Nag Hammadi Collection by April D. DeConick


The Nag Hammadi Collection is … materials that were found in and around Nag Hammadi Egypt in the 1940s, and it’s a collection of 13 books and within them are texts that were written by various types of Christians in the second and third centuries. The manuscripts themselves were copied in the fourth century, and were translated from Greek into Coptic. Coptic is an Egyptian language, that the Christians were using to spread their message in Egypt. The Nag Hammadi materials, have…initially when they were being studied…were labeled Gnostic, mainly because I think scholars didn’t know what else to do with them.

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Now over the last 50 years we’ve have had a lot of time to look at those texts, and we realize now that although some of the texts we would label Gnostic, some of them are not.  So texts like the Gospel of Thomas, probably the dialogue of the Savior, the book of Thomas the Athlete, and there’s even a fragment of Plato’s Republic, in the Nag Hammadi Library, these sorts of texts are not Gnostic, they’re something else.

So we’ve done a lot of work in figuring out the different types of varieties of Christianity that are being witnessed in this corpus of material; but it’s a very significant collection because some of the materials come from the early second century. So…if we put this in perspective, we’re talking about some of these materials coming about being written at the same time the pastoral epistles in the New Testament are being written. Which are about 135 (C.E.).


April D. DeConick

April D. DeConick
Professor, Rice University

April D. DeConick is the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University. She is the author of The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says (Continuum, 2007) and Holy Misogyny: Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter (Continuum, 2011).
Nag Hammadi Codices

A city on the Nile in Egypt where papyrus codices written in Coptic and associated with antique Gnosticism were found in 1945.

The final stage of the Egyptian language, which also lent its name to the Coptic Church, the Egyptian branch of Orthodox Christianity.

Related to a set of beliefs that emphasized the pursuit of "gnosis" (enlightenment) and the divide between the spiritual and the material. Most notably present in Christian traditions that were later deemed heretical.

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Textual documents, usually handwritten.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

Relating to spiritual guidance or oversight of a church community.

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