Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Archiv für Religionsgeschichte

Ed. by Bickel, Susanne / Frankfurter, David / Johnston, Sarah Iles / Pironti, Gabriella / Rüpke, Jörg / Scheid, John / Várhelyi, Zsuzsanna

Together with Beard, Mary / Bonnet, Corinne / Borgeaud, Philippe / Henrichs, Albert / Knysh, Alexander / Lissarrague, Francois / Malamoud, Charles / Maul, Stefan / Parker, Robert C. Y. / Shaked, Shaul / Stroumsa, Gedaliahu Guy / Tardieu, Michel / Volokhine, Youri

CiteScore 2018: 0.26

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.132
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.435

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Historiography as Anti-History: Reading Nag Hammadi Codex II

Ingvild Sælid Gilhus
Published Online: 2018-03-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2018-0006


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?


  • Assmann, Aleida 2011 [1999]. Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives. Cambridge.Google Scholar

  • Bradshaw, Paul 2002. ‘Liturgy and “Living Literature”’. In Liturgy in Dialogue: Essays in Memory of Ronald Iasper, ed. Paul Bradshaw and Bryan Spinks. London, 138 – 153.Google Scholar

  • Cerquiglini, Bernard 1999 [1989]. In Praise of the Variant: A Critical History of Philology. Translated by Betsy Wing. Baltimore, Maryland.Google Scholar

  • Clark, Elizabeth A. 1999. Reading Renunciation: Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity. Princeton.Google Scholar

  • The Coptic Gnostic Library: A Complete Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices. 2000. Edited with English translation, introduction and notes. Ed. James M. Robinson, Volume II. Leiden.Google Scholar

  • Driscoll, Matthew J. 2010. ‘The Words on the Page: Thoughts on Philology. Old and New.’ In Creating the Medieval Saga: Versions, variability and editorial interpretations of old Norse saga literature, ed. Judy Quinn and Emily Letherbridge. Aarhus.Google Scholar

  • The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Codex II. 1974. Leiden.Google Scholar

  • Flood, Gavin 2004. The Ascetic Self: Subjectivity, Memory and Tradition. Cambridge.Google Scholar

  • Franzmann, Majella 1996. Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings. Edinburgh.Google Scholar

  • Gilhus, Ingvild Sælid 1984. The Nature of the Archons: A Study in the Soteriology of a Gnostic Treatise from Nag Hammadi (CG II, 4). Wiesbaden.Google Scholar

  • Gilhus, Ingvild Sælid 2010. ‘Why is it Better to be a Plant than an Animal? Cognitive Poetics and Ascetic Ideals in the Book of Thomas the Contender (NHC II, 7).’ In Chasing Down Religion: In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences: Essays in Honor of Luther H. Martin, ed. Panayotis Pachis and Donald Wiebe. Thessaloniki. 115 – 133.Google Scholar

  • Gilhus, Ingvild Sælid 2012. ‘“The Mountain, a Desert Place”: Spatial Categories and Mythical Landscapes in the Secret Book of John.’ In Religion and Wilderness, ed. Laura Feldt. Berlin. 95 – 112.Google Scholar

  • Goehring, James E. 2001. ‘The Provenance of the Nag Hammadi Codices Once More.’ In Ascetica, Gnostica, Liturgica, Orientalia. Papers presented at the Thirteenth International Conference of Patristic Studies held in Oxford 1999, ed. M.F. Wiles and E.J. Yarnold. Studia Patristica 35. Leuwen. 61 – 70.Google Scholar

  • Halbwachs, Maurice 1992 [1941/1952]. On Collective Memory. Edited, translated with an introduction by Lewis A. Coser. The Heritage of Sociology. Chicago and London.Google Scholar

  • Khosroyev, Alexandr 1995. Die Bibliothek von Nag Hammadi: Einige Probleme des Christentums in Ägypten während der ersten Jahrhunderte. Alterberge.Google Scholar

  • King, Karen L. 2005. What is Gnosticism? Cambridge, MA/London, England.Google Scholar

  • King, Karen L. 2006. The Secret Revelation of John. Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar

  • Lewis, Nicola Denzey; Blount, Justine Ariel 2013. “Rethinking the Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices”, Journal of Biblical Literature 133.2. 399 – 419.Google Scholar

  • Lundhaug, Hugo 2010. Images of Rebirth: Cognitive Poetics and Transformational Soteriology in the Gospel of Philip and the Exegesis on the Soul. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies. Leiden.Google Scholar

  • Lundhaug, Hugo 2013. “Shenoute of Atripe and Nag Hammadi Codex II.” In Zugänge zur Gnosis, ed. Christoph Markschies and Johannes van Oort. Leuven-Walpole. 221 – 226.Google Scholar

  • Lundhaug, Hugo; Jenott, Lance 2015. The Monastic Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Tübingen.Google Scholar

  • Myrvold, Kristina (ed.) 2010. The Death of Sacred Texts. London.Google Scholar

  • Painchaud, Louis; Kaler, Michael 2007. “From the Prayer of the Apostle Paul to the Three Steles of Seth. Codices I, XI and VII from Nag Hammadi Viewed as a Collection”, Vigiliae Christianae 61. 445 – 469.Google Scholar

  • Petersen, Anders Klostergaard 2012. “State of the art i gnosis-forskningen: Hvor står drøftelsen af gnosticisme og gnosis aktuelt?” Religionsvidenskabligt Tidsskrift 58. 68 – 81.Google Scholar

  • Ramelli, Ilaria 2012. “Apokatastasis in Coptic Gnostic Texts from Nag Hammadi and Clement’s and Origen’s Apokatastasis: Towards an Assessment of the Origin of the Doctrine of Universal Restoration”, Journal of Coptic Studies 14. 33 – 45.Google Scholar

  • Ramelli, Ilaria 2013. The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena. Leiden.Google Scholar

  • Rüsen, Jörn 1987. “Historical Narration: Foundation, Types, Reason”, History and Theory 26.4. 87 – 97.Google Scholar

  • Rüsen, Jörn 1989. “The Development of Narrative Competence in Historical Learning – An Ontogenic Hypothesis concerning Moral Consciousness”, History and Memory 1.2. 35 – 59.Google Scholar

  • Rüsen, Jörn 1996. “Some Theoretical Approaches to Intercultural Comparative Historiography”, History and Theory 35.4. 5 – 22.Google Scholar

  • Stang, Charles M. 2016. Our Divine Double. Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar

  • Ulrich, Jörg 2012. “Dimensions and Developments of Early Christian Historiography.” In Invention, Rewriting, Usurpation: Discursive Fights over Religious Traditions in Antiquity, ed. Jörg Ulrich, Anders-Christian Jacobsen and David Brakke. Early Christianity in the Context of Antiquity 11. Frankfurt. 161 – 176.Google Scholar

  • Williams, Michael 1995. Rethinking “Gnosticism”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category. Princeton.Google Scholar

  • Williams, Michael A.; Jenott, Lance 2006. “Inside the Covers of Codex VI.” In Coptica, Gnostica, Manichaica: mélanges offerts à Wolf-Peter Funk, ed. P.-H. Poirier and Louis Painchaud. Québec. 1025 – 1052.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2018-03-28

Citation Information: Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, Volume 20, Issue 1, Pages 77–90, ISSN (Online) 1868-8888, ISSN (Print) 1436-3038, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2018-0006.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in