The Nag Hammadi Library


“The Nag Hammadi Library”

The “Nag Hammadi Library” is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, in 1945.

Nag Hammadi library

The Nag Hammadi library (popularly known as The Gnostic Gospels) is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the town of Nag Hammâdi in 1945. That year, twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali. The writings in these codices comprised fifty-two mostly Gnostic tractates (treatises), but they also include three works belonging to the Corpus Hermeticum and a partial translation / alteration of Plato’s “Republic”. In his “Introduction” to “The Nag Hammadi Library” in English, James Robinson suggests that these codices may have belonged to a nearby Pachomian monastery, and were buried after Bishop Athanasius condemned the uncritical use of non-canonical books in his Festal Letter of 367 AD.

The contents of the codices were written in Coptic, though the works were probably all translations from Greek. The best-known of these works is probably the “Gospel of Thomas”, of which the “Nag Hammadi Codices” contain the only complete text. After the discovery it was recognized that fragments of these sayings of Jesus appeared in manuscripts discovered at Oxyrhynchus in 1898, and matching quotations were recognized in other early Christian sources. Subsequently, a 1st or 2nd century date of composition circa 80 AD for the lost Greek originals of the Gospel of Thomas has been proposed, though this is disputed by many if not the majority of biblical matter researchers. The once buried manuscripts themselves date from the 3rd and 4th centuries.

The Nag Hammadi codices are housed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt. To read about their significance to modern scholarship into early Christianity, refer to works on Gnosticism.


Discovery at Nag Hammadi

The story of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945 has been described as ‘exciting as the contents of the find itself’ (Markschies, Gnosis: An Introduction, 48). In December of that year, two Egyptian brothers found several papyri in a large earthernware vessel while digging for fertilizer around limestone caves near present-day Habra Dom in Upper Egypt. The find was not initially reported by either of the brothers, who sought to make money from the manuscripts by selling them individually at intervals. It is also reported that the brothers’ mother burned several of the manuscripts, worried, apparently, that the papers might have ‘dangerous effects’ (Markschies, Gnosis, 48). As a result, what came to be known as the Nag Hammadi library (owing to the proximity of the find to Nag Hammadi, the nearest major settlement) appeared only gradually, and its significance went unacknowledged until some time after its initial uncovering.

In 1946, the brothers became involved in a feud, and left the manuscripts with a Coptic priest, whose brother-in-law in October that year sold a codex to the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo (this tract is today numbered Codex III in the collection). The resident Coptologist and religious historian Jean Dorese, realizing the significance of the artifact, published the first reference to it in 1948. Over the years, most of the tracts were passed by the priest to a Cypriot antiques dealer in Cairo, thereafter being retained by the Department of Antiquities, for fear that they would be sold out of the country. After the revolution in 1956, these texts were handed to the Coptic Museum in Cairo, and declared national property.

Meanwhile, a single codex had been sold in Cairo to a Belgian antique dealer. After an attempt was made to sell the codex in both New York and Paris, it was acquired by the Carl Gustav Jung Institute in Zurich in 1951, through the mediation of Gilles Quispel. There it was intended as a birthday present to the famous psychologist; for this reason, this codex is typically known as the “Jung Codex”, being Codex I in the collection.

Jung’s death in 1961 caused a quarrel over the ownership of the Jung Codex, with the result that the pages were not given to the Coptic Museum in Cairo until 1975, after a first edition of the text had been published. Thus the papyri were finally brought together in Cairo: of the 1945 find, eleven complete books and fragments of two others, ‘amounting to well over 1000 written pages’ (Markschies, Gnosis: An Introduction, 49) are preserved there.


The first edition of a text found at Nag Hammadi was from the Jung Codex, a partial translation of which appeared in Cairo in 1956, and a single extensive facsimile edition was planned. Due to the difficult political circumstances in Egypt, individual tracts followed from the Cairo and Zurich collections only slowly.

This state of affairs changed only in 1966, with the holding of the Messina Congress in Italy. At this conference, intended to allow scholars to arrive at a group consensus concerning the definition of gnosticism, James M. Robinson, an expert on religion, assembled a group of editors and translators whose express task was to publish a bilingual edition of the Nag Hammadi codices in English, in collaboration with the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Robinson had been elected secretary of the International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices, which had been formed in 1970 by UNESCO and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture; it was in this capacity that he oversaw the project. In the meantime, a facsimile edition in twelve volumes did appear between 1972 and 1977, with subsequent additions in 1979 and 1984 from publisher E.J. Brill in Leiden, called “The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices”, making the whole find available for all interested parties to study in some form.

At the same time, in the former German Democratic Republic a group of scholars – including Alexander Bohlig, Martin Krause and New Testament scholars Gesine

Schenke, Hans-Martin Schenke and Hans-Gebhard Bethge – were preparing the first German translation of the find. The last three scholars prepared a complete scholarly translation under the auspices of the Berlin Humboldt University, which was published in 2001.

The James M. Robinson translation was first published in 1977, with the name “The Nag Hammadi Library in English”, in collaboration between E.J. Brill and Harper & Row. The single-volume publication, according to Robinson, ‘marked the end of one stage of Nag Hammadi scholarship and the beginning of another’ (from the Preface to the third revised edition). Paperback editions followed in 1981 and 1984, from E.J. Brill and Harper respectively. A third, completely revised edition was published in 1988. This marks the final stage in the gradual dispersal of gnostic texts into the wider public arena – the full complement of codices was finally available in unadulterated form to people around the world, in a variety of languages.

A further English edition was published in 1987, by Yale scholar Bentley Layton, called “The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations” (Garden City: Doubleday

& Co., 1987). The volume unified new translations from the Nag Hammadi Library with extracts from the heresiological writers, and other gnostic material. It remains, along with “The Nag Hammadi Library in English” one of the more accessible volumes translating the Nag Hammadi find, with extensive historical introductions to individual gnostic groups, notes on translation, annotations to the text and the organisation of tracts into clearly defined movements.

Complete list of Codices found in the Nag Hammadi


Several of the major texts in the Nag Hammadi collection have more than one English translation; where more than one translation is available, we have listed the translators’ names in parenthesis below the name of the text. Texts marked with the {*} had more than one version extant within the Nag Hammadi Codices; often these several versions were used conjointly by the translators to provide the single translation presented here.

INDEX (while loaded into Word): press-&-hold-down the “Control Key”, then click-on the desired chapter. This will cause a jump-to the selected page.


  • The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles 7

  • Allogenes 12

  • The Apocalypse of Adam 20

  • The (First) Apocalypse of James 26

  • The (Second) Apocalypse of James 31

  • The Apocalypse of Paul 37

  • The Apocalypse of Peter 39

  • The Apocryphon of James. 44

  • The Apocryphon of James. 50

  • The Apocryphon of James. 56

  • The Apocryphon of John (The Secret Book of John – The Secret Revelation of John) 62

  • The Apocryphon of John (The Secret Book of John – The Secret Revelation of John) 77

  • The Apocryphon of John (The Secret Book of John The Secret Revelation of Jon) 92

  • Short Version Berlin Codex (BG 8502,2) & Nag Hammadi Codex III,1 92

  • The Apocryphon of John (The Secret Book of John The Secret Revelation of John) … 109

  • Long Version Nag Hammadi Codex II,1 & Nag Hammadi Codex IV,1 109

  • Asclepius 21-29 163

  • Authoritative Teaching 169

  • The Book of Thomas the Contender 174

  • The Concept of Our Great Power 180

  • The Dialogue of the Savior 185

  • The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth 192

  • Eugnostos the Blessed 197

  • The Exegesis on the Soul 202

  • The Gospel of the Egyptians 208

  • The Gospel of Philip 217

  • The Gospel of Thomas 233

  • The Gospel of Thomas 246

  • The Gospel of Thomas 259

  • The Gospel of Thomas 271

  • The Gospel of Truth 286

  • The Gospel of Truth 295

  • The Gospel of Truth 304

  • The Hypostasis of the Archons (The Reality of the Rulers) 313

  • Hypsiphrone 319

  • The Interpretation of Knowledge 320

  • The Letter of Peter to Philip 326

  • Marsanes 329

  • Melchizedek 337

    On the Anointing 343

    On the Baptism A. 344

    On the Baptism B 345

    On the Eucharist (A) 346

    On the Eucharist (B) 347

  • On the Origin of the World (“The Untitled Text”) 348

  • The Paraphrase Of Shem 362

  • Plato, Republic 588A-589B 378

  • The Prayer of the Apostle Paul 380

  • The Prayer of Thanksgiving 381

  • The Second Treatise of the Great Seth 382

  • The Sentences of Sextus 389

  • The Sophia of Jesus Christ 396

  • The Teachings of Silvanus 403

  • The Testimony of Truth 415

  • The Thought of Norea 424

  • The Three Steles of Seth 425

  • The Thunder, Perfect Mind 429

  • The Treatise on the Resurrection 435

  • Trimorphic Protennoia 438

  • The Tripartite Tractate 446

  • A Valentinian Exposition 479

  • Zostrianos 483


The Nag Hammadi Library

The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles


Translated by Douglas M. Parrott and R. McL.Wilson

[…] which […] purpose [… after …] us […] apostles […]. We sailed […] of the body. Others were not anxious in their hearts. And in our hearts, we were united. We agreed to fulfill

the ministry to which the Lord appointed us. And we made a covenant with each other.

We went down to the sea at an opportune moment, which came to us from the Lord. We found a ship moored at the shore ready to embark, and we spoke with the sailors of the ship about our coming aboard with them. They showed great kindliness toward us as was ordained by the Lord. And after we had embarked, we sailed a day and a night. After that, a wind came up behind the ship and brought us to a small city in the midst of the sea.

And I, Peter, inquired about the name of this city from residents who were standing on the dock. A man among them answered, saying, “The name of this city is Habitation, that is, Foundation […] endurance.” And the leader among them holding the palm branch at the edge of the dock. And after we had gone ashore with the baggage, I went into the city, to seek advice about lodging.

A man came out wearing a cloth bound around his waist, and a gold belt girded it. Also a napkin was tied over his chest, extending over his shoulders and covering his head and his hands.

I was staring at the man, because he was beautiful in his form and stature. There were four parts of his body that I saw: the soles of his feet and a part of his chest and the palms of his hands and his visage. These things I was able to see. A book cover like (those of) my books was in his left hand. A staff of styrax wood was in his right hand. His voice was resounding as he slowly spoke, crying out in the city, “Pearlsl Pearlsl”

I, indeed, thought he was a man of that city. I said to him, “My brother and my friend!” He answered me, then, saying, “Rightly did you say, ‘My brother and my friend.’ What is it you seek from me?” I said to him, “I ask you about lodging for me and the brothers also, because we are strangers here.” He said to me, “For this reason have I myself just said, ‘My brother and my friend,’ because I also am a fellow stranger like you.”

And having said these things, he cried out, “Pearls! Pearls!” The rich men of that city heard his voice. They came out of their hidden storerooms. And some were looking out

from the storerooms of their houses. Others looked out from their upper windows. And they did not see (that they could gain) anything from him, because there was no pouch on his back nor bundle inside his cloth and napkin. And because of their disdain they did not even acknowledge him. He, for his part, did not reveal himself to them. They returned to their storerooms, saying, “This man is mocking us.”

And the poor of that city heard his voice, and they came to the man who sells this pearl. They said, “Please take the trouble to show us the pearl so that we may, then, see it with our (own) eyes. For we are the poor. And we do not have this […] price to pay for it. But show us that we might say to our friends that we saw a pearl with our (own) eyes.” He answered, saying to them, “If it is possible, come to my city, so that I may not only show it before your (very) eyes, but give it to you for nothing.”

And indeed they, the poor of that city, heard and said, “Since we are beggars, we surely know that a man does not give a pearl to a beggar, but (it is) bread and money that is usually received. Now then, the kindness which we want to receive from you (is) that you show us the pearl before our eyes. And we will say to our friends proudly that we saw a pearl with our (own) eyes” – because it is not found among the poor, especially such beggars (as these). He answered (and) said to them, “If it is possible, you yourselves come to my city, so that I may not only show you it, but give it to you for nothing.” The poor and the beggars rejoiced because of the man who gives for nothing.

The men asked Peter about the hardships. Peter answered and told those things that he had heard about the hardships of the way. Because they are interpreters of the hardships in their ministry.

He said to the man who sells this pearl, “I want to know your name and the hardships of the way to your city because we are strangers and servants of God. It is necessary for us to spread the word of God in every city harmoniously.” He answered and said, “If you seek my name, Lithargoel is my name, the interpretation of which is, the light, gazelle- like stone.

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