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Gnostic Egyptian Monks Who Studied the Holy Books of Nag Hammadi

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  • santmat_mystic ( James )
    Egyptian Monks Who Studied the Holy Books of Nag Hammadi _____________________________________________________________________ The Gospel of (the) Egyptians.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2006
      Egyptian Monks Who Studied the Holy Books of Nag Hammadi
      _____________________________________________________________________

      "The Gospel of (the) Egyptians. The God-written, holy, secret book.
      Grace, understanding, perception, prudence (be) with him who has
      written it, Eugnostos the beloved in the Spirit -- in the flesh my
      name is Gongessos -- and my fellow lights in incorruptibility,
      Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, Ichthus. God-written (is) the
      holy book of the great, invisible Spirit. Amen. The Holy Book of the
      Great Invisible Spirit. Amen." (The Gospel of the Egyptians, The Nag
      Hammadi Library in English)
      _____________________________________________________________________

      "The care and religious devotion reflected in the manufacture of the
      Nag Hammadi library hardly suggest that the books were produced out
      of antagonism or even disinterest in their contents, but rather
      reflect the veneration accorded to holy texts." (The Gospel of the
      Egyptians, The Nag Hammadi Library in English)
      _____________________________________________________________________

      Followers from various religious groups in Egypt, when joining the
      monasteries founded by Saint Pachomius, most likely brought with
      them their holy books. Those would have been added to the libraries
      of the various monastic communities.

      With the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library we have recovered
      fifty two such holy books, or fragments of ancient books. No doubt
      there were many more. See the link at the bottom for information on
      the recently discovered books of the Al-Gurna Library, found at a
      monastery in another part of Egypt.

      Often these Nag Hammadi codices are arranged in a New Testament-like
      format or pattern of: gospels, followed by letters or spiritual
      discourses, followed by books of revelations. Those would be books
      describing the mystical journeys of various apostles through
      heavenly regions. There were in all, thirteen codices found at Nag
      Hammadi. Unfortunately, one of them got destroyed as it was, believe
      it or not, used for kindling. The al-Samman family used pages from
      it to start fires for cooking. Perhaps they made morning tea with
      pages of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, or another edition of the
      Gospel of Thomas!

      Below is culled from the Introduction to,
      The Nag Hammadi Library In English,
      James M. Robinson, Harper Collins, first edition.

      In the Light and Sound of the Beloved,

      James

      The Monks of Nag Hammadi

      December 1945: The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library Near the
      Nile River in Upper Egypt

      In the month of December peasants of the Nag Hammadi region
      fertilize their fields by carrying nitrates from the talus of the
      Jabal al-Tarif to their fields, using the saddle-bags of their
      camels. Two brothers, Muhammad and Khalifah (Ali of the al-Samman
      clan, hobbled their camels on the south side of the fallen boulder
      and came upon the jar as they were digging around its base. Muhammad
      Ali reports that at first he was afraid to break the jar, whose lid
      may have been sealed on with bitumen, for fear that a jinn [evil
      spirit] might be closed up inside it; but, on reflecting that the
      jar might contain gold, he recovered his courage and smashed it with
      his mattock. Out swirled golden-like particles that disappeared into
      the sky-neither jinns nor gold but perhaps papyrus fragments! He
      wrapped the books in his tunic, slung it over his shoulder,
      unhobbled his camel, and carried the books home...

      The Books of Nag Hammadi Were Most Likely Part of a Monastery
      Library Used by Gnostic-Christian Monks Affiliated With Near-by
      Pachomian Monasteries and Caves

      The Nag Hammadi library consists of twelve books, plus eight leaves
      removed from a thirteenth book in late antiquity and tucked inside
      the front cover of the sixth. These eight leaves comprise a complete
      text, an independent treatise taken out of a book of collected
      works. In fact, each of the books, except the tenth, consists of a
      collection of relatively brief works. Thus there is a total of fifty-
      two tractates.


      Although the Nag Hammadi library is in Coptic, the texts were
      originally composed in Greek. Hence the fact that they were
      discovered in Upper Egypt may be misleading. Some may of course have
      been composed in Egypt, for several contain specific allusions to
      Egypt: Asclepius calls Egypt the "image of heaven"; On the Origin of
      the World appeals to "the crocodiles in Egypt" and "the two bulls in
      Egypt" as witnesses; and the Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth
      instructs the son to "write this book for the temple at Diospolis
      (Magna near Luxor or Parva near Nag Hammadi) in hieroglyphic
      characters." Yet the Greek-writing authors may have been located
      anywhere in the ancient world where Greek was used, such as Greece
      itself (VI, 5), or Syria (II, 2), or Jordan (V, 5). Much the same is
      the case with the Bible and other ancient texts written in various
      parts of the ancient world and preserved in the "dry sands of
      Egypt." Thus the Nag Hammadi library involves the collecting of what
      was originally a Greek literary production by largely unrelated and
      anonymous authors spread through the Eastern half of the ancient
      world and covering a period of almost half a millennium (or more, if
      one takes into consideration a brief section of Plato's Republic,
      VI, 5).

      .....More and more, Greek texts such as the Bible and the Nag
      Hammadi library were translated into the native Egyptian language.
      The Life of Saint Pachomius, which itself exists in both Greek and
      Coptic, tells that a Greek-speaking monk from Alexandria came to
      Pachomius, who "made him live in the same dwelling with an old
      brother who knew the Greek language," while he learned the native
      tongue. Meanwhile Pachomius "made every effort to learn Greek by the
      grace of God in order to discover the way of offering him solace
      frequently. Then Pachomius appointed him house manager of the
      Alexandrian and other foreign brothers who came after him."

      When the Egyptian language is written with the Greek alphabet (plus
      a few letters for sounds Greeks did not make), it is called Coptic.
      The Nag Hammadi library is written in two Coptic dialects. Even
      among the texts translated into the same dialect, minor divergences
      point to a plurality of translators, who do not correspond to the
      plurality of scribes responsible for the surviving copies. In the
      case of duplicates, different translators were involved, working
      from divergent Greek texts. The translation process may have been
      spread over a wide area of Egypt, and several centuries.
      Each codex was bound in leather.


      The two groups of covers plus four miscellaneous covers, and the one
      group of scribal hands plus miscellaneous scribes, may indicate that
      the Nag Hammadi library is a secondary merging of what was
      originally a series of smaller libraries or isolated books. This
      would seem to be confirmed by the distribution of the duplicates. No
      one codex contains two copies of the same work, nor did anyone
      scribe copy the same work twice, nor is there a duplicate tractate
      among the books of one group of covers. There seems to have been an
      awareness of the wastefulness of such duplication. A scribal note in
      Codex VI expresses concern not to displease whoever commissioned the
      work by duplicating something already owned.. When duplication does
      turn up in terms of the whole library, one is inclined to think the
      books were not produced with the whole library in view. Both of the
      tractates in Codex IV are also in Codex III, so that Codex IV is
      wholly superfluous in the present library. And there are a total of
      three copies of the Apocryphon of John (II, 1, III, 1, and IV, 1).
      Thus one may conjecture that the present library derives from at
      least three smaller collections.


      The papyrus used for letters and business documents and reused to
      thicken the leather covers may be located in time and space with
      more ease than can the quires themselves. Dates found in such
      cartonnage of Codex VII are 333, 341, 346, and 348 C.E. This
      indicates that the cover of Codex VII was manufactured after these
      dates. The cursive scribal hand of some of this discarded papyrus
      used to line the cover of the same codex may be dated as late as 360
      C.E. A document found in the cartonnage of Codex I mentions "Chenobos
      [keia]" and "Dios[polis Parva]." Other locations in the same general
      region also occur in the cartonnage of other covers. Personal names,
      titles, forms of address, and the like that are present in the
      cartonnage tend to indicate it came from the Pachomian monasteries
      founded in this region up and down the Nile during the first half of
      the fourth century. In fact the cartonnage in the cover of Codex VII
      seems to have belonged to a monk named Sansnos who was in charge of
      the cattle of a monastery, which would no doubt account for his
      close relationship to the manufacture of the leather covers. The
      headquarters monastery of the Pachomian order at Pabau, where the
      Basilica of Saint Pachomius was located, as well as the third
      Pachomian monastery at Chenoboskeia, where Pachomius himself began
      his Christian life as a hermit, are only 8.7 and 5.3 kilometers (5.4
      and 3.3 miles) respectively from the place where the library was
      buried.


      .....It is conceivable that book manufacture could have been one of
      the handicrafts common in monasteries to produce commodities to
      trade or sell for the necessities of life. Hence one could
      conjecture that uninscribed books were produced in the monastery and
      were sold to Gnostics (or anyone else) to inscribe as they saw fit.
      But there is some evidence from that period that books were first
      inscribed and then bound, as when a line of writing passes through
      the fold at the spine. And in the Nag Hammadi library blotting is
      usually present on the first and last pages but not elsewhere, which
      may perhaps be explained as due to the dampness of the paste in the
      cartonnage at the time of binding, in which case the quire would
      have to have been inscribed before being bound.

      The care and religious devotion reflected in the manufacture of the
      Nag Hammadi library hardly suggest that the books were produced out
      of antagonism or even disinterest in their contents, but rather
      reflect the veneration accorded to holy texts. The leather covers
      are not very ornate, compared, for example, with the Manichaean
      books of a century later, that are thought to have been studded with
      jewels. But this simplicity would be appropriate to the Pachomian
      monasteries. The Life of Saint Pachomius reports:

      He also taught the brothers to pay no attention
      to the loveliness and beauty of this world,
      whether it be beautiful food or clothing, or a cell,
      or an outwardly seductive book.

      The simple tooling of some of the leather covers does include
      crosses (II, IV, and VIII). The ankh hieroglyph of life that became
      the Christian cross ansata is on the beautifully-tooled cover of
      Codex II and at the end of the Prayer of the Apostle Paul. The
      acrostic "fish" symbol standing for the creed "Jesus Christ, Son of
      God, Savior" occurs in two scribal notes (in Codices III and VII).
      In the first case the name of the scribe is preserved in the
      comment "in the flesh my name is Gongessos," which is probably the
      Latin name Concessus. He also had a spiritual name or title of
      Eugnostos. Thus he had some spiritual status, and referred to
      his "fellow lights in incorruptibility." Within this spiritual
      circle he described the text as "God-written," Even if such a
      scribal note was not composed by the scribe who copied the codex
      that has survived, but rather came from an earlier scribe who wrote
      an ancestor of the copy that survived, nevertheless the scribe of
      Codex III did not feel called upon to eliminate it, much less to
      replace it with a warning against heresy in the text. Some scribal
      notes, however! since they were written at the end of an extant
      codex, may be assumed to have been composed by the scribe of that
      particular codex. They reflect the godliness he found in what he was
      copying. Codex II concludes with this note:

      Remember me also, my brethren, [in] your prayers:
      Peace to the Saints and the Spiritual.

      Codex VII ends on a similar note:

      This book belongs to the fatherhood.
      It is the son who wrote it.
      Bless me, 0 father. I bless you, 0 father,
      in peace. Amen.

      The term fatherhood may refer to the leadership of a monastery. In
      any case, these scribal notes, together with the scribes' care to
      correct errors and even add small explanatory glosses and reading
      aids, tend to indicate that the scribes were of a religious
      persuasion congenial to the contents
      they were copying.


      Two of the texts in the Nag Hammadi library refer to their being
      stored for safekeeping in a mountain until the end of time. The
      Gospel of the Egyptians concludes:

      The great Seth wrote this book with letters in one
      hundred and thirty years. He placed it in a mountain
      that is called Charaxio, in order that, at the end
      of the times and the eras, ... it may come forth and
      reveal his incorruptible, holy race of the great
      savior, and those who dwell with them in love, and
      the great, invisible, eternal Spirit, and his only
      begotten Son.....

      Near the end of Allogenes a similar idea occurs:

      Write down [the things that I) shall [tell] you and
      of which I shall remind you for the sake of these who
      will be worthy after you. And you will leave this book
      upon the mountain and you will call up the guardian,
      "Come, 0 Dreadful One."

      On each side of the Nile valley cliffs rise abruptly to the desert
      above. The section of the cliff on the right bank marking the limit
      of the Nile valley and the arable land between Chenoboskeia and
      Pabau is called the Jabal al-Tarif. A protruding boulder shaped
      somewhat like a stalagmite had broken off some time in antiquity
      from the face of the cliff and fallen down onto the talus below (the
      inclined plane of fallen rock that over the ages naturally collects
      like a buttress at the foot of a cliff). Under the northern flank of
      one of the huge barrel-shaped pieces of this boulder the jar
      containing the Nag Hammadi library was secreted.

      In the face of the cliff, just at the top of the talus, sixth
      dynasty tombs from the reigns of Pepi I and II (2350-2200 B.C.E.)
      had in antiquity long since been robbed. Thus they had become cool
      solitary caves where a monk might well hold his spiritual retreats,
      as is reported of Pachomius himself, or where a hermit might have
      his cell. Greek prayers to Zeus Sarapis, opening lines of biblical
      Psalms in Coptic, and Christian crosses, all painted in red onto the
      walls of the caves, show that they were indeed so used. Perhaps
      those who cherished the Nag Hammadi library made such use of the
      caves, which would account for the choice of this site to bury them.
      The jar rested there over a millennium and a half. . . . (The Nag
      Hammadi Library In English, James M. Robinson, Harper Collins)


      More Gnostic Gospels Found at Another Monastery in Egypt:
      The Al-Gurna Library:
      http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/730/he1.htm

      Some Background on the Books of Nag Hammadi:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi

      The Books of the Nag Hammadi Library Online:
      http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhlalpha.html

      Nag Hammadi.com:
      http://www.nag-hammadi.com/index.html
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