What are the Nag Hammadi scrolls?

Author: BibleAsk Team

The Nag Hammadi Scrolls

The Nag Hammadi scrolls were discovered in 1945, by a farmer named Muhammed al-Samman in the city of Nag Hammadi, in northern Egypt. These documents have since been named “the Nag Hammadi library,” “the Nag Hammadi scrolls,” or “the Nag Hammadi codices.”

The scrolls consisted of thirteen leather-bound papyrus codices sealed in a closed jar. The writings in these codices comprise 52 mostly Gnostic essays. The contents of the codices were written in the Coptic language. The Nag Hammadi scrolls are currently placed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt.

These documents may have belonged to a Pachomian monastery and were buried after Saint Athanasius condemned the use of non-canonical books in his Festal Letter of 367 A.D. As a result, the Gnostic priests hid these documents from the non-Gnostic Christians to preserve them.

The Gnostics used a variety of unbiblical writings known as the Gnostic gospels, which were forgeries claiming to be the “lost books of the Bible.” These books were not “lost” but were known to their original audience and were not accepted as part of the historical writings of the Bible for their erroneous content.

The most known Nag Hammadi scroll is the gospel of Thomas. Other books in that library are:  the gospel of Philip, the apocryphon of John, the apocalypse of Adam, the gospel of Truth, and the acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles. These scrolls were not written by the apostles but were given apostolic names to gain acceptability in the early church.

Christian Gnosticism

These books form the basis of what is called Christian Gnosticism which comes from the Greek word “gnosis” that means “to know.” Gnostics claim to have a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but gained through mystical higher plane of existence and experiences. This very thought was introduced by Satan from the very beginning (Genesis 3:5). Gnostics see themselves as elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.

Generally, Gnostics believe that the material world is evil and the spirit world is good. The material world is under the control of evil. They add that a divine spark is trapped in some humans and it alone, of all that exists in this material world, is capable of redemption. To the Gnostics, God is good and could not have created an evil world. Our world, therefore, was created by an evil god. The good God created beings (Archons). And the evil Archon who created our world and pretends to be God, hides truth from humans, but sparks Sophia (wisdom) in some humans to make them want to return to the Pleroma or divine realm.

The Gnostic believes in acquiring mystical knowledge as the means for salvation which is contrary to the biblical message of salvation through the blood of Christ alone (Acts 4:12). In other words, a human depends on self-redemption. And instead of seeking to be transformed by Christ, he seeks by his inner “spark” to find the knowledge needed to free himself from his material body and reach God. This belief contradicts the biblical teaching that: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Without God man can’t achieve salvation (John 15:5).

Gnostics believe that matter is corrupt, therefore, the body must be corrupt also. This thinking led them to conclude that the divine God could not become a real human being with a fleshly body as seen in Christ Jesus. Thus, they deny the deity of Christ. And while the majority of Gnostics, teach that the body must be disciplined by strict asceticism,  some Gnostics teach that they can have fleshly desires since the body is helpless and can’t be restored to God’s image.

The Nag Hammadi Scrolls and the Bible

There are innumerable contradictions between the Gnostic “gospels” and the Scriptures. And these heresies have troubled the early church during the first three centuries. But there is no place for confusion for Jesus and the apostles have upheld the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, the early church fathers were virtually unanimous in identifying these Gnostic scrolls as fraudulent forgeries that promote erroneous doctrines about Christ, sin, salvation, and countless other Christian doctrines.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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