A miscellany of Platonic, Stoic, and Oriental teachings in Greek and Latin writings of the Hellenistic age (1st cent. BCE to 2nd cent. CE). The Hermetic tractate Poimandres contains words and phrases similar to those of the gospel of John. It suggests that human beings only attain to the vision of God when they become identified with an archetypal man who exists in the perfection of the eternal ‘forms’, or ‘ideas’ in the terminology of Plato. Another tractate teaches the possibility of a rebirth with the help of Hermes Trismegistos (the Egyptian god Thoth), and this is reminiscent of John 3: 3–12. But reminiscence does not mean direct borrowing; the gospel may be merely using language which would find a responsive echo in some readers.
The Hermetic collection was preserved in the Christian manuscript tradition and was known in the Middle Ages, but additional texts were among the 1945 discoveries at Nag Hammadi.