Nag Hammadi is a provincial city in the Qena Governorate of Upper Egypt. It sits on the West Bank of the Nile just downriver of the Qena Bend, and is notable as the point where the Valley Main Line crosses the Nile, switching from the Western to Eastern bank. The city is quite small, with a population of less than 50,000 people, but is a major regional centre for sugar processing, which is the main crop in Upper Egypt. The town also has a sizeable aluminium smelter and associated industry, along with purpose built housing for the workers.
The Nag Hammadi Library
Nag Hammadi is also famous world-wide for the Nag Hammadi papyrus codices. The history of manuscripts is obscure, although most sources state the discovery took place in 1945 and was done by an Egyptian pheasant. The actual findings are important evidence and confirmation about the existence of Gnostic sects previously known only from reports of their opponents, church fathers (ecclesiastical writers), coming from early period of Christianity. The documents, found sealed in a jar from a tomb, consist in eleven complete books and the remains of two more, most of them eventually acquired by the Coptic museum at Cairo, where they are kept today. One manuscript, the important Jung Codex, was bought for the Jung Institute in Zürich. All documents are in Coptic dialect, most of them are believed by scholars to be written in the third or fourth centuries, although dependent on Greek originals of an earlier date.[note 1]
Among the most well-known are:
- The Gospel of Thomas
- The Gospel of Truth
- The Treatise on Resurrection
- The Apocryphon of John
- The Gospel of Philip
- Some sources state twelve books without refering to them as 'complete'; O. Skarsaune also refers to them as 'numerous texts (52 tractates in all)'.
- Oskar Skarsaune (2002). "12:Orthodoxy and Heresy", In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influence on Early Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 245, 247. ISBN 978-0-8308-2844-9.
- M.A.Smith (1971). From Christ to Constantine. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 69,191. ISBN 0-85110-570-X.