The Nag Hammadi Library

Aug 4, 2021 | Bible Archeology | 0 comments

The Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of ancient religious texts which were discovered in Egypt in 1945. The people who collected and buried the library are believed to have been Gnostic Christians. The various scriptures are considered to be examples of texts used by them before Christianity achieved favored status during the reign of Constantine. 3

Answer: Nag Hammadi is a town in northern Egypt where, in 1945, a collection of ancient writings were discovered. The collection of writings has since been titled the Nag Hammadi library, or the Nag Hammadi scrolls, or the Nag Hammadi codices. The vast majority of the scrolls in the Nag Hammadi library represent the writings of what was/is known as Christian Gnosticism. 4

The Nag Hammadi library is frequently pointed to as an example of “lost books of the Bible.” According to the conspiracy theory, the early Christians tried to destroy these Gnostic writings because they contained secret teachings about Jesus and Christianity. The Nag Hammadi library was supposedly the result of faithful efforts of Gnostic monks to save the truth about Jesus Christ from the persecution of non-Gnostic Christians. The Nag Hammadi scrolls include works known as the gospel of Truth, the gospel of Philip, the apocryphon of John, the apocalypse of Adam, and the acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles. The most famous Nag Hammadi scroll is the only known complete copy of the gospel of Thomas. 4

Should some or all of the scrolls be in the Bible? To put it simply and bluntly – absolutely not! First, the Nag Hammadi scrolls are forgeries. They were not written by whom they claim. The Apostle Philip did not write the gospel of Philip. The Apostle Peter did not write the acts of Peter. The gospel of Thomas was not written by the Apostle Thomas. These scrolls were fraudulently written in their names in order to give them a legitimacy in the early church. Thankfully, the early church fathers were nearly unanimous in recognizing these Gnostic scrolls as fraudulent forgeries that espouse false doctrines about Jesus Christ, salvation, God, and every other crucial Christian truth. There are countless contradictions between the Nag Hammadi library and the Bible. 4

This revised and expanded edition of The Nag Hammadi Library is the only complete, one-volume, modern language version of the reknowned library of fourth-century manuscripts discovered in Egypt in 1945. Now you can read for yourself these widely-discussed and controversial texts. 5

For various reasons, progress was slow in getting the works into the hands of scholars. An international colloquium on the origins of Gnosticism convened in Messina, Sicily, in 1966, but the participants had little to discuss intelligently from the largely Gnostic Nag Hammadi Library. Notable texts such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Apocryphon of John had been published, but little else. 10

First published in 1978, The Nag Hammadi Library launched modern Gnostic studiesand was widely acclaimed by critics and scholars alike. Although some of the texts had appeared in other translations, the 1978 edition was the first and only translation of these ancient and fascinating manuscripts to appear in one volume. 5

‘This volumemarks the end of one stage of Nag Hammadi scholarship and the beginning of another. The first stage was concerned with making this library of texts available; the second stage has been characterised by the discussion and interpretation of the texts.’ 20

Robinson blistered the European scholars who had had possession of the so-called Jung Codex from Nag Hammadi (smuggled out of Egypt by an antiquities dealer) since 1952 but did not publish the last of five text translations and commentaries until 1975. He also alluded to delays in Dead Sea Scroll accessibility and wondered about the future of newly discovered 24th century BC. 10

How significant is the Nag Hammadi Library? In strictly archaeological-historical terms, of the 52 titles, 40 were writings found for the first time ever, said Robinson. Ten are in poor condition, leaving 30 in “relatively good condition and rescued for posterity.” Among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Jewish Essene sect, the previously unknown treatises which survived intact are considerably smaller in number, he said. 10

The most famous of the Nag Hammadi texts is the Gospel of Thomas — not the fanciful infancy gospel preserved through the centuries but a collection of 14 sayings attributed to Jesus. Modern critical research on Matthew and Luke has worked under the assumption that those Gospel writers used collections of sayings of Jesus to build up their narratives. Thomas, as it turns out, is material confirmation that such collections of sayings did exist. Very little dialogue accompanies the sayings, and there is no account of Jesus� life and passion. 10

Unearthed in 1945 near the town of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, the texts literally begin where the Dead Sea Scrolls end. In fact, you could say that The Nag Hammadi Library is to early Christianity what the Dead Sea Scrolls are to Judaism. Their discovery is seen as equally significant, bringing to light a long-hidden well of new information, sources, and insights into the roots of Christianity. 5

The Nag Hammadi library consists of twelve books, plus eight leaves of a thirteenth book. There are a total of fifty-two tracts. These are now kept in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, and, as the name suggests, are written in Coptic, although it is clear that the texts are Coptic translations of earlier Greek works. Coptic is the Egyptian language written with the Greek alphabet; there are different dialects of Coptic, and the Nag Hammadi library shows at least two. They were found in codex form (book form rather than scroll form). They were discovered in the mid 1940s, just a few years prior to the discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls (another reason for the combination of the texts in the public imagination). 20

Meyer claims that his goal with this collection is to “be as accurate as possible” while still maintaining use of “felicitous English”. Meyer succeeds with this eloquent collection. The graceful and flowing translation of this collection will prove to be quite a change to readers who have previously struggled though the tortured translations and editor additions to the original Nag Hammadi Library (first published in 1977). An intelligible overview of Christian Gnosticism is presented by Meyer in addition to introductory essays that preface each selected text. 9

“The shadow-boxing with invisible opponents going on in the New Testament can be fleshed out more fully with the new materials,” said Robinson, referring particularly to Gnostic Christian beliefs that the resurrection had already arrived for believers. Whether Jesus� teachings were horribly misrepresented or not may now be judged by modern scholars. 10

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