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Naj Hammadi Travel Guide

The city of Naj Hammadi is located in Qena governorate on west bank of river Nile in Upper Egypt. Luxor is just 80 kilometers away from Naj Hammadi. Al Wasr, which is just east of Naj Hammadi, was known as Chenoboskion (which means geese gazing grounds) in ancient Egypt.

Naj Hammadi has a small population of primarily farmers. Aluminum and sugar are also produced in the town. Naj Hammadi is primarily known for its library which includes a large collection of ancient codices and is kept in a museum in Cairo.

 

How To Reach Naj Hammadi  

 

Luxor Airport is the closest international airport, but there is not much to do in the city, and the Naj Hammadi library is located in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

 

History of Naj Hammadi

 

Naj Hammadi was established by Mahmoud Pasha Hammadi. He belonged to the Hammadi family of Sohag, Egypt. Mahmoud Pasha Hammadi was known for his fierce opposition to the British occupation. Besides that, he was also a major landholder in the city of Sohag. When British occupation forced the people in Sohag to abandon their city, Mahmoud Pasha Hammadi established Naj Hammadi.

 

Naj Hammadi Library

 

This library is the main reason why this town has become famous all over the world. In December of 1945, a farmer found sealed earthware, bringing an important part of the Gnostic library to the world. The value of these ancient manuscripts was not known to them and when their importance was discovered there was a lot of arguing. 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 were likely translated from Greek. One of the most incredible things about the Naj Hammadi codices is that it has the only full copy of the gospel of Thomas. The texts from the codices are available online and have been available to the public since 1975. The discovery and then the translation of the Naj Hammadi library have given a very important insight into nature of Gnosticism and early Christian history.

 

Importance of the Naj Hammadi library

 

These writings are very important to find out about the Gnostic practices and beliefs. They also present the theology and arguments of the Gnostics which were the ideology  behind early protests against the Catholic Church. These works were supposed to be lost during early Christian wars but the discovery of these delighted scholars. The codices also have a very fair presentation of Gnosticism.

A 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 happened in January 2010 and resulted in many Coptic casualities. Nineteen Coptic Egyptians were attacked, out of which eight lost their lives. The act was condemned by everyone and shows how brutal persecution of Christians can become in Egypt at times.

 

Faw Qibli Excavations

 

The excavations at the nearby town of Faw Qibli have somewhat provided an explanation for the findings of Naj Hammadi library. While looking for more scrolls to add to the Naj Hammadi library archaeologists located the ruins of a monastery which is believed to be from the 4th century AD. This is the place where St. Pachomius converted to Christianity. 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 the founder of Christian coenobitic monasticism. May 9 is celebrated as his feast day by the Coptic churches.

 

There have been many translations of the Naj Hammadi manuscripts into English and many other languages. Many of these translations are easily available across the internet. Though the discovery of these codices scholars and researchers have obtained unparalleled especially about Gnosticism. The Naj Hammadi library is yet another treasure from the land of Egypt which continues to amaze the world with its rare and magnificent past.

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