Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition

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The Definitive Collection of Gnostic Writings

The year is 1945. At the foot of a cliff along the Nile River, near the city of Nag Hammadi, an Egyptian peasant unearths a large storage jar containing ancient manuscripts. The discovery turns out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the past century. A treasure of fourth-century texts, the manuscripts are the scriptures of the ancient mystical tradition commonly called Gnosticism, from the Greek gnosis, that ...

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Overview

The Definitive Collection of Gnostic Writings

The year is 1945. At the foot of a cliff along the Nile River, near the city of Nag Hammadi, an Egyptian peasant unearths a large storage jar containing ancient manuscripts. The discovery turns out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the past century. A treasure of fourth-century texts, the manuscripts are the scriptures of the ancient mystical tradition commonly called Gnosticism, from the Greek gnosis, that is, secret knowledge. It is a discovery that challenges everything we thought we knew about the early Christian church, ancient Judaism, and Greco-Roman religions.

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is the most complete and up-to-date English-language edition of these sacred texts from Egypt. It is full of treatises, testimonies, and secret books that had been lost for centuries. In addition to gospels purportedly by the apostles Thomas and Philip, and the revelations of James, Peter, and Paul, this collection also includes the Gospel of Mary and the controversial Gospel of Judas. The documents have been newly translated by a team of prominent international scholars. This volume also features introductory essays and extensive notes to help readers understand the context and significance of these texts that have revolutionized the study of early Christianity and ancient religious thought.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060523787
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/29/2007
  • Pages: 864
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Marvin Meyer is one of the foremost scholars on early Christianity and texts about Jesus outside the New Testament. He is Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. Among his recent books are The Gospel of Judas, The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus, The Gospels of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.

James M. Robinson, consultant for this collection, is widely known for his groundbreaking contribution as the permanent secretary of UNESCO's International Committee for the Nag Hammadi codices, and his many published works on Gnostic texts and the Sayings Gospel Q.

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The Nag Hammadi Scriptures
The International Edition

Chapter One

The Prayer of the Apostle Paul

NHC I,1

Introduced by Madeleine Scopello
Translated by Marvin Meyer

The Prayer of the Apostle Paul, which is written on the front flyleaf of Nag Hammadi Codex I, may have been added after the Coptic scribe finished copying the fifth tractate of Codex I, the Tripartite Tractate. Since the first lines of the text are missing, we do not know if there was a title at the beginning of the text. In any case, a title has been conserved at the end of the treatise, "Prayer of the Apostle Paul," followed by a short colophon ("In peace. Holy is Christ"). Both the title and the colophon are in Greek, and the whole prayer was most likely translated from Greek into Coptic.

The Prayer of the Apostle Paul begins with a series of invocations addressed to the Redeemer. The person uttering the prayer, identified with the apostle Paul in order to give authority to this text, affirms connections with the divine: "[I am] yours; I have come from [you]" (A,3–6). Technical Gnostic terms are employed to portray the Redeemer by means of invocations employing the formula "you are," repeated for four times: you are mind, treasury, fullness, rest. Except for the word "treasury," which is translated into Coptic (aho), the terms are retained in Greek (nous, pleroma, anapausis); these terms are frequent in Valentinian literature, though they are also found elsewhere. Reflections on the treasury are also found in Authoritative Discourse 28,24, where it is said that the original home of thesoul is the treasury, to which she will return and find rest.1

According to Dieter Mueller, this prayer is reminiscent of prayers of the Corpus Hermeticum (e.g., I.31–32; V.10–11; XIII.16–20) and invocations preserved in Greek and Coptic magical literature, and the beginning of the prayer recalls Three Steles of Seth 118,30–119,1.2

The second part of the Prayer of the Apostle Paul invokes the divine as "you who exist and preexisted." These titles, with a philosophical flavor, appear quite often in Valentinian as well as Sethian Gnostic literature in reference to the highest God. The formula "the name exalted above every name" derives from Philippians 2:9; as Dieter Mueller notes,3 the author of the Prayer shows a clear knowledge of the Psalms and the Pauline epistles. We concur with this line of interpretation, especially concerning the five titles given to Jesus Christ: Lord of lords, King of the eternal realms (or aeons, ages), Son of Humanity, Spirit, Advocate (or Paraclete) of truth. The title "Lord of lords" is also present in 1 Timothy 6:15 and Revelation 17:14; 19:16, each time in connection with the title "King of kings." "King of the ages" appears as a title in Tobit 13:6–10, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Revelation 15:3. Although "Son of Humanity" is very frequent in the New Testament and early Christian literature, "Advocate of truth" seems to come from John 15:26 (cf. also, for "Paraclete," John 14:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1).

The suppliant of the Prayer of the Apostle Paul also asks for "authority" (A,19: exousia, "power"), which indicates apostolic prerogatives. This theme seems to be linked to line 15, where the suppliant asks for God's "gifts." Both healing for the body and redemption for the enlightened soul are requested; the theme of the enlightened soul (or light soul) is very much at home in a Gnostic context.

Lines that bring to mind 1 Corinthians 2:9 (where Paul quotes Isaiah 64:3 and Jeremiah 3:16) and 1 Corinthians 2:8 (where the term "rulers" or "archons" is also used) lead the author of the Prayer of the Apostle Paul to a Gnostic reinterpretation that transforms the meaning of the term "ruler" from a political to a supernatural one. The statement that the human heart has been formed by the psychical god (A,30) refers to the creation and realm of the demiurge, a widespread conception in Gnostic and Valentinian thought.

Because the present text is included in a codex containing several Valentinian texts, it has been suggested that the Prayer of the Apostle Paul is a Valentinian prayer.4 The place of origin of the tractate is difficult to determine: is it a text coming from the Italian branch of Valentinianism?5 Its date of composition must be before the final copying of Codex I, in the mid-fourth century, but its themes situate the date of composition more probably at the beginning of the third century.

The Prayer of the Apostle Paul1

. . . . . .2
Grant me your [mercy].
[My] Redeemer, redeem me,
for [I am] yours;
I have come from [you].

You are [my] mind:
bring me forth.
You are my treasury:
open for me.
You [are] my fullness:3
accept me.
You are rest:4
give me incomprehensible perfection.

I call upon you, you who exist and preexisted,
in the name exalted above every name,5
through Jesus Christ,
[Lord] of lords,
King of the eternal realms.6
Give me your gifts, with no regret,
through the Son of Humanity,7
the Spirit,
the Advocate8 of [truth].
Give me authority, [I] ask of you,
give [healing]9 for my body, since I ask you
through the preacher of the gospel,10
and redeem my eternal enlightened soul and my spirit,
and disclose to my mind the firstborn of the fullness of grace.

Grant what eyes of angels have not [seen], what ears of rulers have not heard,
and what has not arisen in the human heart,11
which became angelic,
made in the image of the animate God12
when it was formed in the beginning.
I have faith and hope.
And bestow upon me
your beloved, chosen, blessed majesty,
the firstborn, the first-begotten, [B]
the [wonderful] mystery of your house.
[For] yours is power and glory
and praise and greatness,
forever and ever.

[Amen].

Prayer of the Apostle Paul

In peace.
Holy is Christ.

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures
The International Edition
. Copyright © by Marvin Meyer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents


Preface   James M. Robinson     xi
Introduction   Marvin Meyer   Elaine H. Pagels     1
The Prayer of the Apostle Paul   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     15
The Secret Book of James   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     19
The Gospel of Truth   Einar Thomassen   Marvin Meyer     31
The Treatise on Resurrection   Einar Thomassen   Marvin Meyer     49
The Tripartite Tractate   Einar Thomassen     57
The Secret Book of John   John D. Turner   Marvin Meyer     103
The Gospel of Thomas with the Greek Gospel of Thomas   Marvin Meyer     133
The Gospel of Philip   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     157
The Nature of the Rulers   Marvin Meyer     187
On the Origin of the World   Marvin Meyer     199
Exegesis on the Soul   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     223
The Book of Thomas   John D. Turner   Marvin Meyer     235
The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit   John D. Turner   Marvin Meyer     247
Eugnostos the Blessed   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     271
The Wisdom of Jesus Christ   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     283
The Dialogue of the Savior   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     297
The Revelation of Paul   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     313
The First Revelation of James   Wolf-Peter Funk     321
The Second Revelation of James   Wolf-Peter Funk     331
The Revelation of Adam   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     343
The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     357
Thunder   Paul-Hubert Poirier   Marvin Meyer     367
Authoritative Discourse   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     379
The Concept of Our Great Power   Madeleine Scopello   Marvin Meyer     391
Excerpt from Plato's Republic   Marvin Meyer     403
The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth   Jean-Pierre Mahe   Marvin Meyer     409
The Prayer of Thanksgiving   Jean-Pierre Mahe   Marvin Meyer     419
Excerpt from the Perfect Discourse   Jean-Pierre Mahe   Marvin Meyer     425
The Paraphrase of Shem   Michel Roberge     437
The Second Discourse of Great Seth   Marvin Meyer     473
The Revelation of Peter   Marvin Meyer     487
The Teachings of Silvanus   Birger A. Pearson     499
The Three Steles of Seth   John D. Turner     523
Zostrianos   John D. Turner     537
The Letter of Peter to Philip   Marvin Meyer     585
Melchizedek   Birger A. Pearson     595
The Thought of Norea   John D. Turner   Marvin Meyer     607
The Testimony of Truth   Birger A. Pearson     613
Marsanes   John D. Turner     629
The Interpretation of Knowledge   Einar Thomassen     651
Valentinian Exposition with Valentinian Liturgical Readings   Einar Thomassen   Marvin Meyer     663
Allogenes the Stranger   John D. Turner     679
Hypsiphrone   John D. Turner   Marvin Meyer     701
The Sentences of Sextus   Paul-Hubert Poirier   Marvin Meyer      705
Three Forms of First Thought   John D. Turner     715
The Gospel of Mary with the Greek Gospel of Mary   Karen L. King     737
The Act of Peter   Marvin Meyer     749
The Gospel of Judas   Marvin Meyer     755
The Book of Allogenes   Marvin Meyer     771
Epilogue: Schools of Thought in the Nag Hammadi Scriptures     777
Thomas Christianity   Marvin Meyer     779
The Sethian School of Gnostic Thought   John D. Turner     784
The Valentinian School of Gnostic Thought   Einar Thomassen     790
Hermetic Religion   Jean-Pierre Mahe     795
Table of Tractates     799
Bibliography     803
Acknowledgments     827
Index of Proper Names     829
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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The best book of hidden truth you'll ever read!

    The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is THE book to read if you're looking for spiritual truth. I found some of it to be rather hard to read simply because there were parts missing in the translation from the original document, however this book still transformed my thinking and my life. This is hidden truth and not everyone will understand it, but if you are drawn to this book, then you are meant to read it. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures has found a permanent place in my home, my mind and my heart. This book will absolutely change your life for the better in every single way, and by reading it you will gain a new and truthful understanding of the mysteries surrounding God, life and why you're here. I'll be reading and re-reading this book over and over again for the rest of my life.

    As far as other books I'd recommend, the Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East is a series of 5 books, and all 5 are a must. These books will simply blow your mind, and they too will awaken you to spiritual truth.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful library reference book....

    Since I received this book, I have not been able to put it down. My friends have also purchased this book since they thumbed through mine. If you are searching - trying to understand our traditional bible, (why some gospels have been left out) this is a must have....

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    Posted March 19, 2010

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    Posted October 21, 2009

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