Historiography as Anti-History: Reading Nag Hammadi Codex II

and Ingvild Sælid Gilhus


Nag Hammadi Codex II was found in Upper Egypt together with twelve other codices. It was buried in the fourth or fifth century and contains seven Christian texts which were not part of the Christian canon, as it now stands. In the codex, the world is seen as a place of birth, desire, change and death, and, because of that, as seriously flawed. The challenge is to explain why it is flawed and how to remedy it. The goal is to return to the beginning and to reach a sort of supra-biological life, characterized by non-change and permanence. In this context, the writing of history takes the character of anti-history. The article raises two questions: What sort of historical narrations do the texts in Nag Hammadi Codex II present? And: What characterizes the historiography in these texts and what purpose did it fulfill?

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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte is a specialised journal dealing primarily with religions of the ancient world. The different aspects of the field of research are covered in essays, reports on the main areas of religious studies and in individual articles.