In my last post I gave the story typically recited by NT scholars for the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library.   As I pointed out, some scholars have doubted the story, most recently Mark Goodacre.  He has agreed to do a guest post on the blog in which he shows why this story – which  has been told by probably every NT scholar to every Introduction to NT class for undergraduates for the past thirty years! – is problematic and, well, possibly not true.   That post will come by way of tomorrow’s blog.

For today’s post, first, I want to say something about the contents of the Nag Hammadi library.  This, at least, is not in dispute.  Here is what I say in my undergraduate textbook on the matter.


 What was this ancient collection of books?  The short answer is that it is the most significant collection of lost Christian writings to turn up in modern times.  It included several Gospels about Jesus that had never before been seen by any Western scholar, books known to have existed in antiquity but lost for nearly 1500 years.  The cache contained twelve leather-bound volumes, with pages of a thirteenth volume removed from its own, now lost, binding and tucked inside the cover of one of the others.  The pages are made of papyrus.  And the books are anthologies – collections of texts compiled and then bound together.  Altogether there are fifty-two treatises preserved among these volumes; but six of the treatises are duplicates, making a total of forty-six documents in the collection.  They include Gospels by such persons as Jesus’ disciple Philip and secret revelations delivered to his disciple John and another to James; they include mystical speculations about the beginning of the divine realm and the creation of the world, metaphysical reflections on the meaning of existence and the glories of salvation; they include expositions of important religious doctrines and polemical attacks on other Christians for their wrong headed and heretical views — especially Christians we would call proto-orthodox.

The documents are written in…

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