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Nag Hammadi (Library)


The Divine Feminine: The Thunder, Perfect Mind; The Thought of Norea; The Sophia of Jesus Christ; The Exegesis on the Soul.

Experiences of the Apostles: The Apocalypse of Peter; The Letter of Peter to Philip; The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles; The (First) Apocalypse of James; The (Second) Apocalypse of James; The Apocalypse of Paul.

Creation and Redemption: The Apocryphon of John; The Hypostasis of the Archons; On the Origin of the World; The Apocalypse of Adam; The Paraphrase of Shem.

The Nature of Reality, the Soul, etc.: The Gospel of Truth; The Treatise on the Resurrection; The Tripartite Tractate; Eugnostos the Blessed; The Second Treatise of the Great Seth; The Teachings of Silvanus; The Testimony of Truth.

Liturgical and Initiatory Texts: The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth; The Prayer of Thanksgiving; A Valentinian Exposition; The Three Steles of Seth; The Prayer of the Apostle Paul. (Also The Gospel of Philip.)


Map showing location of Nag Hammadi

What came to be known as the Nag Hammadi library (owing to the proximity of the find to Nag Hammadi, the nearest major settlement) appeared only gradually, and its significance went unacknowledged for several years after its discovery. In December 1945, two Egyptian brothers found several papyri in a large earthernware vessel while digging for fertilizer around limestone caves near present-day Habra Dom in Upper Egypt. The find was not initially reported, as the brothers sought to make money from the manuscripts by selling them individually at intervals. Their mother also reportedly burned several of the manuscripts, because she was worried that the papers might have dangerous effects.

In 1946, the brothers left the manuscripts with a Coptic priest, whose brother-in-law sold one codex to the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo (this tract is today numbered Codex III in the collection). The resident Coptologist and religious historian, Jean Dorese, realizing the significance of the artifact, published the first reference to it in 1948. Over the years, most of the tracts were passed by the priest to a Cypriot antiquities dealer in Cairo. They were then obtained by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities. After the Nasser revolution of 1956, these texts were obtained by the Coptic Museum in Cairo and declared national property.

Meanwhile, a single codex had been sold in Cairo to a Belgian dealer. After an attempt was made to sell the codex in both New York and Paris, it was acquired by the Carl Gustav Jung Institute in Zurich in 1951. There it was intended as a birthday present to the famous psychologist; for this reason, this codex is typically known as the Jung Codex. It is Codex I in the current collection.

Jung's death in 1961 caused a quarrel over the ownership of the codex, and the artifact was not given to the Coptic Museum in Cairo until 1975, after a first edition of the text had been published. In this way the papyri were finally brought together in Cairo. Of the original 1945 find, eleven complete books and fragments of two others, amounting to well over 1,000 written pages, are preserved there.


A partial translation of the Jung Codex appeared in Cairo in 1956, together with the publication of a facsimile edition of the codex itself. Due to the difficult political circumstances in Egypt, individual tracts followed from the Cairo and Zurich collections only slowly.

This state of affairs changed in 1966, with the holding of the Messina Congress in Italy. At this conference, intended to allow scholars to arrive at a consensus concerning the definition of Gnosticism, James M. Robinson assembled a group of editors and translators whose express task was to publish a bilingual edition of the Nag Hammadi codices in English, in collaboration with the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity in Claremont, California. Robinson had previously been elected secretary of the International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices, which had been formed in 1970 by UNESCO and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture; it was in this capacity that he oversaw the project. A facsimile edition in twelve volumes appeared between 1972 and 1977, with subsequent additions in 1979 and 1984 from publisher E.J. Brill in Leiden, making the whole find available for the first time.

At the same time, in the former German Democratic Republic a group of scholars were preparing the first German translation of the find. A complete scholarly translation under the auspices of the Berlin Humboldt University was published in 2001.

The James M. Robinson translation was first published in 1977, under the name The Nag Hammadi Library in English, in a collaboration between E.J. Brill and Harper & Row. The single-volume publication, according to Robinson, "marked the end of one stage of Nag Hammadi scholarship and the beginning of another" (from the preface to the third revised edition). Paperback editions followed in 1981 and 1984. This marked the final stage in the gradual dispersal of gnostic texts into the wider public arena-the full compliment of codices was finally available in unadulterated form to people around the world, in a variety of languages.

A further English edition was published in 1987 by Harvard scholar Bentley Layton, called The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1987). The volume unified new translations from the Nag Hammadi Library with extracts from the heresiological writers, and other gnostic material. It remains, along with The Nag Hammadi Library in English, one of the more accessible volumes translating the Nag Hammadi find, with extensive historical introductions to individual gnostic groups, notes on translation, annotations to the text and the organization of tracts into clearly defined movements.

In addition, the entire corpus of the Nag Hammadi library is now available on the Internet.

Complete list of codices found in Nag Hammadi

Note: Translated texts and introductory material are available on the internet.2

  • Codex I (also known as The Jung Foundation Codex):
    • The Prayer of the Apostle Paul
    • The Apocryphon of James (also known as The Secret Book of James)
    • The Gospel of Truth
    • The Treatise on the Resurrection
    • The Tripartite Tractate
  • Codex II:
    • The Apocryphon of John
    • The Gospel of Thomas (a sayings gospel)
    • The Gospel of Philip (a sayings gospel)
    • The Hypostasis of the Archons
    • On the Origin of the World
    • The Exegesis on the Soul
    • The Book of Thomas the Contender
  • Codex III:
    • The Apocryphon of John
    • The Gospel of the Egyptians
    • Eugnostos the Blessed
    • The Sophia of Jesus Christ
    • The Dialogue of the Saviour
  • Codex IV:
    • The Apocryphon of John
    • The Gospel of the Egyptians
  • Codex V:
    • Eugnostos the Blessed
    • The Apocalypse of Paul
    • The First Apocalypse of James
    • The Second Apocalypse of James
    • The Apocalypse of Adam
  • Codex VI:
    • The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles
    • The Thunder, Perfect Mind
    • Authoritative Teaching
    • The Concept of Our Great Power
    • Republic by Plato - The original is not gnostic, but the Nag Hammadi library version is heavily modified with current gnostic concepts.
    • The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth - a Hermetic treatise
    • The Prayer of Thanksgiving (with a hand-written note) - a Hermetic prayer
    • Asclepius 21-29 - another Hermetic treatise
  • Codex VII:
    • The Paraphrase of Shem
    • The Second Treatise of the Great Seth
    • Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter
    • The Teachings of Silvanus
    • The Three Steles of Seth
  • Codex VIII:
    • Zostrianos
    • The Letter of Peter to Philip
  • Codex IX:
    • Melchizedek
    • The Thought of Norea
    • The Testimony of Truth
  • Codex X:
    • Marsanes
  • Codex XI:
    • The Interpretation of Knowledge
    • A Valentinian Exposition, On the Anointing, On Baptism (A and B), and On the Eucharist (A and B)
    • Allogenes
    • Hypsiphrone
  • Codex XII
    • The Sentences of Sextus
    • The Gospel of Truth
    • Fragments
  • Codex XIII:
    • Trimorphic Protennoia
    • On the Origin of the World


  1. ↑ The Nag Hammadi Library. The Gnostic Society Library. Retrieved May 2, 2007.
  2. ↑ The Nag Hammadi Library. The Gnostic Society Library. Retrieved May 2, 2007.


  • Layton, Bentley. 1987. The Gnostic Scriptures. SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02022-0
  • Markschies, Christoph. 2000. Gnosis: An Introduction. Translated by John Bowden. T & T Clark. ISBN 0-567-08945-2
  • Pagels, Elaine. 1979. The Gnostic Gospels. ISBN 0679724532
  • Robinson, James M. 1978. The Nag Hammadi Library in English.
  • Robinson, James M. 1979. "The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices." Biblical Archaeology 42:206-24.

External links

All links retrieved November 5, 2018.

  • The Nag Hammadi Library Complete collection of the Nag Hammadi texts, with additional introductory material.
  • The Gnostic Society Library Huge collection of authentic Gnostic texts, including the Nag Hammadi scriptures. Part of the Gnosis Archive site.
  • The Gospel of Thomas