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Nag Hammadi Codices

Updated: 2013.09.23

Nag Hammadi codices Nag Hammadi Codex II Nag Hammadi, Egypt
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According to BAS:

"…a 13-volume library of Coptic texts… [found] near the town of Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt, … [describing] Gnostic Christianity, from the Greek word γνωσις. The Nag Hammadi codices are 13 leather-bound volumes dated to the mid-fourth century [CE] that contain an unprecedented collection of more than 50 texts, including some that had been composed [emphasis added] as early as the second century…" [Original composition aside, the version in the Nag Hammadi codices reflect Gnostic Christian redactions – and Hellenization – of the 4th century CE.]

"According to this Gnostic myth, the God of the Hebrew Bible is actually a corrupted lower deity. Only through the intervention of Sophia (Wisdom) can γνωσις be revealed and salvation attained. Thus, while adherents of Gnostic Christianity certainly acknowledged the role of Jesus in their faith, their theology placed greater significance on the intellectual revelation of his message than on his crucifixion and resurrection…

From a historical perspective, the Nag Hammadi codices provide a clearer picture of the diverse theological and philosophical currents that found expression through early Christianity. Indeed, Gnosticism and its classically inspired philosophical ideals permeated not just early Christian thought but also the Jewish and pagan traditions from which Christianity arose. The Nag Hammadi codices, widely regarded as one of the most significant finds of the 20th century, revealed this complex religious milieu and offered an unparalleled glimpse into alternative visions of early Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Society).

A word about Coptics from a UCLA-associated Coptic Society website:

"The Coptic Language is the name used to refer to the last stage of the written Egyptian language. Coptic should more correctly be used to refer to the script rather than the language itself. Even though this script was introduced as far back as [BCE] 2nd century, it is usually applied to the writing of the Egyptian language from the first century [CE] to the present day.

"The ancient Egyptians devised a writing system to record their spoken language over 60 centuries ago. The first application seems to have been the calendar. The system started by giving each word a symbol, called hieroglyph. This convention was of course doomed because of the tremendous vocabulary it would have generated. Out of such ideas they took some of these hieroglyphs and associated a sound value to them which, when combined together, would spell out the spoken word. The sound values of such characters depended mostly on the pronunciation of the word that it denoted in the early stage. Thus the hieroglyph for mouth, pronounced 'ro' became the sound 'r' in the new system. About 130 hieroglyphs have been identified as voiced characters. Some represented a single sound, others a two-character sound, and some a three-character sound. Many more hieroglyphs were added to represent the idea or to enhance the meaning of the word. These are commonly referred to as 'ideograms' and they brought the number of identified hieroglyphs to over 4,000. This script, popularly called hieroglyphic, was both beautifully drawn as well colorfully painted. It was used for inscription on Egyptian monuments as well as a variety of written texts on papyrus…

"With the decline of the state such a cumbersome writing method became impossible to preserve it as is. So in [BCE] fifth century a new script was devised that was both simpler to write and included about ten percent of the total number of hieroglyphs used previously. This new script came to be referred to as 'Demotic'. The cursive, and relatively ugly appearance of characters, in comparison to the hieroglyphic, was compensated for by its relative compactness. Many written records were preserved in that script but they dared not inscribe it on temple walls."

"In [BCE] 313 Alexander the Great invaded Egypt. His legacy was carried on by his general Ptolemeus and his successors in Egypt. That legacy, simply stated, was to have a universal culture. Such culture would of course be the Greek or Hellenistic one…"

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