Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lundhaug and Jenott, The Monastic Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices

PAULA J. TUTTY: The Nag Hammadi Codices were made by monks.
The question of who owned and produced the Nag Hammadi Codices is of major importance in helping us to understand their historical significance. In order to understand what they may have meant to those who read them, it is important to know who actually read them. Together with post-doctoral fellow in the NEWCONT-project Lance Jenott, [Professor Hugo] Lundhaug has just published a book dealing with this question, entitled The Monastic Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Lundhaug and Jenott answer the question in their new book by thoroughly exploring the issues surrounding the discovery of the codices, their material aspects, and their status as fourth- and fifth-century books of Christian literature.
I haven't seen the book, but the arguments summarized here make a lot of sense to me. Second-century "Gnosticism" (i.e., expressions of the demiurgic myth) look to me to be internal developments within a faction of Christian theology rather than Jewish-Platonic mythology. (Background here and links.) I would not be surprised to see fourth-century Christian monks reading the texts with considerable interest. In any case, whatever the ultimate origins of the texts, we have the manuscripts that we have. It is important to try to understand the social context in which they were copied and read.