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10953Re: Lewis Paper on Academia.edu

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  • James Bean
    Aug 30, 2014
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      Read the Lewis paper "Rethinking the Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices".  Though bringing a "fresh set of eyes" to study of the Nag Hammadi texts on the surface has a nice ring to it, in this case I don't find compelling arguments being successfully made. 

      That "the Nag Hammadi codices were intentionally deposited in a grave or graves rather than buried for 'posterity'” might be their strongest speculation.  After all, there are other examples of monks being buried with pages of gospels, Gospel of Peter, etc... In this case, it would be an extremely deluxe, luxurious version of this custom, wouldn't it? 

      Am remembering something to the effect that a skeleton was found near the clay storage jar perhaps. Is this true? And, if there were remains buried there, is there a way to determine if the remains were adjacent to the jar storing the Nag Hammadi codices, suggestive that the intent was for someone to be buried with their favorite holy texts? I don't recall anyone in the past making a strong case for this. If someone was buried in that location, was it roughly at the same time the books were buried, or decades, maybe centuries later, having nothing whatsoever to do with these Gnostic Gospels? 

      I especially find unconvincing the part about Nag Hammadi possibly being used ritually as "a Christian Book of the Dead." Not so much the case with some of the books such as Sentences of Sextus or our beloved Gospel of Thomas, but yes, heavenly ascents or mystical journeys are indeed the focus of some of the Gnostic material. Gnostic spirituality can be characterized as about experiencing something of the Kingdom of the Heavens now during this life, seeing the Light now in the living present, in order to be connected to it "in the other place" or next life (Gospel of Philip). Though taking sacred texts like Philip into the next life by being buried with them is a nice after-thought, if you will, my "intuition" is that the Gnostics had something more mystical in mind in the category of vision-quests, vowel chant (see the Gospel of the Egyptians) and altered states as part of their quest to ascend through the non-corporeal heavens. No doubt the afterlife had something to do with their motivations, but my view is the Gnostics had contemplative practices and their goal, generally, was about "seeking to see Him" before death (Thomas, saying 59). April D. De Conick, "Seek to See Him: Ascent and Vision Mysticism in the Gospel of Thomas" explores that aspect of Gnosticism: that heaven's not just for dead people only.

      And lastly, for scholars to be mindful of the close proximity of the Pachomian monastery to the Coptic Nag Hammadi discovery site seems quite reasonable. 

      Not convinced but it's always fun to rethink and revisit the topic of this great discovery of ancient texts.

      James Bean

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