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How Many Books in the Jar?

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  • Michael Grondin
    You would think that James Robinson s statement in NHL, viz.: The Nag Hammadi library consists of twelve books, plus eight leaves removed from a thirteenth
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 13, 2006
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      You would think that James Robinson's statement in NHL, viz.:

      "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 [Trimorphic
      Protennoia], an independent treatise taken out of a book of collected
      essays."
      (NHL, 1988 edition, p.10)

      ... would have been the definitive word on the matter. Twelve books in the
      jar, not thirteen. Robinson even wrote a separate paper detailing the trace
      findings that led him to this conclusion. And yet otherwise-careful
      scholars - probably misled by the designation of TP as "Codex XIII" -
      continue to assert that the jar contained 13 books/codices. One of the most
      popular books on the subject - Elaine Pagels' _The Gnostic Gospels_ - has
      this to say:

      "[Muhammad 'Ali] ... raised his mattock, smashed the jar, and discovered
      inside thirteen papyrus books, bound in leather."

      Pagels at least had the excuse of having published this book in 1979, when
      things were still up in the air a bit (the revisions to the 1977 edition of
      NHL to which she may or may not have had access are significant, though I
      don't know whether the above-quoted portion of Robinson's intro was among
      them.) But scholars writing much later are still making the same mistake.
      The other day, for example, I was perusing John Painter's book _Just James_,
      which is pretty careful scholarship throughout (unlike Eisenman's book on
      James). Yet on page 159, one reads this:

      "In the jar were thirteen codices ..."

      What these false claims obscure is that the fact that there were 12 books in
      the jar and not 13 may be of some importance in getting inside the minds of
      those who packed the jar. Of course we don't know when in antiquity TP was
      torn out of another book and put into what we now know as Codex VI, but the
      possibility that it might have been done shortly prior to packing and
      sealing the jar is suggestive that the packers might have wanted to include
      TP, but did not want to put a 13th book in the jar. We know that the number
      13 came to be considered unlucky by Christians at some point in time. Was it
      already so among that group at that point in time (say around 370)? Even if
      not, the number 12 would seem to have had a much greater symbolic
      significance to them, judging from the mention of that number in several
      tractates.

      Mike Grondin
      The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
      http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/sayings.htm
      The Coptic Gospel of Thomas in Context
      http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/index.htm
    • Chris Weimer
      Mike, Wikipedia itself continues to use the antiquated 13 leather-bound codices . If I were to hazard a guess, I d reckon that John Painter used Wikipedia. :P
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 13, 2006
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        Mike,

        Wikipedia itself continues to use the antiquated "13 leather-bound
        codices". If I were to hazard a guess, I'd reckon that John Painter
        used Wikipedia. :P

        All joking aside, thanks for the heads up.

        Chris
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