Ancient Christian texts for modern healing
4.7 (67 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
285 students enrolled

Ancient Christian texts for modern healing

Introductory course on the oldest forgotten Christian texts: learning their healing practices for the 21st century.
Highest Rated
4.7 (67 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
285 students enrolled
Created by Shirley Paulson
Last updated 8/2019
Current price: $77.99 Original price: $119.99 Discount: 35% off
4 hours left at this price!
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This course includes
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • 16 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Explain the principles of healing from an early Christian text
  • Gain a richer view of the Bible through the newly discovered texts of antiquity
  • Take lessons from the ancient controversies related to healing and extracanonical texts
  • Apply your learned knowledge to heal or transform at least one contemporary place of pain in mind, body, or community
  • General knowledge of the Bible (such as the difference between Old or New Testament, gospels, letters, proverbs)
  • General knowledge of Christian history (such as, Who is Paul? What was the Protestant Reformation?)

Seeking health and wholeness is being human, and the wisdom from antiquity regarding health offers immeasurable value and a firm basis. This course opens the pages of mostly forgotten books written by the earliest followers of Jesus. Although we discuss why these ancient texts were not included in the Bible and how they were re-discovered, our main interest for this course lies in the healing messages they contain. The more we ponder their meaning, the more we find resonance in Biblical teachings as well. 


Students of this course do not need to know the Bible to understand and appreciate the healing messages we will explore in the extra-biblical books. But those who do know the Bible or have faith in it will discover how these more recently discovered texts add dimension to the whole picture of the early years of Jesus followers.


Since this is an introductory course, I presume you know little or nothing about the lost and forgotten books, gospels, letters, and texts written about a hundred years after Jesus. Some of them are controversial, some inspiring, and some quite confusing to modern readers. But I will introduce you to the ones we’ll use in the course – how to find them, how to read them, and how to understand their basic messages.


Who should or shouldn’t take this course?


If you’re interested in expanding your ideas about healing…

If you’re a scholar of religion without specific training in extra-canonical texts…

If you want to alleviate suffering in the world or deal with tragedies and human sorrows…

If you’re curious about what was going on during and after the New Testament time…

If you like challenging yourself with big philosophical and religious ideas…

If you are seeking deep answers to religious questions…

If you have had some kind of uplifting, inspiring experience with a sacred text…

Then you definitely want to get going with this course!


On the other hand, if you have already studied the Coptic language and read Nag Hammadi literature…

If you are seeking the full interpretation of Nag Hammadi texts…

If you want to know all the ancient texts that touch on the subject of healing…

It’s better to skip this course and wait for my next courses.


Do I need to purchase any study materials?


Nothing is required for taking the course. It is possible to complete the course using only free online references, but you may find it helpful to purchase a hard copy book (roughly $35). Further explanation about the resources you may wish to obtain will be in lecture 5.


What’s in the course?


After an introductory video, the course consists of four sections:

1. Getting familiar with some ancient texts and learning to use them

2. Identifying key healing principles from these early Christian texts

3. Finding a common message of healing from the diverse followers of Jesus

4. Exercising your authority to adapt ancient healing ideas to your 21st-century life


What to expect in each section:


1. We’ll approach the search for healing in these texts by first identifying your own pain points – or the places you would like to see healing, or resolution, or transformation. Then I’ll explain a little about what happened to these texts written around the same time as the New Testament and how we can find and use them today. I’ll give you the resources you need, including links to free online courses, and references to a couple of books you may want to purchase. No purchase is necessary, but you might appreciate buying one or two of the books to enhance your study. You’ll also find four exercise sheets that will help you know how to find and use the texts. 


2. In the next section, I'll introduce you to three specific texts:

* The Secret Revelation of John

* The Tripartite Tractate

* The Dialogue with the Savior

 Each of them includes special teachings from ‘the Savior’ (portraying Jesus, or Christ) that teach something about God (or the divine Being), evil, and how the Savior saves us from evil. They were all written around the same time, perhaps a little more than a hundred years after Jesus. But each text is consistent with the main message, and yet they say it differently and for different reasons. The main activity in this section consists of writing a couple of reflections on the texts, followed by a quiz at the end. The quiz will help you feel confident in your knowledge of the basic healing concepts.


3. Next, we’ll make a comparison between these new-to-us (but ancient) texts and more familiar passages in the Bible. Again, I want to emphasize that prior knowledge of the Bible is not necessary for this course. But those of you who do know the Bible will recognize familiar passages, and you’ll see why the comparison sheds further light on both the familiar and unfamiliar works. We’ll also take a closer look at some possible reasons for why these newer works (to us) were not included in the canon of the Bible, even when we find valuable ideas in them. This section includes a couple of PDF essays that will be helpful references in your later research and thinking about these texts. The topics are “When and why the Bible became a canon” and “No such thing as ‘Gnosticism’.” A couple of written assignments will help you analyze some of the healing themes


4. Finally, in the last section, I’ll give you a couple of examples of healing from my own experience, demonstrating how to put these ideas to use in our 21st century world. I think you’ll also enjoy a couple of prayers from the Odes of Solomon that may have been composed around the time these other texts were written. And then I’ll turn it over to you. It will be your turn to take what you selected at the beginning of the course, and put into practice the ideas from “the Savior” that you identified and pondered. You will want to take the time here to reflect, allow the grace of the divine idea to move you, confront the fear or resistance you may encounter, and then yield to the transforming ideas that heal.


Healing is always an individual experience, and I will be happy to support you through this final portion. Although I do have a healing tradition of my own, I will use only the texts we study for this course. When you experience the change or transformation you are seeking, it may feel more natural than miraculous. because you will see how naturally the goodness of God/Infinite Spirit is made manifest in your life. But you will discover the vital practicality of these teachings, whether the change/healing appears quickly or slowly.


The bonus lecture at the end will provide more resources to support your ongoing journey with these ancient healing texts.


About the instructorShirley Paulson, PhD.


I care about my students the same way I care about the subject matter in this course – passionately. The reason is that I have always wanted to alleviate suffering in the world and have spent my life searching for a better understanding of the love that heals, saves, and uplifts. I’m eager to support and encourage others who want to bring light and healing to the world as well.


My own journey began in my pre-teen years when I started asking the big questions about God, life, meaning, and spiritual existence. But my path has not been all intellectual. My heart guided me first. I worked as a volunteer in an inner-city school, because I wanted to understand the lives and needs of those who lived there.  I have devoted myself to a healing career over twenty-five years, because I have compassion for those who are suffering.


And all during this ministry of love, my questions have never ceased. In my early adult years, I studied the Bible deeply and began to discover real healing messages in it. I began my healing career when my children were in school, and my questions persisted. I went to a Protestant seminary to learn how others thought about the Bible, and finally my questions led me on to further studies at the University of Birmingham, UK, where I completed my PhD in religion and theology. My research topic was what this course is all about: healing theologies in the ancient text, the Secret Revelation of John, and how those healing ideas can be made practical today.


Now that I have completed all this research, I am convinced that you don’t need a PhD to grapple with these ideas. In fact, I am confident that anyone with spiritual curiosity, a sincere desire to help others, and humility will succeed. I want to offer you a strong foundation for your success. I plan to build more courses beyond the introductory level, so I would appreciate your input as to what direction you would like to go after you complete this course.

Who this course is for:
  • People interested in religious thought, but with little or no education in extracanonical (or 'gnostic') texts
  • People who want to contribute to the healing of minds, bodies, and communities
  • People who have had some kind of positive experience with an ancient sacred text (usually the Bible)
  • People curious about big philosophical questions and connections between the human and divine
  • Spiritually minded people who either welcome change for organized religion or are comfortable with no organization
Course content
Expand all 38 lectures 02:43:49
+ Welcome and introduction to the course
1 lecture 02:29

You’ll know Shirley Paulson, your instructor, and why these ancient texts are fascinating and inspiring. I’ll give a little outline of what we’re going to cover.

Preview 02:29
+ Getting familiar with some ancient texts and learning to use them
7 lectures 32:26

This lecture explains the purpose and content of each section of the course. As each leads to the next, you’ll be prepared putting it all into practice. You’ll also understand what resources you may want to use and how to prepare for the course.

Preview 04:02

In order to prepare for the relevance of the texts, you’ll consider your own relationship to the essential elements of healing, such as what gifts you already have and where you’re called to help. You’ll be prepared to write the assignment that follows the video.

Preview 02:29

The relationship between all the different ancient texts is complicated, but we’ll discuss the ones that are lesser known and discover why they are valuable for understanding early Christian thinkers and the texts that became the Bible.

Christian or Gnostic?

This lecture is designed to help you know what you’ll want to find or use as your own resources throughout the text. You may also want to think about what you’d like to keep for your own library when the course is finished (either free or paid for).

Finding course references

Here you will have a visual aid, guiding you briefly through the history of these ancient texts and their relation to the Bible. You may want to refer back to this lecture a few more times, as you continue to learn about the texts themselves.

Journey through forgotten scriptures

With both the video and written assignments, you will learn how the texts are organized in modern English translations and how you can study them during the course and afterward.

Learning to use the mysterious texts

In this lecture, you’ll learn some of the historical context from which these texts were written – what kinds of social, political, and emotional needs people had in antiquity, why these kinds of spiritual support were helpful to them, and how they could relate to us today.

What inspired the creation of these texts?
+ Identify key healing principles from these early Christian texts
12 lectures 58:01

This lecture will encourage you to reflect on your own relationship to idea of healing. What does it mean to you, and what experiences have you had that help you understand it?

Preview 03:57

With this introduction to one of our major texts, you will learn a bit about where it came from and the main idea from the first portion of the book.

Introducing the Secret Revelation of John
Second healing idea from the Secret Revelation of John

The ideas may seem logical but impractical for real life. A deeper look into the issues helps us understand more deeply the significance of evil and our dominion over it.

Wrestling with the first two healing ideas

This third idea of healing from the Secret Revelation of John explains how healing or freedom happens. It is the gradual experience of salvation, and you’ll learn how sinful behavior and bodily pain are treated the same way.

Third healing idea from the Secret Revelation of John

You will learn what the Tripartite Tractate is about and what kind of text it is. The main idea is its teaching on the meaning of human nature and its three aspects.

Tripartite Tractate and three aspects of humanity

We discuss the three kinds of consciousness taught by the author of TriTrac and how they work in human thought. They show why we have a choice between the saving Spirit or destructive materialism.

Tripartite Tractate and the healing choice

This is the third major text we will study in this course. Here you will learn what it’s about and how it’s structured.

Dialogue with the Savior: what is it about?

The author of the Dialogue of the Savior portrays the Savior as explaining the suffering and wellness of the body through tears and laughter. We’ll consider the meaning of the metaphors.

DialSav: What do the tears and laughter represent?

The Savior demonstrates how people do not have to be victims (causing tears), but they can choose what the Savior provides (the joy of health and safety).

DialSav: Removing the clothing of tears

Here the Savior teaches that we have the option to choose ‘laughter’ – or health – because it comes from the greatest power, God. We have choices because God makes all good available always.

DialSav: Put on the clothing of laughter

This lecture is a recap of the most important healing ideas we discussed from the three texts. They will prepare you for the quiz that follows.

Review healing principles
+ Finding a common message of healing from diverse followers of Jesus
11 lectures 39:32

Whether you know the Bible well or not, these extracanonical texts give us a wider view of early Christian thought. Texts from both sources help us understand the other better.

Richer understanding of the Bible

You will see passages in both the Bible and in an extracanonical text demonstrating similar ways of understanding salvation.

Compatible healing messages: salvation

You will see passages in both the Bible and in an extracanonical text demonstrating similar ways of understanding gnosis (or, spiritual understanding).

Compatible healing messages: gnosis

You will see passages in both the Bible and in an extracanonical text demonstrating similar ways of understanding gnosis (or, spiritual understanding).

Compatible healing messages: change of mind

You will see passages in both the Bible and in an extracanonical text demonstrating similar ways of understanding evil as a deception, fraud.

Compatible healing messages: evil, the deception

This lecture is an introduction to the Gospel of Mary and explains the basis of the struggle between Mary and the disciple Peter. It shows how they represented the struggle with gnosis and gender.   

Why Peter got mad at Mary in the Gospel of Mary

A close look at the text will show you how the disciple Levi understood the basis of the situation.

Levi got it

Levi’s solution to the problem between Mary and Peter is a good example of our contemporary understanding of community, or social ills.

Levi's solution

We’re still living with the controversies over the place for these texts within the contemporary religious scene. You’ll have a chance to think about why these ideas can be disturbing, and then you can take a close look at your own role in the struggle in the questionnaire that follows.

Ancient family squabbles still close to home

Despite the struggle between sources of ancient texts, I explain why there really is no such thing as Gnosticism. The article that follows the lecture explains the historical context in fuller detail.

Why there's no such thing as 'gnosticism'

As a conclusion for this section, you will have a chance to summarize the relationship between the biblical texts and the more recently discovered texts we’ve been discussing. It will prepare you for the assignment that follows the lecture.

A fuller picture of traditional and newly discovered healing texts
+ It's your turn: how
7 lectures 31:21

Here you will consider the nature of your own authority that comes through the divine source. It is based on love, not human power or glory.

Intro: Authority for healing

This is a story of my own experience dealing with an infection. Ideas from SRJ, TriTrac, and DailSav are helpful for anything needing healing. 

A healing example using ideas from texts

This story is my own struggle with trusting my prayer (and gnosis) for someone in need. Again, examples from the texts we’ve studied are helpful when we face resistance to our own willingness to help and heal.

An example of overcoming the resistance to healing

You will look at some excerpts from one of the earliest known Christian prayers, the Odes of Solomon. As we think about our own prayer, these examples may help you feel and known what you need for healing too.

Prayer for healing

Now you have been prepared to do it yourself. I will remind you what you have learned in order to take action for yourself. This is a precious experience to take seriously and to cherish.

Doing it

This lecture is a review of the content of the whole course. I will be eager to hear from you, to know what you have learned and what you have done about it.


This lecture is a quick review of the content of the course, plus a guide to resources to keep going. I will be eager to hear from you, to hear from you what you'd like to learn next.

Bonus lecture: congratulations and considering next steps