.) “Amen.” “I’ll adorn & I’ll be adorned.” “Amen.” “I’m homeless & I have homes.” “Amen.” “I’ve no place & I’ve places.” “Amen.” “I’ve no temple & I have temples.” “Amen.”
“I’m a lamp to you who see me.” “Amen.” “I’m a mirror to you who recognize me.” “Amen.” I’m a door to you who knock on me.” “Amen.” “I’m a way to you, passerby.” “Amen.”
Here & throughout this section the English translation employs the emphatic future “I will” for the Greek ‘thelo,’ literally, “It’s my will…”
“Grace dances” is an instruction in the text for liturgical dance. This may refer to the realm of 8 (ogdoad) in the Valentinian thought, that is, the 7 planetary spheres plus the 8th spheres (of the stars). Sometimes the 8th sphere is considered the abode of the ruler of the cosmos; sometimes it’s thought to be a higher level for spiritual advancement.
The 12 dancing above could also relate to the 12 zodiac signs.
Understanding the Song
(Now this part is Jesus speaking to his disciples, we’re assuming because the text isn’t clear who is with Jesus. It could be anyone, we just can’t know for sure. We can only speculate.)
If you follow the dance, see yourself in me when I speak. If you’ve seen what I do, keep quiet about my mysteries (but why? Why doesn’t Jesus want his mysteries to be known? Even to those who are worthy. Ah, where to find them…that’s my heartache.).
You who dance, consider what I do. Yours is the human passion I’m to suffer. You could never understand what you suffer unless I, the word, was sent to you, by the father. You who have seen what I do have seen me as suffering, & when you saw it, you didn’t stand still but were utterly moved. You were moved to wisdom, & you have my help. Rest in me.
Who I am you will know when I go. What I am seen to be now I am not. What I am you will see when you come. If you know how to suffer you would be able to not suffer & you will be able not to suffer. What you do now know I shall teach you. I’m your God, not the traitor’s (we can only assume that Jesus is talking about either Judas or Satan. It doesn’t say who this traitor is. It’s just “the traitor.”). I wish holy souls to be in harmony with me. Know the word of wisdom. Say again with me, ‘Glory to you, father. Glory to you, word. Glory to you, spirit. Amen.’
If you wish to know what I was, I ridiculed at all. I jumped for joy. Understand everything, & when you’ve understood, declare, ‘Glory to you, father. Amen.’
The Round Dance of the Cross, or the Hymn of Jesus, is a song Jesus is said to have taught his close followers before he was crucified, included within the Acts of John, the song is accompanied by instructions for liturgical dance.
This account of the hymn & dance has been incorporated into Margurite Yourcenar’s novel “L’ouevre au noir” & Luis Bunuel’s film “La voie lactee,” & Gustav Holst set it to music in “The Hymn of Jesus.” The Round Dance of the Cross employs themes from the Johannine (Which means relating to the apostle saint John or the the epistles written by him) tradition (Jesus is the word of God who describes the mystery of suffering), & it may reflect Valentinian motifs (It refers to word, mind, a realm of 8, wisdom, & grace-dancing grace.).
Jesus sings the verses of the hymn, which include “I am” statements, some of which are riddle-like & paradoxical; the followers respond by singing “Amen.” Then they dance, in a circle, around Jesus. The hymn & dance concludes with an explanation of the meaning.
The Round Dance of the Cross is about suffering, not only the suffering of Jesus but that of his followers too. Plus everyone else. Jesus states, “Yours is the human passion I am to suffer,” but he adds that he’s not what he seems to be, & by implication, that suffering is likewise not what it seems to be. For if people come to understand suffering, they’ll be liberated from suffering: ‘If you knew how to suffer you would be able able not to suffer. Learn how to suffer, & you’ll be able to not suffer.’ Jesus declares, “Know the word of wisdom,” he then ends with a few final things & another verse of the hymn: ‘Glory to you, father. Glory to you, word. Glory to you, spirit. Amen.’
The textual history if the Acts of John is complex, but it’s commonly assumed that the Acts of John were composed in the 2nd half of the 2nd century. Or perhaps a little later. It was likely composed, at least in large part, in Greek, though portions may derive from Syriac. Syria is the most likely place of its composition.