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Nag Hammadi

(825 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
1. Discovery and General Features Nag Hammadi (Arab. Najʿ Ḥammādı̄, near the site of the ancient town of Chenoboskion) is a town in Upper Egypt about 80 km. (50 mi.) northwest of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. In 1945 some Coptic MSS were discovered nearby, at the base of a boulder near the foot of a mountain called the Jabal al-Tarif. The corpus contains 12 codices, plus leaves from a 13th, with 52 tractates in all (including six doublets). The collection dates anywhere from early to late fourth century a.d. All the works were translated from earlier Greek versions. The Cop…


(925 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
1. Term The term “Mandaean” is used for a Gnostic-type baptismal fellowship (Baptism) that existed on the eastern borders of Syria and Palestine in the first century a.d. and that is the only one of such representatives of the syncretism of antiquity to survive to this day. Modern Mandaeans, some 15,000 in number in the late 1970s, live in the marshy delta region of the Tigris and Euphrates, in the Iranian province of Khūzestān, and in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra. Since the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–88 we have not had reliable statistics about their numbers. Within East Aramaic the …


(1,239 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
1. Religious Type and Features Manichaeanism, named after its founder, the Persian Mani (a.d. 216–76/77), is a Gnostic-type dualistic religion of redemption, though by its origin and in its manifestations it differs in many respects from Syrian and Egyptian Gnosis. It is (1) a religion founded by a historical personage, (2) a universal religion with a world mission, and (3) a book religion with a canon of sacred writings. Structurally, it involves a hierarchically ordered church, which it views as a means o…

Gnosis, Gnosticism

(2,452 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
1. Term, History, and Definition The Gk. noun gnōsis originally meant knowledge of things and objects that the knower could apprehend ¶ by understanding (nous) and reason (logos)—that is, rationally (Epistemology). Along with the basic epistemological sense a qualitatively new meaning developed from the first century b.c. that separated the object and act of knowledge from rational experience and transferred it to the religious level. “Gnosis” now came to mean knowledge of divine mysteries, this knowledge being reserved for a select circl…

2.5.2 Coptic Translations

(2,315 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
Part of 2 Pentateuch - 2.5 Secondary Translations BackgroundThe Coptic translations of the Pentateuch have lxx (2.4.1) as their base text and can be dated back to the early fourth century c.e. Together with the translation of the texts, the titles of each of the books were transcribed: ⲧ-ⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ “Genesis,” ⲧ-ⲉⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ “Exodus,” ⲡ-ⲗⲉⲩⲉⲓⲧⲓⲕⲟⲛ “Leviticus,” ⲛ-ⲁⲣⲓⲑⲙⲟⲥ “[The book of] Numbers,” ⲡ-ⲇⲉⲩⲧⲉⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲟⲛ “Deuteronomy” often with the addition “of Moses (the prophet).” The collective term Pentateuch was unknown among the Cop…
Date: 2020-03-17

10.4.2 Coptic Translations

(1,635 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
Part of 10 Psalms - 10.4 Secondary Translations Background and Text TransmissionThe Coptic Psalter is a translation of the Greek Septuagint Psalter (10.3.1) and not of mt-Ps (10.2.2). The numbering of the Coptic Psalms follows lxx.1 All Coptic versions, like lxx, include the “apocryphal” Psalm 151. The Psalter was the most used and widespread book of the bible in the Coptic churches and monasteries,2 and is attested in four dialects of Coptic: Sahidic, Bohairic, Middle Egyptian (Mesokemic), and Fayyumic, although in a quite different manner. In the …
Date: 2020-03-17

Tractatus Tripartitus

(169 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[English Version] (NHC I,5; TractTrip), titelloser gnost. Lehrtraktat valentinianischer Herkunft (Valentinianismus), der im Text in drei thematische Komplexe von der transzendenten Welt über die Schöpfung bis zur Erlösung oder Verdammnis des Menschen gegliedert ist. Charakteristisch ist die zentrale Rolle des Logos sowohl bei der Schöpfung (hier funktional anstelle der Sophia) als auch der Erlösung. Die Anthropologie ist dreistufig ausgeprägt. Peter Nagel Bibliography Ed.: H. Attridge/E. Pagels, NHC I (The Jung Codex) (NHS 22f., 1985) E. Thomassen/L. Painchaud, Le tr…


(181 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[English Version] . Die 20 Th. bilden die letzte Gruppe des kopt.-manichäischen Psalmenbuches (Manichäismus). Metrum und Strophenbau weisen auf ein ostaram. Original mit auffälliger Affinität zu mandäischen Hymnen (Mandäismus) hin. Die Th. sind größtenteils noch während Manis Wirksamkeit (240–276) entstanden. Im Unterschied zum Hauptteil der manichäischen Psalmen sind Hinweise auf Jesus überaus gering (Pss 12 und 16). Als Autor gilt herkömmlich Manis Jünger Thomas. Die Form der Überschrift thōm ge…


(161 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[English Version] Reitzenstein, Richard (2.4.1861 Breslau – 23.3.1931 Göttingen), klassischer Philologe und Religionshistoriker, 1888 PD in Breslau, ab 1889 Prof. in Rostock, Gießen, Straßburg, Freiburg i.Br., seit 1914 in Göttingen. Als Vertreter der Religionsgeschichtlichen Schule legte R. bahnbrechende, aber methodisch nicht hinreichend reflektierte Forschungen zum antiken Synkretismus, zur Gnosis und zum Manichäismus vor. R. prägte wesentlich das »orientalische« Ableitungsmodell der Gnosis, gip…

Thomas, The Manichaean Psalms of

(189 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[German Version] The 20 Psalms of Thomas constitute the last group of the Coptic Mani­chaean Psalm-book (Manichaeism). Their meter and strophic structure point to an East Aramaic original with a striking similarity to Mandaean hymns (Mandaeism). Most of the psalms were produced during the period of Mani’s ministry (240–276). Unlike the majority of the Manichaean psalms, these contain very few references to Jesus (Pss 12 and 16). Mani’s disciple Thomas is traditionally considered their author. The form of the superscription thōm may possibly go back to Aram. tāmā, “twin,” and would…

Tripartite Tractate, The (NHC I,5; TractTri)

(175 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[German Version] Tripartite Tractate, The (NHC I,5; TractTri), untitled Gnostic didactic treatise of Valentinian origin (Valentinianism). The text is divided into three thematic complexes: from the transcendent world through creation to human redemption or perdition. The Logos plays a characteristically central role both in creation (functionally replacing Sophia) and redemption. Its anthropology is developed in three stages. Peter Nagel Bibliography Ed.: H. Attridge & E. Pagels, Nag Hammadi Codex I (The Jung Codex), NHS 22f., 1985 E. Thomassen & L. Painchaud, Le traité trip…

Liber graduum

(338 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[German Version] The Liber graduum or Book of Steps is a Syriac collection of 30 discourses by an anonymous author simply described as “blessed.” The author probably lived in the Persian sphere of influence in the border area between the Roman and Persian empires (Fitschen). The most likely date is the first half of the 4th century, since the last discourse refers to the persecution of Christians that broke out in 339 under Shāpūr II (Iran: IV, 3). The book represents the radical schools of early Syriac…

Jacob of Sarug

(205 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[German Version] (451, Upper Mesopotamia – 521, Batna/Sarug), prolific Syrian church author. Having become an ascetic at a young age, he officiated as episcopal visitor in Haura and was appointed bishop of Batna/Sarug in 518. He was initially a follower, though later an opponent of the School of Antioch (Antiochene theology) and professed a Christology situated between the positions of Alexandria (Alexandrian theology) and Chalcedon (Chalcedonian Definition). He ¶ mainly wrote metrical homilies ( mēmre), but also hymns, prose homilies and letters on biblical exegesis …

Reitzenstein, Richard

(198 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
[German Version] (Apr 2, 1861, Breslau – Mar 23, 1931, Göttingen), classical philologist and historian of religion who became a Privatdozent in Breslau in 1888 and, from 1889 onward, professor in Rostock, Giessen, Strasbourg, Freiburg im Breisgau, and, from 1914, in Göttingen. As a representative of the history-of-religions school, Reitzenstein published pioneering but methodologically insecure studies of ancient syncretism, Gnosticism (Gnosis), and Manichaeism. Reitzenstein was largely responsible for the “oriental” ¶ derivation model of Gnosticism; this culminate…