What Was Discovered in the Nag Hammadi Library?

I have started a short series in response to a question about the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1945 among a cache of documents near Nag Hammadi Egypt.  In my last post I gave the story typically recited by NT scholars for the discovery of this “Nag Hammadi Library.”   Some scholars have doubted the story, and we may never know the details.  What is not in dispute is what was actually discovered.

This is what I say about it in ...

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How the Gospel of Thomas Was Discovered

A few days ago I responded to a reader’s comment by saying something about how I am reluctant these days to label the Gospel of Thomas a “Gnostic” Gospel.  Several readers responded to my comment by asking what in the blazes I could possibly mean.  So I thought I would respond.  But then I realized that to make sense of anything I have to say about the matter will require me to start at the beginning — since some readers ...

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Is 1 Clement Older than Some Books of the New Testament?

This will be my final post on the book of 1 Clement.  Now that I’ve summarized what the book is about and said something about its author, I can turn to the original question I was asked, about its date.  The time of its writing is an important question, for a reason you might not suspect.

It is almost always said – I myself regularly say this, as a kind of simple “short hand,” knowing that it’s probably not literally true, ...

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Did a “Pope” Write the First-Century Book of 1 Clement?

I return her to the book of 1 Clement, probably unknown to many people on the blog, but an important work written at about the time of some of some of the writings of the New Testament – or so I’ll b arguing in the post after this.  First I need to say something about the author.  Why is it attributed to someone named Clement?   Could this really have been written by a first-century pope (i.e., the Bishop of the ...

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The Letter of First Clement: An Overview

I received a request recently about one of the “Apostolic Fathers.”  This term does not refer to just any of the post-canonical writers of early Christianity, but to a specific group of ten (or eleven, depending on how you count) authors who were later considered “authoritative” in some sense by proto-orthodox thinkers, but were believed to have been writing after the NT period.  They include letters by Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna, and texts called 1 and 2 ...

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The Different Terms for Literary Deception

In the Seminar on Ancient Forgery at Rice University a few days ago, I made a presentation in which I urged (all of us) scholars to decide on which terms we use to describe different kinds of literary phenomena associated in one way or another with literary deceit.

My view is that since there are different phenomena (even if these can overlap), we ought to have distinct terms to refer to them – otherwise it just gets confusing.  It can be ...

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Different Kinds of Literary Deceit

In my presentation to the seminar on forgery at Rice University a few days ago, I dealt with a problem facing scholars who study literary deceit in antiquity.   On the most basic level, no one – even experts – seems to agree even on which terms to use to describe this or that kind of ancient deceptive practice.   It would be worth devoting a couple of blog posts to the issue.  As it turns out, it was also subject of ...

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The Martyr Perpetua and Her Estranged Family

Yesterday I began to talk about the Martyrdom of Perpetua, one of the most interesting and moving texts to come down to us from early Christianity.   It is an account of a 23-year old Roman matron who is willing to die a gruesome death for her Christian faith.   Among other things, the text shows that her faith is far more important to her than her family.  In particular, she is shown in conflict especially with her father (no husband is ...

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The Martyrdom of Perpetua

A long time ago now I was pursuing a thread on the development of the Christian views of the afterlife but I got side tracked.  And then I got side tracked from my side track.  And then … well, it’s been a long time.  The thread died.  I need to bring it back to life.  So I’m hoping now to begin on the afterlife of the thread on the afterlife.

Over all these months I have continued to read, think, and ...

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The Golden Rule

After all the background I gave yesterday, I can now give a succinct answer to the question that was raised by a reader.  Here it is again.

 

QUESTION:

I was surprised to see that, in the Didache, the form of the Golden Rule is in the negative. I’ve read that the positive formulation in the Sermon on the Mount may be original to Jesus. If the Didache used Matthew as a source, how does one account for that reversion?

 

RESPONSE:

I think this question ...

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