Nag Hammadi [key], a town in Egypt near the ancient town of Chenoboskion, where, in 1945, a large cache of gnostic texts in the Coptic language was discovered. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts, dating from the 4th cent. a.d., include 12 codices of tractates, one loose tractate, and a copy of Plato's Republic—making 53 works in all. Originally composed in Greek, they were translated (2d–3d cent. a.d.) into Coptic. Most of the texts have a strong Christian element. The presence of non-Christian elements, however, gave rise to the speculation that gnosticism, which taught salvation by knowledge, was not originally a Christian movement. Until the texts' discovery, knowledge of Christian gnosticism was confined to reports and quotations of their orthodox opponents, such as Irenaeus and Tertullian. Among the codices are apocalypses, gospels, a collection of sayings of the resurrected Jesus to his disciples, homilies, prayers, and theological treatises.
See E. H. Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (1979); K. Rudolph, Gnosis (1983); B. Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures (1987); J. M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library in English (1988).
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