"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out."
The Nag Hammadi codices are a collection of early Christian texts from the third and fourth centuries. They were discovered in 1945 by two brothers near the Jabal al-Tarif caves in Egypt, and area which is thought to have been the birthplace of the Christian monastic movement. The Nag Hammadi codices were written at different times, in different places, and by different people, but are bound together by the underlying ascetic attitude to life which was prevalent among Gnostic Christians.
In total the Nag Hammadi library consists of fifty-two remarkably well-preserved books which offer invaluable insight into the early Gnostic movement. Their discovery was particularly important for the study of early Christianity because, up until that point, the only information scholars had about the Gnostic movement came exclusively from writers who had condemned it as heretical. The Nag Hammadi codices now offered scholars, as well as the rest of the world, their first look at the Gnostics from the point of view of the Gnostics themselves.
The entirety of the Nag Hammadi library is currently translated, published, and available to the public, but the publication project was not without its difficulties. Politics, rivalries, and monopolization of the text hindered work until UNESCO intervened in 1970 and named a committee to finish the project. Funding from the Smithsonian Institution and the Coptic Gnostic Library Project also helped to speed things along and finally, in 1977, the entire Nag Hammadi library was released into the public domain.
The Nag Hammadi codices were discovered entirely by accident, but the importance of this find has had numerous religious, historical, philosophical, and societal implications. The beginning of the largest religion in the world today, Christianity, was complex and varied. The Nag Hammadi codices gives us a glimpse into one of its early movements, one that was quite popular and influential in its day, but was later condemned as heresy.
Unfortunately, Gnostic texts such as the Nag Hammadi codices are sometimes used today in an effort to undermine and attack Christianity by calling into question its teachings and historical origins. Because of this, many Christians feel that reading or learning about the Nag Hammadi library would be unadvisable or even heretical.
It is important to remember, however, that Christians shouldn't shy away from knowledge. The Bible encourages us to learn gladly and to use our discernment in all that we do. A motivating quote from Proverbs 18:15, for example, tells us that "the heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out." The spirit is inspired by God to seek out wisdom and knowledge. We should never have to close ourselves out of the fear that new information may challenge our beliefs.
Many Christians find that learning about the historical origins and development of their faith has helped them draw even closer to God. Seeing how God has worked throughout history to shape and reveal His message can, in fact, help to strengthen rather than weaken one's convictions. If you're interested in learning more about how Christianity developed, then the Nag Hammadi codices are a great place to start.
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong.We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts,turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill.Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear;open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”