City of Naj Hammadi, Egypt
City of Naj Hammadi lies in Upper Egypt. The town is situated in the Qena governorate on west bank of river Nile. Luxor is just 80 kilometers from Naj Hammadi. Al Wasr which is just east of Naj Hammadi was known as Chenoboskion (which means geese gazing grounds) in ancient Egypt. The city has a very small population, mostly of which are farmers. Aluminum and sugar are produced in the town. But the town is known for Naj Hammadi library which is a collection of ancient codices.
How to reach
Luxor airport is the nearest international airport to go to the city of Naj Hammadi. There is not much to do in the city and the Naj Hammadi library is in a museum in Cairo.
History of Naj Hammadi
The town was established by Mahmoud Pasha Hammadi. He belonged to the Hammadi family of Sohag, Egypt. Mahmoud Pasha Hammadi was known for his fierce opposition against the British occupation. Besides that he was also a major landholder in the city of Sohag. When British occupation forced indigenous people of Sohag to abandon their city, Mahmoud Pasha Hammadi established the city Naj Hammadi.
Naj Hammadi library
This library is the main reason why this town has become famous all over the world. In the city of Naj Hammadi in December 1945 when a farmer found a sealed earthware, this important part of Gnostic library was made available to the world. The value of these ancient manuscripts was not known to them then and when their importance was discovered there was lot of fued. The jar had 13 papyrus codices. One of the books and some parts of a second book, including its cover were burned by the farmers’ mother. Thus, only 12 of the books and some loose pages and 52 texts remained. All of the codices are now in the Coptic museum of Cairo.These codices date to the fourth century AD. The contents were in Coptic but probably were translation from Greek. One of the most incredible things about the Naj Hammadi codices is that it has the only inclusive copy of the gospel of Thomas. The texts from the codices are available online and have been available for public since 1975. The discovery and then the translation of the Naj Hammadi library have given a very important insight in nature of Gnosticism and early Christian history.
Importance of the Naj Hammadi library
These writings are very important to know about the Gnostic practices and beliefs. They also present the theology and arguments of the Gnostics which were the ideology in the attacks that were done on the Catholic Church. These works were supposed to be lost during early Christian struggle but the discovery of these had delighted the scholars. The codices also have a very fair presentation of the Gnosticism.
Number of scriptures such as Gospel of Truth, Gospel of Philip and Gospel of Thomas are the gems of the Naj Hammadi collection.
Naj Hammadi massacre
The Naj Hammadi massacre which happened in January 2010 saw many Coptic killings. 19 Coptic were attacked, out of which eight lost their lives. The act was condemned and was many of the brutality on Christians in Egypt.
Faw Qibli excavations
The excavations at the nearby town of Faw Qibli have somewhat given an explanation to the findings of Naj Hammadi library. Archaeologists while looking for more work on Naj Hammadi library have located the ruins of a monastery which is believed to be from 4th century AD. This is the place where St. Pachomius took to Christianity. The archaeologists believe that the codices were from the monastery and were later buried. The monks at St. Pachomius might have bound and copied the manuscripts. Saint Pachomius was founder of the Christian coenobitic monasticism. 9 May is celebrated as his feast day by the Coptic churches.
Many translations of the Naj Hammadi manuscripts have been done not just in English but many other languages also. Many of these translations are easily available across the internet. Though the discovery of these codices, many just have been by accident, but the knowledge that the scholars and researchers have got from these are parallel to none especially for those who are interested in Gnosticism. The Naj Hammadi library is just another treasure from the land of Egypt which continues to amaze the world with its rare and magnificent reassures.