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Rethinking the Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices
Abstract

Abstract:

The famous find-story behind the Nag Hammadi codices, discovered in Egypt in 1945, has been one of the most cherished narratives in our field. Yet a close examination of its details reveals inconsistencies, ambiguities, implicitly colonialist attitudes, and assumptions that call for a thorough reevaluation. This article explores the problematic moments in the find-story narrative and challenges the suggestions of James M. Robinson and others that the Nag Hammadi codices were intentionally buried for posterity, perhaps by Pachomian monks, in the wake of Athanasius’s thirty-ninth Festal Letter. We consider, rather, that the Nag Hammadi codices may have derived from private Greco-Egyptian citizens in late antiquity who commissioned the texts for personal use, depositing them as grave goods following a practice well attested in Egypt.


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