The Nag Hammadi Codices in their Monastic Context

The blog Past Horizons has a post today which begins by saying “The texts of the Nag Hammadi codices have commonly been treated as mere witnesses to Gnostic texts in Greek mainly from the second and third centuries. A new research project will now challenge this approach by interpreting the Coptic texts of these codices within the context of their probable production and use in fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian monasticism.”

It is a fascinating idea, and it does indeed seem to be true that almost all of the interest in the texts from Nag Hammadi has focused on them as evidence for the earlier history of Gnosticism, and not on the significance of those texts for the Christians who used them in the time in which the manuscripts were copied, read, and buried. Hugo Lundhaug of the University of Oslo is the principal investigator for the project, and has been awarded a European Research Council Starting Grant to fund the research. The project’s title is “New Contexts for Old Texts: Unorthodox Texts and Monastic Manuscript Culture in Fourth- and Fifth-Century Egypt.”

All those of us with interests in the history of Christianity and/or of Gnosticism will agree in congratulating the grant recipients and in looking forward to the fruits of their research.

  • Woodbridgegoodman

    I suggest muc, much earlier Egyptian sources:  ancient Egyptian religion was always very spiritual; with a “ka” and/or a “ba” spirit, going up into the sky at death.

    Christianity is essentially spiritualized Judaism.   And Hellenistic spirituality, Platonism, was likely a major source, in the time of Paul, the Roman citizen who quotes many concepts from the Theory of Forms.  But before Paul?  There was Egyptian religion.

    Much information/data from this time and place to be sure, is mysteriously missing:  spiritualization and Egytian influence, would have been from the “dark period,” when written texts disappeared, or were suppressed.

    But?  Very recent studies are beginning to recover some data.  Especially on the Egyptian priest/kings.  Where we see spiritualization/gnostic influence beginning. 


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