The Nag-Hammadi Library has fourteen leather-bound books from the late fourth century containing Gnostic writings. It was found in Egypt in 1945. The books contain 52 works, including the only known complete copy of the gospel of Thomas. The books are in Coptic but seem to be translated from Greek.
Among other things they say:
- God is male and female.
- In the Garden of Eden, the serpent was right, God lied.
- Life is a battle not agains sin but against ignorance.
- Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene mouth to mouth
- Jesus preferred Mary Magdalene to Peter as the head of the church
- Jesus laughed on the cross and danced the night before.
- The God of Moses is a tin-pot god who could not even create the world right. He even attempted to seduce Eve.
In the library are Christian writings that do not appear in Scripture. Among others:
- The gospel of Thomas
- The gospel of Philip
- The gospel of Truth
- The apocryphon of James
- The apocryphon of John (three different ones)
- The apocalypse of Paul
- The acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles
- The treatise on the Resurrection
- The three-part treatise
There are also three pages of Plato’s Republic (588a-589b).
The books do not belong to just one sect of Gnosticism, but include writings from the Valentinians, Sethians and even the Neoplatonists.
The books were hidden near the monastery of St Pachomius in the late fourth century by a monk. He saw the (Gnostic) faith disappearing from the world and so he hid these books for the end of the world.
The library is named after the nearby town of Nag-Hammadi. The Gospel of Judas, which has also come to light, was hidden nearby at about the same time.
The mother of the two brothers who discovered the books burnt up most of one of the 14 books in her oven. The books gave her a bad feeling.
Before we found these books, most of what we knew about Gnosticism came from what St Irenaeus wrote against it in the late second century. The real surprise, it turns out, is that even though Irenaeus was against Gnosticism, he gave us a true picture of it. So even though the Nag-Hammadi books are a wonderful find, they do not reveal any deep dark secret that had laid hidden through the ages.
Reading them now most of them seem half mad, but the religion that made sense of these books is gone.