In 1945 an Egyptian discovered a set of 13 books in an earthenware jar in upper Egypt. The book are made up of religious and hermetic texts, works of moral maxims, Apocryphal texts, and a rewriting of Plato’s Republic.

In addition to the importance of the manuscripts for the history of books (they are the oldest known books to date) and Coptic palaeography, they represent a key source of evidence for the history of philosophy and primitive Christianity.

They are an important part of the study of the history of Gnosticism, a form of Christianity declared as heretical by the Church.

The texts are currently housed in the Coptic Museum of Cairo.

The Nag Hammadi Library

The discovery of the Nag Hammadi library is the second most important discovery (after the Dead Sea Scrolls) for the study of early Christianity. The books show that early Christianity was even more diverse than scholars had suspected, with many different ways of interpreting Jesus. The library contains books which are very similar to the New Testament but at the same time very different. This demonstrates that Christianity in Egypt had a literature and theology distinct from Christianity in other regions.

An important text in the library is an almost complete copy of the Gospel of Thomas, written in Syria in the second century. The Gospel of Thomas contains sayings of Jesus which are similar but not identical to the sayings in the canonical gospels.

See also-

Gospel of Thomas, 3rd century