The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Texts by Doresse

Jean Doresse. The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Texts: A Firsthand Account of the Expedition That Shook the Foundations of Christianity. With an English Translation and Critical Evaluation of the Gospel According to Thomas. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2005. Paperback, 374 pages.

The Nag Hammadi texts were discovered in Egypt in 1945 and since then have become well known even among the lay public. Dating from the third to fourth centuries, these Coptic texts may have been translations from original Greek compositions. Today housed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, these texts ruffled some feathers when they were first found and studied. Among them was found the Gospel of Thomas (Jesus’ alleged brother) containing 114 sayings attributed to Jesus of which Greek fragments had been found earlier and independently and which have been dated between 50 and 120 A.D.

When the New Testament was fixed in the fourth century A.D., the Gnostically oriented Gospel of Thomas was for unknown reasons excluded. Yet, many of its sayings could well have been uttered by Jesus, and this caused considerable disquiet in Christian circles.

In the intervening years the Nag Hammadi library has led to a revisioning of early Christian and Gnostic history. It has, unfortunately, not significantly changed how Christianity is taught or lived.

The French historian Jean Doresse, who authored the present work, is the only living member of the scholarly team that discovered these Coptic texts and studied them initially. His book, first written in French and published in 1958, has been out of print for a number of years, and it is good to see it back in print. The story of the discovery remains valid and vivid. We must, however, bear in mind that since the publication of the original edition research into the Nag Hammadi texts and Gnosticism has marched on.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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