The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition

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Harper Collins, May 29, 2007 - Religion - 844 pages
3 Reviews
"This book finds an honoured place on my shelves, next to the older edition of the "Nag Hammadi scriptures" assembled under the direction of James M. Robinson, who provides the preface (and much underlying research). According to Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is a collection of thirteen papyrus codices-bound books, not scrolls-that were buried near the city of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt most likely in the second half of the fourth century CE.' The texts contained here are a fascinating collection, bringing to light literally dozens of texts that had previously been unknown for over a millennium, although about ten of them are in such fragmentary form that it still cannot be said that these have been recovered. It is supposed by many scholars that this is a collection that was buried by Gnostics, but this is not without controversy.This text has as a leader over the title the phrase "The International Edition", for good reason. There have been three different projects, one in English, one in French, and one in German, over the past generation, the fruits of which have been brought together here in one volume. The representatives from each team are James M. Robinson, Wolf-Peter Funk, and Paul-Hubert Poirier, for the English, German, and French research projects respectively. The introduction is provided by Marvin Meyer and Elaine Pagels, both names known to people who study Gnostic and early biblical texts.In the introduction, Meyers and Pagels offer the caution that the title "Nag Hammadi Scriptures" cannot imply a canon of scriptures similar to the Bible or Quran-these are texts that were less a sacred (and closed) collection and more of a general gathering of pieces that were considered inspired and inspirational. The original language of the texts is Coptic, although these may have been translated originally from Greek. 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), 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). However, even this discovery led to others-there was an earlier find that made its way to Berlin (rather like the earlier "Dead Sea Scroll" that had been found in Cairo), and a third collection discovered in the 1970s, and passed from hand to hand until retrieved by scholars (now known as the Codex Tchacos). Included in these texts are The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Mary and other gospel contenders (alas, in fragmentary form-this edition carries as much of the text in translation as was recovered). The Gospel of Thomas has perhaps been the highest profile text from Nag Hammadi; it has been translated and commented upon extensively, particularly in modern scholarship which discusses gospel development. The most recent "star" among the non-canonical gospels is the Gospel of Judas, the publication of which Meyer was involved in not long ago (taken for the first time from the Codex Tchacos discovery). Some of the texts were known by title prior to the discovery of these manuscripts-some titles were found on heretical texts lists, and yet, the idea of heresy is a slippery one, which the authors discuss in context of the non-canonical gospels and texts found in the collection that still had a following within early Christian communities. For purposes of scholarship, there are limitations to this volume. As in Nag Hammadi Deutsche, here also only Coptic page numbers are given, and not line numbers from the manuscripts. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is not presented as an edition of Coptic manuscripts but a publication of texts in English translation, and for this reason the continuation of the use of references based upon line numbers in Coptic manuscripts seems inappropriate. There are, however, generous notes and references that can provide much of what the average and even scholarly reader will need save for those few specialists who will no doubt know how to use this information to go further.As an epilogue after the texts, there are four essays that discuss the different ideas within the scholarly community about the texts and Gnosticism more generally. Some have proposed abandoning the term as inappropriate (or too vague to be useful), and others follow the lead of Ireneaus, who apparently used the terms to describe certain groups as they themselves had used it in self-reference. This is a fascinating text, useful for those who want more insight into the kinds of spiritual writing that were circulating in addition to the canonical scriptures of the early Christians. This also provides information about what the early Christians were reacting to-and opens up new possibilities of interpretation of early Christian history and practice" -- FrKurt Messick /

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User Review  - lilwatchergirl - LibraryThing

A lovely, complete edition of the Gnostic Christian scriptures. Could do with a bit more editorial comment in places, but otherwise very good. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - NancySophie57 - LibraryThing

I read the Dutch translation and when I read it. It was a coming home. It was so normal to me. I mean the common sense of the word the book brought to my awareness. Read full review


The Prayer of the Apostle Paul
The Gospel of Truth
The Treatise on Resurrection
The Tripartite Tractate
The Secret Book of John
The Gospel of Thomas with
The Gospel of Philip
The Second Discourse of Great Seth
The Revelation of Peter
The Three Steles of Seth
The Letter of Peter to Philip
The Thought of Norea
The Interpretation of Knowledge

The Nature of the Rulers
On the Origin of the World
Exegesis on the Soul
The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit
Eugnostos the Blessed
The Dialogue of the Savior
The Revelation of Paul
The Second Revelation of James
The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles
Authoritative Discourse
Excerpt from Platos Republic
The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth
Excerpt from the Perfect Discourse
Allogenes the Stranger
Three Forms of First Thought
The Gospel of Mary with the Greek Gospel of Mary
The Act of Peter
The Gospel of Judas
The Book of Allogenes
Schools of Thought in the Nag Hammadi Scriptures
Hermetic Religion

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About the author (2007)

Marvin Meyer is one of the foremost scholars on early Christianity and texts about Jesus outside the New Testament. He is Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. Among his recent books are The Gospel of Judas, The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus, The Gospels of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.

James M. Robinson, consultant for this collection, is widely known for his groundbreaking contribution as the permanent secretary of UNESCO's International Committee for the Nag Hammadi codices, and his many published works on Gnostic texts and the Sayings Gospel Q.

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